Turkish Tea-drinking Culture

Posted by Zuhdi Farhan On Monday, July 24, 2017 0 comments

When I first arrived in Turkey. I thought coffee would be the favourite drink here, instead of tea. Turkey being the neighbour of Middle Eastern countries would definitely give you the wrong idea about that. I also initially thought that both tea and coffee were drunk heavily due to weather and climate since I arrived at the end of winter. The second time I was wrong. In fact, as someone coming from Malaysia, a country having some history with Britain, it never occurred to me that Turkish actually out-drinks the Irish and Britons in per capita tea consumption. Turkey is also the fifth highest tea producers behind India, China, Kenya, and Sri Lanka.
History of tea-drinking culture among the Turkish is still relatively new, beginning at the end of 19th century when the then governor of Adana, Mehmet Izzet in 1878, produced Çay Risalesi, Tea Pamphlet, to inform people the benefits of drinking tea. Çay Evi or tea house began to be opened in Sultanahmet area in Istanbul, thus the spreading of tea-drinking started. It was also helped by the fact that tea was four times cheaper than coffee. Rize, the “Turkish tea capital”, is a province located in the eastern part of Black Sea. Its soil fertility, rainfall volume, and climate are ideal for the cultivation and production of tea.
Serious attempt in cultivating tea began as early as 1917, however came to a halt due to Turkish War of Independence. The first large scale cultivation began in 1937 while the first tea factory there was built in 1947. Turkey started to export its tea in 1965, having satisfied local tea market. Çay-Kur (General Directorate of Tea Operations) was founded in 1971 in order to coordinate the cultivation and tea processing. The state-owned body enjoyed monopoly over tea market until 1984 when the industry was opened to private enterprise. Today, Çay-Kur still controls nearly 60% of domestic tea market. Even the football club playing in Turkish Super Lig, Rizespor are sponsored by Çay-Kur since 1991 and renamed Çaykur Rizespor. They have been using tea leaves on their badge since the establishement of the club in 1953.
There is a special way in preparing the tea. A çaydanlik, a special double-tiered pots would be required to brew the tea. The bottom pot is filed with water and set on fire until the water boiled. The top pot is filed with dry tea leaves. The boiled water then is poured into the top pot, allowing the tea leaves to steep for 15-20 minutes. The tea then is poured into tulip-shaped glasses with hot water added to dilute the tea according to one’s preference. There are two ways of drinking tea. The first one is by adding sugar cubes into the tea while the second way is called kitlama where you put sugar cubes between your tounge and cheek and then drink the tea. Sometimes, tea is also drunk with lemon, but not milk.
Turkish tea is supposed to be enjoyed while still hot. The usage of clear tulip-shaped glass is for admiring the colour of the tea. Serving tea has become the Turkish tradition in showing hospitality and friendliness. There is no specific time for tea, nor there is any bad time for tea. A saying in Turkey goes, “conversations without tea are like a night sky without the moon”. The sight of men enjoying tea in Turkey could be compared with seing Malaysians enjoying themselves at mamak stalls or street warongs although not exactly the same.




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