I'm sharing my family's recipe for Arabic tea. This comforting and simple steeped mint tea recipe uses only four ingredients including: water, black loose-leaf tea, fresh mint, and sugar or honey. Learn how to make and serve Arabic tea as they do in Egypt and parts of the Middle East.
Throughout the Middle East and parts of the Mediterranean, hot tea is a comfort, a social drink, and a means of getting to know one another.
In that part of the world, including Egypt where I grew up, Shai or Arabic tea is an integral part of hospitality. Stop by someone's home or office, even for a few minutes, they'll offer you a seat and a warm cup of mint tea. Most business deals, conversations, family gatherings, heck, even marriage proposals happen around a pot of tea — often served with a little dessert like a piece of baklava, cake, cookies or even something like a biscotti or chocolate tahini date bars.
Arabic tea with fresh mint, known as shai bil na'ana'a, is my favorite drink to share with friends (I wrote all about the heart-binding ritual that is tea between friends in my debut cookbook.)
This simple mint tea is easy to make at home with a few ingredients: boiling water, black loose-leaf tea, fresh mint, and sugar or honey to your liking.
Table of Contents
What is Arabic tea?
There are many types of Arabic tea, but the one I grew up with was strong, amber colored, sweetened with sugar, and made with fresh mint and black tea. Traditionally, we sweeten the pot of Arabic tea with lots of sugar, but now many serve it unsweetened with cubes of sugar (or honey) on the side.
You can (and should try) other flavors like:
- cinnamon sticks
- star anise
- lightly crushed cardamom pods.
How to make it
This Arabic mint tea recipe is very simple, and it is essentially steeped black tea with fresh mint leaves. Here is how to make it:
- Boil the water. In a tea kettle over medium-high heat, bring six cups of water to a boil.
- Add the loose-leaf black tea. When the water comes to a rolling boil, stir in two teaspoons of loose leaf black tea. Allow the tea to boil for just one minute, this will help release the flavor of black tea.
- Off heat, add the fresh mint. Turn the heat off, then add a handful of fresh mint leaves. (I like a lot of mint, like 6 large leaves or so).
- Rest. Cover the pot and allow the tea to rest undisturbed for about 5 minutes or so. This enhances the experience and ensures the water is infused with flavor from both the black tea and fresh mint.
- Serve. Add sugar directly to the pot and stir or pour the tea in clear cups, and serve the sweetener on the side.
Tips for perfect steeped tea
- Remember, all tea can not be steeped the same. Black tea requires hot water, so be sure to let the water reach a rolling boil and allow the black tea to boil for about a minute or so. However, only drop the fresh mint once you turn off the heat.
- If possible, use filtered or purified water for better flavor. Purified water is ideal because it is neutral tasting (PH of 7). I try to avoid using tap water as it does often change the flavor of hot brewed beverages.
How to serve Arabic tea
If you come to my home, I will serve you tea brewed in an old heirloom pot passed down over the years, and poured into small, clear cups to show off its color — the tea should be an amber-red. If you like, add a fresh mint leaf to each cup.
The tea is meant to be savored, and the small cups are intended to be refilled over and over again until the pot is finished. Enjoy the tea with a little dessert like ghorayebah (bite-size butter cookies), a piece of honey cake, or creamy mahalabia, a Middle Eastern-style milk pudding made with rose water.
The Mediterranean Dish Cookbook
This recipe is from The Mediterranean Dish Cookbook: 120 Bold and Healthy Recipes You'll Make on Repeat. In her book, Suzy Karadsheh brings cross-culturally inspired dishes from throughout the Mediterranean into American home kitchens, using easy-to-find ingredients and easy-to-follow, tested-to-perfection recipes to make your meals more vibrant, delicious, and yes — even a little healthier, too!
Browse all Mediterranean recipes.
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Arabic Tea with Mint (Shai Bil Na'ana'a)
- 6 cups water
- 2 teaspoons loose-leaf black tea, or more if you like your tea strong
- 6-8 fresh mint leaves, a large handful
- sugar or sweetener, optional
- Bring the water to a rolling boil in a tea kettle or medium saucepan. Stir in the tea and allow it to boil for 1 minute to help "agitate" the tea leaves.
- Turn off the heat and immediately add the fresh mint leaves. Cover and allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes. Ideally, your tea should be an amber red (a deep red indicates that the tea may have over-steeped).
- Divide the tea among cups (preferably clear teacups), pouring through a small mesh strainer to strain the leaves. Serve with sugar on the side so guests may add as much as they like.
- This recipe and excerpts in this post are from my debut book, The Mediterranean Dish Cookbook: 120 Bold and Healthy Recipes You'll Make on Repeat (Clarkson Potter, 2022).
- A note on sweetener: It is more traditional to sweeten the water in the pot ahead of time, but I like to allow everyone to add sugar or honey to their taste.
- For best flavor: try to use purified water as opposed to tap water, if possible. Purified water is neautral-tasting (PH 7), so it will not alter the taste of your brewed tea.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean products including honey, olive oils, spices and more.