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Posted by Sashee Chandran

We are happy to welcome our second international TeaDrop order of the week--this time we're heading off to Israel! In excitement of this milestone, we thought we'd share a little about the culture and history of tea in this part of the world with all of you.

The beauty of tea culture in the Middle East lies in the generous meshing and borrowing across nations and cultures--Israel's tea practices are heavily influenced by Persian and Morroccan tradition. One of the most defining characteristics, therefore, is that Israeli tea is incredibly sweet and rich (yum!). Cream and sugar play a starring role in this nation's tea service. 

Cardamom is a widely popular ingredient so if you are inspired to try some Middle Eastern-inspired tea, we recommend starting with a Cardamom Spice TeaDrop. All that you need to do to recreate this decadent drink is to add sugar and cream, to taste. 

Israel does offer a beautiful palette of flavors when it comes to its most popular tea preparation techniques, however. A majority of drinkers prefer strictly herbal blends, not tea leaves, called halitot—infusions. Spearmint is a universal favorite, but other flavors including mint, sage, lemon grass, lemon verbena, and even wormwood are common ingredients. Although not always used, sometimes these delicate flavors are supported by a tea bag of black tea to strengthen the blend.

Harkening back to its spice-route trade past dating from the third century B.C., today's popular tea blends can be procured from street stands, scooped freely into bags and then sold by weight. These are are exotic and creative infusions of fruits and spices like hibiscus and cinnamon. 

Complimenting tea time in Israel is a sweet traditional tea cookie called Ma'amouls. These are shortbread-esque cookies made with crushed dates and are served with both coffee and tea. We tracked down a recipe of this delicious little treat and are sharing it below.

Recipe Source: Sarah Melamed at Food Bridge

Photo Credit: Sarah Melamed at Food Bridge

 

Homemade Ma'amouls

Ingredients: 

Makes about 25 small ma’amouls

  1. 1 C white flour
  2. 1 C coarse semolina
  3. 6 TBS and 2 TSP butter, softened
  4. 1 TSP freshly ground mahlab (a.ka. cherry stone of the St. Lucie Cherry)
  5. 2 TBS sugar
  6. 1 TBS orange blossom essence
  7. 1/2 C milk
  8. Filling: 1 C ground dates

Directions:

Combine the semolina, flour, mahlab, sugar and butter in a stand mixer and mix well. Add the orange blossom essence and continue to mix slowly, adding the milk in gradually. The final mixture should be firm without being sticky or crumbly. Do not overmix and let chill in the refrigerator for two hours.

Using tablespoon size bits of dough, form a small cup with your your thumb. Add filling so it comes 3/4 of the way up the cup and close carefully, rolling smooth. Place in an oiled mold (you can find them on eBay!), pressing gently so it does not open. Release the cookie from the mold and set on baking sheet. Bake at 320 F for 20 to 30 minutes. Do not allow the cookies to get golden. 

Tea is a universal, age-old tradition that is simultaneously global. In the U.S. alone, so much of our tea culture is adopted from cultures around the world. 

I hope you enjoyed this teatime journey to Israel! TeaDrop on!

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