Exploring, sipping & delighting in all things tea.
Just put the kettle on. One lump or two?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Delights of Turkish Tea * Guest Post

Arrrrfternoon ladies and gents. We just love this guest post below from Cajame Creations. It's great to read some genuine insider information about Turkish Tea...


We like to think of ourselves in Britain as a nation of tea drinkers, but I don't think we can hold a tea-bag to the Turkish when it comes to our love of the brewed leaf.

The Turkish take their tea drinking very seriously indeed, and I dread to think how much the average person gets through in the course of a normal day. Unlike us, they drink their tea black - and find the notion of adding milk quite ridiculous. Your average Turk will also find it hard to believe that tea can be drunk without the addition of sugar. Whereas we would go out in the evening and enjoy an alcoholic drink with friends, the Turkish will meet and drink tea. The tea will be delivered in small glasses, and is likely to be carried in on a special serving tray. The glasses may be small, but the tea certainly isn't! It's strong in taste and aroma.

I spent 4 years living in Turkey, and my home is still there. During that time I've spent hours waiting to be seen in offices and banks (I will never complain again about the waiting times in the UK, you can be waiting to be served in the bank an entire morning!), and witnessed the ever-present delivery of glass after glass of tea. Every large office will have their own tea-boy, and where they don't, the tea is delivered at frequent intervals from a nearby stall. Most streets have a little nook or cranny containing the tannin nerve-centre for the immediate vicinity.

It's a pity, but they don't all dress like this seller in traditional dress anymore! Instead they dash about carrying a silver tray with a carrying handle, each one balancing about a dozen little glasses.

Wherever you go, you will be offered tea as a courtesy - and the host is likely to be mildly offended if you refuse a glass. Oh boy, does this prove awkward if you don't like tea! Ever since I became pregnant with my third child (ooh - 12 years ago), I have been unable to bear the smell of tea, let alone drink it. Neither have I got a sweet tooth. So... imagine my predicament when presented with a glass of the strongest, sweetest tea imaginable! It's happened to me so many times I've lost count. I see the tray coming towards me and gulp inwardly. I smile and say thank you........ and then wonder how on earth I'm going to get rid of it. My husband has saved me on so many occasions, by drinking mine quickly when no one is looking.

One event remains so clearly ingrained though, it makes me shudder. The Turkish are incredibly hospitable and love to invite you into their home. No visit will ever be made without tea being served. A lovely elderly couple entertained us one afternoon. We'd never met them before and the last thing we wished to do was offend. In came the tray of tea. Hubby was sat the other side of the room. I began to sweat slightly, and could see no way out. I was saved when the wife went back into the kitchen to refill the pot, and the husband went to a sideboard to fetch a photo. In a split second I hurled the tea into the plant pot beside me, replacing the glass in its saucer with a feeling of elation. Elation that instantly turned to desperation as I sat and watched my glass be immediately refilled. Three times.... yes THREE times, I had to summon every bit of will-power and down the contents. Eventually, hubby realised it was time to say our goodbyes and beat a hasty retreat, as I began to turn a peculiar shade of green!

Not only do the Turkish drink their tea differently to us, they brew it differently too. Not for them a kettle, instead a two part brewing process. Usually boiled over a flame (though there are electrical versions), in what looks rather like a normal tea-pot sat on top of a saucepan. Pop over to Turkish Cookbook for the full process and photos. It's made me chuckle reading that the tea must be served fresh and weak. I don't believe a word of it! I've seen pots that have been on the go all day, with the tea never being made fresh, but just more being thrown in the pot. And weak? You've got to be kidding me! (or perhaps that's in a different part of Turkey).

It was interesting to read that the Turkish produce their own tea, and that it's lower in caffeine than elsewhere. I didn't realise that until today. I wonder what it's packaged under? As far as I'm aware, Liptons seem to have firm control of the market, as that's all you ever see in the shops. Liptons is like a blast from the past for me, as it takes me straight back to childhood. I can picture my Gran sitting with her tea-pot beside her, spooning Liptons tea in "for a mash", before popping on a knitted cosy to let it brew. Can we still get it in the UK?


Funnily enough, even though it's quite a way from Turkey, on our recent voyage to Holland we noticed that Lipton tea appeared to be the tea of choice, pretty much everywhere we went...

Rather than sitting about in a dreary greasy spoon with a cuppa.... wouldn't you rather do as the Turkish, and float away the afternoon on a raft? This is the way families and friends meet to chat during the summer. Escaping to the relative cool of a mountain river; sat upon cushions, trailing a hand into the icy water. No need to bother with getting up for an order, the tea will be delivered to you. The raft will either be pulled in to the shore by rope, or when shallow, the waiter will wade out.

Now that's my idea of a tea shop!

Ooooo we do like the sound of that... sounds absolutely wonderful... oh to be whisked away to Turkey for tea. Delightful.

Thank you ever so much for the brilliant guest post.

Chin chin...

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