TURKISH TEA CULTURE & HISTORY
Do you know how to make Turkish tea?
This uniquely prepared Turkish black tea is ubiquitous in Turkey. You have surely sipped it from those cool tulip shaped glasses. Today is the day you learn how to make it yourself and gain a little history in the process!
I bet it is impossible to visit Turkey without being offered a cup of Turkish tea (çay pronounce chai). Turks are always drinking tea. Add this to their legendary hospitality and the result is regular invitations to enjoy a glass.
But this was not always the case…
Up to the 20th century coffee was the non-alcoholic drink of choice for the Ottomans. In fact, historians say that the coffee business in Europe really took off after the Ottomans were defeated at Vienna in 1683 leaving behind huge reserves of coffee. Although coffee had been in Europe for close to 40 years, the first real coffee shop was opened with the spoils from the battle.
So, why is tea such a big deal in Turkey today?
After WWI coffee prices increased making it difficult for the average person to afford it. From my research I learned that Atatürk (maybe with help from advisers?) decided that tea would be a better option since it could be produced in Turkey and was much less expensive. The government began encouraging people to grow tea and within a few years the tea industry, centered around the Rize region on the Black Sea, was booming.
A couple of generations later the Turks are consistently in the top 5 in most tea production and consumption categories. Today they produce over 200,000 tons of tea annually but export very little as they drink most of it.
Turks drink black tea and only add sugar. Green tea is available, and I am sure that some people drink it, but I have never met one of them. Personally, I am a tea heretic as I prefer it with lemon and honey.
HOW TO MAKE TURKISH TEA
The video above shows how to make Turkish tea but for those who want to see it in black and white, here are simple instructions:
Note on Tools- You need a Turkish Samovar Style Double Tea Kettle and Pot and Turkish Tea Glasses and Special Turkish Tea (all are affiliate links) to make Turkish tea. For those in Turkey, they are easy to find. For those abroad, check Amazon if you are not able to find them.
1. Put 2-4 heaping tablespoons of loose leaf black tea in the top pot.
2. Fill the lower (larger) pot with water and put them on the stove in a stacked position. Stove flame set to high.
3. Once the water comes to a boil, pour it into the upper pot with the tea grounds. Fill it within a couple of centimeters of the top.
4. Refill the lower pot and again place them on the stove (flame) in the stacked position.
5. Let it brew like that for about 15 minutes and it is ready!
6. Pour it into your tulip shaped Turkish tea glass. Pour the tea in first to whatever level you prefer and then fill the rest of the cup with the lower pot’s boiling water. Add sugar to taste and enjoy.
In terms of types of black tea, there seem to be as many as there are people to drink them. Most Turks have a keen sense of taste and know what they like. They can tell when someone has just re-heated previously brewed tea and when it is fresh. Some of them prefer to mix teas while others do not. I prefer a mix of Rize Turist Çayı and Earl Gray. The Earl Gray adds a nice aroma and helps the flavor as well. However, I am not too picky. I have no trouble drinking what is set before me as long as I am with people. I do not normally drink tea alone but am more of a social drinker.
For more reading on Turkish Tea, here are a couple of sites I found helpful:
All About Turkey
Turkey Travel Centre
Witt Hotels Magazine
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