What I really want from the Middle East, besides a master’s degree, is a samovar.* I’ve been commenting on these beautiful contraptions everywhere I go, and, in fact, they are found everywhere because the sweet, sweet liquid that comes out of them is quite possibly the most addictive substance I’ve had since I’ve been here. (Possible exceptions: Turkish coffee, halva, and warm rugelach).
Even my friend, a tea connoisseur, admits that plain old black tea is transformed into divine nectar when it emerges, warm and sugary, from a samovar. Here’s my take on Arabic sweet tea, samovar preferred, but certainly not necessary.
The recipe calls for rose leaves (not petals). We tried this herb back in Nazareth, and after raving about it for – oh – 38 seconds or so, our exceptionally hospitable hosts packed up a big plastic tub of the leaves for us to use back in Jerusalem. Several other herbs can easily be used in place of rose leaves, which may be difficult to find in the US or Europe.
Arabic Sweet Tea
-1 plain old black tea bag per mug
-2 heaping tbsp. sugar (brown is preferable) per 1 cup of water
-2 rose leaves or one of these other options: 2 sage leaves, 4 cardamom pods, several mint leaves, several rose petals, or 2 za’atar leaves
Boil the water. Once the water is boiling, pour it directly into the mugs over the tea bags. Add the sugar and the herbs. Stir until the sugar has dissolves, and remove the tea bag after the number of minutes recommended on the tea box or bag have passed. The leaves can remain in the mugs. The tea should be very sweet, dessert-like, even. If you want to be most traditional, serve the tea in small glasses along with dates or pita.
*What? You’d like my mailing address? Samovar mail? Why certainly, you kind friend, you!