One thing you must know when visiting Turkey is that Turkish people love to drink tea and not just any kind of tea, Turkish tea. When I say they love their tea, I genuinely mean that drinking tea is a component of their everyday life, any time of the day. Although Turkey is known for its coffee, the most overwhelming choice of drink is tea. I would say drinking tea is more popular than in countries such as England or China.
After moving to Turkey, I realized that drinking tea is a form of friendship or welcoming gesture. When offered a cup of tea, it is a sign of respect, and it is somewhat impolite to refuse. You will find while shopping (in Turkey) you may be offered a cup of tea (cay is the word in Turkish). Sharing a cup of tea has been a part of the Turkish culture as far back as the fall of the Ottoman period.
History of Turkish Tea
During the Ottoman Empire, coffee was the preferred drink of choice, but because coffee became expensive to import, it was only available for the elite. When the leader of the Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, came to power, he had demonstrated that drinking tea was a great option as a social drink. Tea is easily cultivated in the Black Sea Eastern province (Rize) due to the fertile soil, rainfall, and climate, making it ideal for production. Today this region of Turkey is the 6th largest producer of tea in the world.
Turks consume almost seven pounds of tea per year! Tea is consumed all day long, starting with breakfast and continuing right on through until bedtime. Offering tea and drinking tea together is a gesture of friendship.
Tea is produced from a plant called Camellia Sinensis. The amount of fermentation determines whether they turn out to be black, oolong or green. Turkish tea has no chemical substances or additives that are used in the production process.
Teas such as chamomile, lavender, and saffron are considered herbal teas and used to treat specific remedies. Sage tea is popular along the Mediterranean coastal region, while apple tea has gained popularity in Turkey’s tourist markets.
The most popular tea brand in Turkey is Caykur. When my husband and I traveled in the Black Sea region, we stopped in Rize to explore the tea farms. Caykur is a government-owned company and the biggest seller of tea, with tea gardens scattered about in the city center to sample various tea brands while enjoying the panoramic view of the mountains. Caykur has approximately 45 processing factories across the country and employs more than 30,000 people. The most common tea produced in Turkey is black tea.
To make tea, you will need a double teapot (caydanlik). Fill the bottom teapot with water and bring to a boil. Take the teapot on top and fill it with dry tea leaves (one spoonful per person). When the water has come to a boil, transfer water to the top pot and steep for 15 minutes (longer to avoid bitterness!).
Turks serve tea in small tulip-shaped clear glasses. The purpose of serving in these tiny glasses to be able to admire the hue of the tea. Two sugar cubes are served alongside your tea glass for sweetness. I have come to enjoy this social drink as it requires you to slow down and visit with others.
Most favorite time of the day to drink tea in Turkey is between three and five in the afternoon, where tea is served along with delicious sweets or pastries.
What Tea Drinking Has Taught Me?
I used to not want to be bothered when visiting a merchant. I had this hurry up, get in and get out attitude! By sharing a glass of tea, I have made new friends, hearing interesting stories from total strangers, and realizing that life is all about appreciating the moment.
No matter where you go in Turkey, you will see people socializing and drinking tea. My husband and I love to brew a pot of tea, pour it in a thermos, take our lawn chairs and walk across the street to the park, where we sit to drink our tea while enjoying the beautiful view of the turquoise coastline of Antalya.
Drinking tea is a way of life in Turkey. Don’t be shocked when visiting merchants that you are offered a cup of tea. It is a sign of friendship! If you want a great gift to purchase in Turkey for someone back home, Turkish tea along with tulip glass teacups are excellent choices.
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.
Inshallah (God willing!)