jasmine tea

Çay and Conversation: Discovering Turkish Tea

The sound of spoons clinking can be heard everywhere in Turkey. I've always been a fan of Turkish coffee but had heard about the population's obsession with tea prior to arriving in the country. The Turks drink more tea than even the British! I made sure to drink plenty of cups of the national beverage (çay) while we were there.

apple tea istanbul

An apple tea served in the traditional glass in Istanbul

Tea houses are more popular than bars with plenty of them around to serve the population. Drinking tea is a social ritual and it's common to see people sitting together and enjoying tea while they catch up at all times of the day. Tea gardens are lively places where locals gather to meet each other, talk, play games and relax.

nargile tea garden

A typical Turkish tea garden where people meet and also enjoy nargile, the traditional water pipe. Photo by Backpack Foodie from Flickr.

The traditional tea preparation method requires a double tea pot, which works in a similar way to a double boiler: water is boiled in the larger pot and loose tea leaves steep in a smaller pot on top. This allows people to adjust the strength of the tea by adding more water from the lower pot. The tea is served in clear tulip-shaped glasses with one or two sugar cubes in the saucer.

tea spice bazaar istanbul

An assortment of teas are on offer at the Istanbul Spice Market.

Tea produced in Turkey is incredibly healthy, with no chemicals or additives. It comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant and comes in black, oolong or green varieties, depending on the amount of fermentation. The country is one of the largest tea markets in the world, producing çay on the east Black Sea coast in the Rize Province. Herbal tea is also popular and flavours like apple, rose hip, jasmine and pomegranate tea are enjoyed by tourists as well as locals.

jasmine tea

I love the herbal teas though they are not typically Turkish, which can be found at bazaars like the Spice Market.

I love the tea culture in Turkey. Nothing beats relaxing in a tea garden, watching the tea-waiters (called çayci) balance several cups of tea on a tray as they move quickly from table to table while the locals play backgammon, smoke and chat or read. This is a quintessential Turkish experience not to be missed on a visit to the country.

Are you a tea drinker? What do you love about it?

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Carlie Andy
9 years ago

Great post! I used to order the “tourist tea” as well when I was in Istanbul. I wasn’t a fan of tea but the apple tea in Turkey made me a convert. My Turkish friend says it’s the tourists’ favourite. I’d  definitely visit the spice market next time I fly back there.

Reply to  Carlie Andy

I really liked the apple tea too! =)

9 years ago

This is a nice post. I always thought Turkish were known for their coffee vs. teas. I drink tea but i’m not a tea connoisseur, which apparently, Turkish are! Wonderful. I love the teas with the little flowers in them; always feel like they taste fragrant.


Thanks so much! I think that’s a common misconception…I certainly had no idea they were big tea drinkers as I’ve always been a fan of Turkish coffee and thought surely that’s what everyone drinks there….

9 years ago

You have me craving for a tea. I love drinking tea around the world and loved the apple tea and the socialization that came with it in Turkey Great post

Reply to  yTravelBlog

The socialization around tea is such a great part of the culture, isn’t it? I’d really love to get a Turkish tea set…

9 years ago

I love the picture of the different teas at the spice market. I’m not a big tea drinker, but a display like that would definitely tempt me.

Reply to  emilyinchile

I was most tempted by the jasmine tea that opens into a flower – reminds me of the tea Kirsten Dunst was drinking in the movie, Marie Antoinette.

9 years ago

Very nice summary of the Turkish tea culture. I still prefer Turkish coffee.

Reply to  Inka123_45

Fair enough – I love Turkish coffee – John’s mother always makes it for us when we visit his family and it’s a favourite treat!

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