When you traverse the streets of Turkey you can see it all around. Everyone is sitting around consuming it. It’s red, it’s hot and it’s drunk around these parts like it’s the elixir of life. So what is this magical beverage? Turkish tea!
There is one undeniable fact in the world. The Turks love tea! Love might not even be a strong enough world. Tea is so popular around these that not drinking it is almost a crime! There are even venues dedicated to tea drinking which are called çay evi or tea houses. As a matter of fact, the Turks consume so much tea that Turkey have surpassed England as the country with the most tea consumption per capita in the world. So they really, really love tea. Now let’s dive a bit into some interesting facts about the magic that lies within.
Turkish tea is mostly produced around the town of Rize. In 1947 the first tea factory was built in Rize and in 1965 the production of dried tea reached the level of domestic consumption. As a matter of fact, tea was so important that it was at one point monopolized! Believe it or not the task of buying, processing and selling tea was conducted by the Tekel (Monopoly of State) General Directorate until 1971, when it was transferred to the Tea Corporation, and in 1984 the Monopoly on tea was lifted and this facility was also provided to the private sector.
Now another noteworthy thing about Turkish tea is the way it’s prepared. Unlike English tea, the Turks actually use thermodynamics to prepare their tea! Well kind of. Turkish tea is typically prepared using two stacked kettles called çaydanlık. The upper kettle is usually smaller and the lower one which is bigger holds the water which is brought to a boil. Now after the water is boiled some of it is used to infuse some loose tea leaves which makes the tea very strong. Now the way the tea is served is that some is poured from the upper kettle and then depending on the preference of the tea drinker a specific amount of water from the lower kettle is added, giving each consumer the choice between strong (koyu; “dark”, tavşan kanı; literally “rabbit’s blood” — a deep brownish red, or açık; “light”).
But you might be wondering. Wait wait wait? Isn’t Turkish coffee popular? Aren’t the Turks popular for their coffee? No no you’re right. They are. However the reason the tradition of drinking tea was born is that after WWI coffee was scarce and wasn’t easily obtainable so tea was proposed as an alternative. It eventually became a habit and now dominates the world of hot beverages.
But be very very careful! If you wish to serve tea you should serve it right! The way tea is served is in little tulip-shaped clear glasses. Those special glasses are used so the drinker can admire the reddish hue of the gorgeous tea while drinking and to keep the beverage warmer for longer. (Told you they know their thermodynamics!)
When is the right time to drink tea you might ask. What? What do you mean? All the time is the time to drink tea. Tea is enjoyed here with a morning cigarette, during a conversation, or most notably during a boat ride on the Bosphorous. Tea is actually the social catalyst around which everything revolves. So go pop the kettle on, oh wait sorry, i meant the two kettles, and try a magically delicious sip of culture with a good book.