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.
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.
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 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.
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?