Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mint Sourcing.

All photos taken are from my phone camera.
I'm back from a mint tasting and sourcing trip to Morocco, I was kind of on holiday but with running a business that you love you just can't say no to this kind of opportunity.

I managed to bargain a taxi to take me to Lhagmbark which is 20k south of Marrakech, an area that is renowned for its spearmint growing. It's the region where the majority of our Nana Mint comes from. With a 40 minute discussion in broken French and Arabic the 20 guys who took charge of organising my trip decided that Sadek was the best man for the job. He only spoke Arabic and I only speak a bit of French so the chat on the way there was non existent. Not that I had time to chat between holding on for my life and praying for a safe arrival, safety on the roads was of no concept to this man, as lovely as he seemed his driving was insane! He once overtook a lorry that was overtaking a bus and if that wasn't bad enough there was oncoming traffic too. I managed to make it there in one piece, slightly shook up from the experience I was immediately re focused on the reason I put myself through that. The smell hit me before we even got out of the car, I stepped out and took a good look around, the vast Atlas Mountains spread along the horizon and sat as a backdrop to the endless fields of fresh vibrant green mint. Overwhelmed by the minty smell I was ushered to the owner of the fields by my taxi driver/guide (if we can call him that). Luckily a passer by who spoke French decided to join us, mainly out of interest, and he acted as my translator.
Abdulkalif was the owner of the place, he had about 10 men and women working for him and they all seemed very happy to stop picking to come and say hello. We weren’t getting very far with the conversation and to be honest I think they thought I was a bit mad but with the help of the translator they understood why I was there and once the tea was brewed all had something uniting us. One of the younger guys who must have been about 25 stood up and ran into the fields to pick some mint, ran back and stuffed it into our glasses, the green tea was poured over and a bucket of sugar was dropped in. I felt a strong sense of camaraderie between the pickers and realised I had become welcomed into their gang temporarily. The mint was eye wateringly fresh and after about 15 minutes of sipping it the pickers stood up, all gave me a hug and we're on their way. The younger man who fetched the mint gave me a huge bunch of fresh mint, a sample of dried mint and rather theatrically said something that I hope was 'nice to meet you' but it could have been absolutely anything. The owner and I exchanged business details, parted with a smile and the customary hug and I was on my way back to Marrakech with mad max at the wheel.

I can happily say that the trip was a success and has given me a new view on the ceremony of tea drinking, I have known for years that tea brings people together. The first thing you ask if a friend comes to visit is ‘shall I put the kettle on?’. If someone feels down a common response is 'Go on, I’ll make a cuppa?'.

Sharing that mint tea with the pickers last week didn’t need conversation, we couldn’t converse anyway. It didn’t need comfy surroundings, although the view was stunning. It was purely and quite simply about sharing some tea and it will be hard to drink a cup of mint tea again without grinning from ear to ear.


Suki Tea Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter