This is not strictly Regency or Georgian. But it could have been. On a trip to Morocco recently, we had an encounter that could have taken place at any time in the last few centuries.
|Atlas Mountains, Morocco|
We went on a trip into the Berber region of the Atlas mountains which rise to 12000 feet or so.
|Berber village clings to mountainside|
We visited a Berber village and went inside a Berber house for tea. The house is made of clay and is small and very dark inside. Animals are kept down below, mostly sheep and goats. Our guide, himself a Berber, translated because the villagers did not speak anything but Berber. Our middle-aged guide, like most educated people of his age, was bilingual in Arabic and French, in addition to Berber.
|Venerable Berber tea maker|
In the Berber family, age is clearly rank. The house was headed by the grandfather, a venerable old man, who did the tea making ad you can see here.
|Embroidered Berber apron|
His wife, also venerable, did nothing as far as I could see. She wore a clean embroidered apron which seemed to be a status symbol.
|Berber wood fire, baking flat bread|
The bread making and kettle boiling was done by the daughter-in-law on a makeshift wood fire in a small smoky area down in the bowels of the house. She didn't seem to have an apron at all and it's amazing that she could see, given the amount of smoke there was. (I have lightened the photo so that the interior can be seen. It was actually very smoky and much darker than it appears to be.)
The visitors sat on the roof terrace for tea. The old man yelled for his granddaughter who brought up the kettle of boiling water and also hot water to pour over his hands. The tea-making made me think of Japan – it's a very elaborate ritual and no stage of the process can be omitted.
|Berber tea-making kit|
First, the old man's hands are washed by the oldest granddaughter. Then he warms a pewter teapot and takes some green tea from a silver box and adds it to the pot. He pours a smallish amount of boiling water on the tea leaves. Then there's brewing time. Next he pours out one tea glass full of green tea which is left aside. Then he pours out a tumbler of green tea, which is much darker and apparently too tannic. The tumbler of tea is discarded. The small glass of tea is poured back into the teapot.
Stay with me here. There's lots more.
Next the old man takes a large bunch of twiggy mint, crushes it in his hands and stuffs it into the teapot on top of the green tea. Then he opens a larger silver box containing big lumps of sugar which have been hacked off an old fashioned sugar cone about 18 inches high. (You can see a complete one here, with its paper wrapping, plus the two silver boxes.) He selects a lump of fitting size, about 2 inches cube, drops it into the teapot on top of the mint and pours boiling water over the top.
More brewing time. Then he pours out a large glass of tea and pours it back into tea pot. He repeats the pouring and returning one more time.
Then finally (though I may have missed a step or two!) he pours out a small tea glass of tea and tastes it. If it's up to scratch, he then pours out tea glasses for all the guests. The pouring itself is like pouring sherry in Spain, done from great height into a small space without missing a drop.
Once he's poured tea glasses for all the guests, he yells for his granddaughter again. This time, she arrives carrying freshly cooked local flat bread, made from wheat and barley flour and cooked on a plate above the open wood fire by the daughter-in-law downstairs. If you look closely, you can see the bread on top of the fire in the picture of the smoky kitchen.
|Guests enjoying mint tea and Berber flatbread|
Both tea and bread were extremely good. The old man's mint tea was by far the best we had in Morocco.
I could have imagined a Regency traveller being offered tea with exactly the same elaborate ceremony. Everything would have been the same, probably. Except for the pink plastic colander in which the bunch of mint had been washed! Those who remember the film The Wind and the Lion with Sean Connery and Candace Bergen will have an idea of what the Berbers were like a century ago. I imagine they were the same centuries before that.
One other interesting thing I noted. Our guide, who was in his 40s or older, greeted the grandmother by kissing her hand, or at least by bending his face down to touch his forehead to her hand. It was difficult to see in the dark, but I was impressed by the gesture. Nowadays, respect for old ladies is definitely something I approve of!!
And yes, I may one day put all this into a book.
Labels: Atlas Mountains, Berbers, Morocco, tea ceremony