Turkey still remains a dream for me, but the one thing that friends, family or people (all over the internet) who have been there would all declare in unison that the Turkish ҪAY! (Pronounced chai) experience is the one thing they wish they could have brought back home. In this exotic land tea is taken very seriously and is considered to be the beverage of hospitality and friendship. Friends and family both young and old meet and engage in lively conversation over numerous glasses of Turkish çay at local teahouses and tea gardens.
“Caysiz sohbet, aysiz gok yuzu gibidir”
(Conversations without tea are like a night sky without the moon)
-Folk saying from Sivas, Turkey
In rural areas the ‘gelinhamami’ (bridal shower in a Turkish bath) features samovars of tea and pastries for the bride and her friends.
Turks consider Ҫay as their national drink. ‘Ҫay’ became so popular and important, that some towns even changed their names so as to include the word. For instance the town of Kadahor became Ҫaykara, and Mapavri became Ҫayeli.
The Turks use a double teapot (“çaydanlık”) to prepare their tea. Water for the tea is boiled in the lower larger pot and the tealeaves are steeped in the smaller upper pot. Samovars are used for tea preparation in certain parts of Turkey.
As important as the drink itself is the manner in which it is served. Small tulip shaped clear glasses allow the drinker to appreciate the beautiful crimson color of the tea. Very strong tea is poured into each glass and then cut by a layer of water which makes it ‘acik cay’ (light tea) or ‘koyu cay’ (strong tea).
Image source: http://www.thegodownstore.com
Generally when served two small sugar cubes are placed alongside the tea.
A style of drinking tea called the ‘kitlama’ originated from the Eastern city of Erzurum. The drinker places a lump of sugar between his tongue and cheek. It is said that the people of this region drink about 30 glasses of tea with only one lump of sugar.
Turkish apple tea is a drink very famous among locals and tourists alike. Commercially packed apple tea blends in the region tend to be heavily sweetened and does not do justice to the local drink.
I brewed up a batch of my own. After all a combination of apples and spices are a match made in food heaven. I prepared two batches ; one using fresh apples and the other using dried apples. The common elements of the recipe were a quartered orange and a couple of spices.
The fresh apple brew was a translucent white colour and had slight bitter ending notes. For the dried apple brew I added a spoonful of black tea powder. This gave the tea a lovely crimson shade but there was not much of a difference in the flavour.
While sipping on my Turkish Ҫay I wondered what a delicious addition Turkish delight or baklava would have been.
Ana gibi yar, vatan gibi diyar olmaz (There is neither love like a mother’s nor a place like your homeland)