What Is Turkish Tea
When an avid Tea drinker thinks of their favourite beverage, thoughts likely drift to China, India, Nepal or Sri Lanka. However, the Tea culture in Turkey is huge, too. Here at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company, we think it’s time that Turkish Tea got the recognition it deserves. In this article, we will explore “what is Turkish Tea?”. We will also examine in depth the Turkish culture surrounding Tea, particularly traditional Turkish Teas made from Black Tea. Furthermore, we will show you how to make it using Loose Leaf Tea so you can enjoy it at home.
What is Turkish Tea?Tea in Turkey (pronounced “çay”) is a big deal throughout the country. Some Turks enjoy herbal infusions such as Rosehip Tea (kuşburnu çayı) and Linden Flower Tea (ıhlamur çayı). Tourists, meanwhile, associate the term with Turkish Apple Tea, a popular infusion catered almost exclusively to the tastes of foreign visitors. Traditionally, however, Turkish Tea is usually Black Tea from the Rize Province on the eastern Black Sea coast. The Rize Province, and in particular the town of Rize, boasts several Tea gardens producing quality Black Leaf Tea. Other areas known for Tea-growing include Trabzon, Arakli, Karadere and Fatsa (near Ordu). Traditional Turkish Tea is exceptionally full-bodied and flavoursome. Connoisseurs will often choose to drink it with a little added sugar but no milk. Whether you want it lighter, which is essentially weaker, or darker, thus making it stronger, depends on personal tastes. Once you have decided, the ‘server’ of it pours the Tea into a glass, then ‘cuts’ it with water to the desired strength.
Tea Pots and Tea Glass Used in TurkeyTo fully immerse yourself in Turkish Tea, it’s vital to consider the utensils used in its making. Partly owing to its strength, seldom will you find, for example, Turkish Tea served in large cups. Instead, you will find on offer little tulip-shaped glasses. A Tea glass must be held by the rim to save your fingertips from burning. This is because servers use hot water straight from the boil. Those who’re particularly passionate about their brew might have their Tea served in a Semaver (known in Russia as a Samovar). This is a type of Teapot, made up of an upper and a lower part, that traditionally works by burning charcoal in the bottom to heat the Tea on top. It means you can have more than one cup of Tea during one sitting - and who wouldn’t want that?
Tea Culture in TurkeyDrinking Tea in Turkey isn’t only a pastime; it’s an experience. Surprisingly, however, compared to Tea’s thousands of years of history, Turkish Tea is a relatively new phenomenon. Historians can’t agree precisely when Tea arrived in Turkey. Some sources suggest as early as 400 BCE and others as late as the 20th Century. Nevertheless, the first attempt to actually grow it on Turkish soil, instead of importing it, took place in Bursa between 1888 and 1892. Unfortunately, early experiments failed due to inadequate terroir. It wasn’t until 1924 that the Turkish parliament passed a law that encouraged cultivating Tea in the east of the Black Sea region. This was the start of Turkish Tea culture as we know it today. During the 1930s, 70 tonnes of Tea seeds arrived in the region via neighbouring Georgia. Soon after, Tea gardens began to appear throughout Rize, in particular. By 1940, a new law passed that supported farmers while protecting their rights. This further boosted the cultivation of Tea in the area and indeed throughout other regions of Turkey. Wherever you go in Turkey today, Turkish Tea or even Turkish Coffee is inevitably on offer. Drinking either brew has become synonymous with friendship and hospitality. There is rarely an event or occasion - from weddings to funerals - where Tea isn’t readily available.
How to Make Turkish TeaShould you return from Turkey with a taste for Tea, you may wish to carry on brewing it authentically from home. To do this, you don’t need to be a master, but there are some important tips to consider before you start. The water you use, for example, has a tremendous influence on the overall taste of the finished product. Indeed, good quality water is essential. It should be soft, still, spring water if possible, that doesn’t contain any traces of lime, chalk or chloride. It’s also recommended that you use a porcelain Teapot/Semaver for the best possible quality.
To make authentic Turkish Tea, follow these steps:
- Rinse the upper part of your Semaver with lukewarm water.
- Put in one Teaspoon of Tea per person.
- Bring the water in the lower part of your Semaver to a boil.
- Pour the water into the upper part of your Semaver.
- Turn the flame down slightly on the lower part.
- Put the upper part, which should contain the water and Tea leaves, onto the lower part so that it continues to boil with the steam underneath.
- Allow the Tea leaves to brew for 10-15 minutes.
- Pour the brewed Tea into the small Tea glasses. Usually, each glass should be ⅓ or ¼ full, depending on how strong or weak the drinker would like it.
- To ensure you have the right strength, top up the glass with additional hot water.