Tea Culture in Turkey
“There is something in the essence of tea that leads us into the world of quiet reverie of life”
Tea is not just a beverage and an emotion that rejuvenates the senses and nerves. Tea or Chai as it is famously called in India and many people in the country start their day with their favourite cup of tea. Every country has its own tea culture. In India tea is a preferred drink to kick-start the day, or is also offered as a welcome drink to the guests.
Turkey has its own unique tea culture. Tea is part and parcel of Turkish culture, and is the most commonly consumed hot drink, despite the long history of the country of coffee consumption. Just like India, offering tea to the guests is part of Turkish hospitality. Tea is most often devoured in households, shops and social gatherings.
Those unfamiliar with the country of Turkey may assume that coffee is the national drink. The Turks love to sip tea from dawn to dusk and there is never a bad time to drink tea in Turkey.
The practice of drinking tea is entrenched in Turkish culture as an epitome of social experience and hospitality, ensuring the Turks have left the Brits behind when it comes to daily consumption of tea.
Turkish Tea Culture
When you roam around the hustling streets of Turkey, there is a common sight of a young boy carrying a silver tray hurries through the crowd to deliver small tulip shaped glasses of black tea. The aromatic beverage is not traditionally drunk with milk or lemon, but only sugar cubes are added to make it a very sweet drink.
Shopkeepers often offer their consumers a Turkish tea, as an epitome of friendship and hospitality. Any tourists browsing through the shops only have to say “yes” when being offered the tea and they immediately get a glance into one of the strong traditions of Turkey.
History of Turkish Tea
As compared to the thousand year old years of history of tea, surprisingly the Turkish tea is relatively young. As per some sources, the Turks traded and consumed tea as soon as 400 B.C. However, tea became common in Turkey from the 1900s onwards.
Tea was first attempted to grow on Turkish soil in Bursa between 1888 and 1892. However, this attempt failed since this part of Turkey is ecologically inadequate for growing tea. In 1924, with the law passed in Parliament, tea was cultivated in the east of Black sea region. Today more than 700 million m² of land is used to grow tea and tea is the second most consumed drink after water in Turkey.
Turkey has a tea of Cay (Chai) culture that has steeped in from the ages of the yore. Turkey is among the world’s top 5 tea growing countries, producing about 6 to 10 percent of the world's tea. Most of this is consumed domestically.
The tea growing region of Turkey extends along the country’s northern Black sea coastline from the Georgian border through the city of Rize further west. The Turks love to sip tea all day long starting with breakfast and continuing right on through until they hit the bed. Offering tea and drinking tea is a sign of friendship.
Teatime is between three and five in the afternoon, where tea is served along with lip-smacking savoury and sweet biscuits and cakes. But, tea drinking can extend beyond these few short hours. In every workplace or home you will find a pot of tea always brewing and ready to drink or offer to the guests. Workplaces are required by law to offer at least two tea breaks within the working day. Offering a glass of tea to a guest is custom and refusal is unheard of.
Turkish Tea Garden
The tea gardens of Turkey are simple and relaxed places where Turks of all ages meet and many games of backgammon are played over the cup of tea. There are captivating tea gardens along Bosphorus, tapering side streets of old Istanbul and in the tourist attractions along the Aegean.
Making a Perfect Turkish Tea
To make a perfect cup of Turkish tea, a Caydanlik is needed. This is two pots stacked on top of each other and water is placed in the bottom pot, while tea leaves and little water are poured into the top pot. When the water in the bottom pot is boiled, mix the water with the tea leaves in the top pot. Then pour the tea into glasses via strainer so they are half filled. Add the boiled water from the bottom pot.
Styles of Tea in Turkey
To serve tea, the host of hostess will ask each guest which type of tea they prefer, and serving the wrong style is considered a huge blunder. The styles of serving Turkish tea are:
- The ‘dark’ this is strong style of tea
- The rabbit-blood, which is deep brownish red style of tea
- The light is a weak style of tea.
As per the preferred tea style, the tea decoction is splashed from the upper teapot into the tulip shaped glass with a saucer beneath it. The concentrate is then diluted with boiling water from the lower teapot to create the varied styles of tea.
Turkish tea is a way of life. It is an authentic beverage that is enjoyed in homes, work places and even in Turkish markets where it is used to allure customers and close deals.
As the Turkish folk say -
‘Conversation without a cup of tea is like a night sky without the moon’
This epitomizes the feel, essence and sentiment of Turks that goes with the tea.
Turkish tea also has enormous health benefits. Majority of Turks admire this drink. It is not just a drink for Turks but the drink carries an emotion and a sentiment of friendliness and togetherness. Tea is embedded in the culture of Turkey like the stars embedded in the night sky and Turks have high regards and sentiments towards this favourite beverage of theirs.