Turkish Tea | Çay
Turkish tea is an important part of the Turkish culture. Offered to guests as a symbol of friendship and hospitality, it is served in homes, tea gardens and cafes throughout the country. Tea is commonly served before business negotiations and often offered to customers as they enter shops and stores.
It is generally believed that tea originated in China. According to legend, tea was first discovered in China more than 4,000 years ago by Emperor Nun Shen when a tea leaf fell into a pot of boiling water. Linking China with the Roman Empire, Silk Road trade brought tea too the west. Although tea passed through Turkey on the historic trade route in the 14th century, it did not begin to become a part of daily life until the beginning of the 20th century.
Following the Turkish War for Independence (1919 – 1923), Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (founder of the new republic) promoted tea as a less expensive alternative to coffee. At the time, four glasses of tea could be purchased for the price of a single cup of coffee. In 1924, the first tea plantations were established in the Black Sea Province of Rize. The fertile soil and frequent rainfall in the area are ideal for tea cultivation. Today, the Rize remains at the heart of Turkish tea production.
Traditionally, Turkish tea is prepared using two stacked kettles (çaydanlık). Loose tea leaves are placed in the upper kettle, the lower kettle is filled with water and both are placed over heat. As the water in the lower kettle is heated, it gently warms the tea leaves in the upper kettle. When the water comes to a boil, it is added to the upper kettle to brew the tea. After steeping, tea is diluted (to personal preference) with the remaining water from the bottom kettle. Tea can be served light (açık) or strong (koyu) and is most typically offered in small tulip-shaped glasses.
More Turkish Beverages
Beverages common to Turkish cuisine include ayran (a salted yoghurt drink), coffee and tea. Furthermore, Turkish tea is considered by many to be the national drink. Typical alcoholic beverages include beer, wine and rakı (an anise flavored drink). In Turkey, it is generally believed that the consumption of cold beverages leads to a sore throat. As a result, drinks are not typically served with ice.