Culinary Anthropologist

Teatime in Turkey

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Smteaglass0001.jpgDespite being an unashamed coffee snob and addict, five weeks in Turkey has almost converted me to tea.  This is because you can’t avoid it, and soon learn that no social meeting, business transaction or meal is complete without a glass or three of çay.  Of course, Turkey used to be famous for its strong shots of thick coffee, but these days it’s glasses of tea you see all over the ‘café’ tables.

Smteabushes0001.JPGThe tea itself is likely to have come from northeast Turkey, where we saw it carpeting the rugged hills above the Black Sea where there is plenty of rain.  We had the chance to stay with a small-scale tea farmer, who taught us a thing or two about it, and served us the most delicious brew we were to taste in Turkey.  Tea has actually only been grown as a cash crop in Turkey since it was encouraged by Atatürk in the twentieth century.

And it looks so good too.  Forget those ugly chipped ‘World’s Best Dad’ mugs of murky grey tea you get in the office kitchenette at work, and think instead of a small, elegant tulip-shaped glass of translucent, deep amber coloured liquid, glowing in the afternoon sun.  They’re so small and sweet that it’s easy to drink them all day.

Smbackgammon0001.JPGAnd drinking them all day is practically a requirement:  in some places you can’t so much as smile at someone without being invited to sit down for a tea.  It’s all incredibly civilized, making even the most basic economic transaction, buying a bag of carob pods, for example, a social occasion in which seller and buyer have the chance to connect as humans and pass the time of day.  And no day in Turkey is complete without a few blissful moments sipping tea and beating Matt at backgammon in the local shady tea garden.  We shall miss Turkish tea.

Read about the other flavours of Turkey we enjoyed…

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