Turkish Tea: An offer you cannot refuse
- 21 Nisan 2014, Pazartesi 14:51
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.
A Quick Look in the History of Tea
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.
History of Turkish Tea
Turkish tea fields in the Black Sea region.
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.
How to Make Good Turkish Tea?
Tea — There are several brands of Turkish tea. Çaykur is the oldest company that produces tea in Turkey. There are also younger and equally successful ones like Doğuş. Whichever brand I get, I always check the production year. Well packed tea expires on average after two years. My choice is eastern Black Sea tea, with bergamot flavor.
Water — Using good quality water is essential. It has to be soft, still, spring water. Bottled drinking water is the safest choice to avoid chalk or chloride.
Pots — The Turkish teapot comes in two pieces: the bottom metal pot for the water, and the smaller top for tea. The top piece plays an important role in the process. Therefore, it has to be the best material for the occasion, which is porcelain.
Portion — The amount of water is measured roughly, but for the tea you can use this rule of thumb: one desert spoon full of tea per person.
Making the Tea — Add the tea to the top part, and put water to boil in the bottom part of the teapot. When the water boils, add some to the top pot, reduce the fire to the bare minimum, and wait 10 to 15 minutes before serving.