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Turkish Tea, an Offer You Can’t Refuse
Posted By Erlend Geerts On October 13, 2011 @ 2:49 pm In Cafés,Practical Information,Restaurants | No Comments
Tea is big in Turkey. A great deal of the population admires this drink. When asked to describe a hot summer day, a cold winter day, a visit to family or friends, a quick way to relax and especially a full breakfast , tea will be part of it. People often associate Turkish tea with apple tea, but that’s just a touristic thing.
Traditional Turkish tea is black, and it’s consumed massively. Turks do sometimes fancy a herbal tea, such as rose hip (kuşburnu çayı), linden flower (ıhlamur çayı) among other flavors. But those are mostly consumed for their health characteristics and to color up the taste buds.
We do not know exactly when and how mankind started to drink tea. The first record of using tea as a beverage comes from China dating back to the 10th century BC. But only since 1589, Europeans learnt about tea when a Venetian author credits the lengthy lives of Asians to their tea drinking. In the 16th century, Portuguese traders imported tea and it became very fashionable in aristocratic circles and at the royal courts. In Great Britain, tea even became so chic that at the end of the 17th century alcohol consumption declined. In the 19th century, Chinese trade of tea with Western nations spread and the tea industry started to appear in Europe and America.
Surprisingly, compared to tea’s thousands years of history, Turkish tea is relatively young. Some sources mention that Turks traded and consumed tea as soon as 400 B.C., but certain is that tea only became common in Turkey from the 1900s onwards.
The very first attempt to grow tea on Turkish soil took place in Bursa between 1888 and 1892. It wasn’t a success since this part of the country is ecologically inadequate for growing tea. In 1924, the parliament passed a law about cultivating tea in the east of the Black Sea region. In the late 30s, 70 tons of black tea seeds were imported from Georgia in order to start nurseries in the region. In 1940, an additional law that supported the farmers and protected their rights boosted the cultivation of tea in the region. Today, 767 million m² of land is used to grow tea, and it is the second most consumed Turkish drink, after water.
Quality Tea — To make sure that you picked a good quality tea, put some tea in cold water. If the color of the water changes slowly then it is good. If it changes rapidly then there is something fishy. Once you have good tea, you should store tea air tight, dry and away from other odors. My suggestion is to get small packs, and give different brands a chance.
Turks use special curved, see-through tea glasses and a small plate underneath for making it easier to carry and serve. Since the steeped tea is on the top pot you should be careful with the amount you pour onto the glass.
Half of a glass is very strong (koyu or demli), a quarter of a glass is considered normal, and less is light (açık). Then you of course add water to fill rest of the glass. Not all the way up though! You should leave 1 cm of space at the top to help the drinker to get a sip without spilling or burning his or her fingers. Moreover, traditional Turkish tea glasses have no handle like a regular Western cup, so you need to hold the glass from the top using your thumb and index finger.
If you have guests over, do use a little more tea and water than required. The host is supposed to supply tea as long as the guests’ desire. In Turkish culture you just cannot say, “Sorry, we don’t have any tea left!” This is simply not done, at all.
In case you are the guest, keep the famous Turkish hospitality in mind: just like any other treat, the host will insist you have one more. To prevent this, you might apply an equally traditional way and put your tea spoon on top of your tea glass the minute you finish your tea. This means, “Honestly no – that’s enough. Thank you!”
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