Moroccan Mint: North Africa’s Beloved Tea Herb

Moroccan mint is a variety of spearmint. Moroccan mint’s botanical name is Mentha spicata var. Crispa, which is the mint variety used in Morocco. Other names for Moroccan mint include curly mint because of the frilly shape of the leaves. You may also hear it called Maghrebi mint or nana mint. Maghrebi refers to the part of North Africa that borders the Mediterranean. Since mint is thought to have come from the part of Europe adjacent to the Mediterranean sea, Northern Africa is likely where the herb first made its way into Africa. The word “Maghrebi” means “where the sun sets”, which is a poetic way of saying the western part of North Africa. 

Historians believe that spearmint is one of the mint varieties that was distributed throughout Europe and spread elsewhere around the world by Roman soldiers. 

Moroccan mint is cultivated in the mountainous parts of Morocco and Morrocan locals have been making tea with it and other herbs long before Camellia sinensis made its way to the region.

Moroccan mint flavor profile

Moroccan mint offers a cleaner, purer version of the standard spearmint flavor. Spearmint is known for being relatively low in menthol when compared to other mint varieties. The low menthol means that it has less of the cooling effect associated with mint. It also means that it has a sweeter and more herbaceous flavor profile than other mints like peppermint and watermint

Health benefits of Moroccan mint

Like most other fresh herbs, Moroccan mint provides a variety of health benefits. Morrocan mint’s health-supporting properties include:

  • Vitamins: Moroccan mint is a decent source of vitamins A and C. Both of these vitamins have antioxidant benefits. 
  • Minerals: Moroccan mint is a good source of iron and provides a moderate amount of calcium. 
  • Fiber: In salads and other preparations where you eat the whole leaf, Moroccan mint can provide a significant amount of fiber. 

You can use Moroccan mint to treat or prevent health problems like:

  • Poor digestion: Like most other mints, Moroccan mint is useful for relieving stomach ailments like flatulence and nausea.  
  • Respiratory problems: Moroccan mint has the same anti-inflammatory benefits that you get from other spearmint varieties. These benefits make the herb effective for treating respiratory ailments. 

Common uses

Moroccan mint is known for making the traditional Moroccan mint tea, also called Maghrebi mint tea in Morocco and which Spaniards refer to as Moorish tea. Moroccan mint tea is Morocco’s national drink. While you can find many pre-packaged versions of Moroccan mint tea online, the classic recipe is a blend of gunpowder green tea and spearmint sweetened with sugar.

Gunpowder green tea is made with curled Camellia sinensis leaves. Aside from the traditional application, you can also use Moroccan mint in any of the ways that you would use the more common spearmint cultivars. Muddle it for mojitos, mint juleps or use it in standard mint tea with just the herb and no green tea. 

Beyond its beverage applications, Moroccan mint is great in green salads and to make mint sauces. Add it to yogurt-based sauces like tzatziki sauce or serve it with peas, carrots and other vegetables. You can make a sauce for lamb using Moroccan mint.

Because its leaves are thicker than other spearmint varieties, some cooks believe Moroccan mint to be better for cooked dishes since the thicker leaves do not break down as quickly as thin ones.