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Turkish Tea Culture

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By: Erhan Kostepen

Turkish Tea Culture

If you come along to dine with us at Doya, we really hope you will have an enjoyable time. Part of that authentic experience is Turkish tea. Although there is no denying that the people of Turkey love coffee, in a similar way to Americans, tea is the most commonly consumed hot drink and is an important part of Turkish culture. Offering tea is integral to hospitality in the country.

So, what do you need to know about Turkish tea? In the following post, I am going to highlight the basics, like the important equipment, the kind of glassware we serve it in, and also my recipe for the best and most authentic Turkish tea.

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What Is Special About Turkish Tea? How is it Prepared?

Turkish tea is traditionally prepared in two stacked kettles called “cadyanlik”, which are designed specifically for this purpose. You bring the water to boil in the lower, larger kettle, and then you use some of the same water to fill the smaller, top kettle, where you steep several spoonsful of loose tea leaves. 

This is what ensures you will get an extremely strong and flavorsome tea. Then, when it comes to serving it up, you take the remaining water from the larger kettle to dilute the strong tea individually, giving drinkers how strong they want it.

The two main options that are commonly asked for are:

  • Strong (In Turkish the words used are either koyu, which translates as “dark” and taysan kani which literally translates as “rabbit’s blood”. Yeah, it’s attractive haha)
  • Weak (In Turkish the word used is acik which literally translates as “light”)

Traditionally, the tea is served in small glasses to retain the warmth and so you can marvel at its beautiful color.

The Importance of Slim Waist Tea Glasses

Following nicely from the above, just as Turkish tea is prepared traditionally using the “caydanlik”, it is also traditionally served in specifically designed glasses. These glasses are slim-waisted tea glasses. Completely transparent, they fit into your palm and something is amazing about using it to warm your hands up in winter. I even miss that feeling when I am in the Miami heat. 

Although some are not as elitist, many will not accept a cup of tea in anything other than those glasses.

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How to Make Good Turkish Tea?

Now you know the important basics, how do you make some for yourself? Obviously, I would advise you to pop into Doya where one of my team will be happy to make you a truly authentic cup of Turkish tea. In the interest of fairness, I don’t mind giving you some pointers on doing it yourself.

Choice of Tea

The first important decision you make is the tea itself. Several great brands make Turkish tea. One of the oldest of these is Caykur, whereas an equally successful, but much younger and hip brand is Dogus. 

Regardless of the brand I choose, I always look at the production year. Well, packaged tea that is worth investing in will expire within two years. My personal favorite is Black Sea tea, which has a delicious bergamot flavor. I highly recommend it.

The Water

As the only other ingredient used to make tea (aside from sugar, but more on that later), you must use good quality water. It should be still, soft, spring water. Unless you know the water, the quality coming from your taps, it is best to stick to bottled spring water as you will avoid any unpleasant chloride or chalk. 

The Pots

As I noted earlier, the kettle that is used to make Turkish tea is called a caydanlik and comes in two parts. The bottom part is a larger metallic pot designed to hold the water, whereas the smaller pot is used to infuse the tea. The top part is vital to the whole process and as such should be made of high-quality porcelain. 

The Portion

The volume of water used is only measured roughly, so you need to use your eyes and get a sense of what works best with your kettle. However, as a general rule of thumb, one dessertspoon of tea per person will help you to make a refreshing and tasty cup of tea.

Making the Tea 

To make the tea, you need to fill the top with enough tea leaves for whoever is joining you and then pour the water into the bottom part so it can boil. Once it boils, take some and mix that into the top pot, turning down the heat and then give the leaves and the hot water a chance to work their magic. It takes between 10 and 15 minutes for the tea to brew. 

Bonus Tip – What Can You Mix With Turkish Tea

The bonus tip I want to offer, knowing what Americans and other non-Turkish people are like with tea drinking is that you are only really allowed to add some sugar. Don’t add spices or milk. It’s not the done thing. 

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Bonus Tip 2 – Turkish Tea Should Be Shared

Tea drinking, similarly, to the classic mezes that Turkey and Greece are famous for, is a social thing. Don’t drink tea on your own, if you can avoid it. Embrace others and extend your friendship to others sharing tea with them. People in Turkey customarily offer tea to guests or newcomers and it is considered rude to refuse the offer. 

You will also find that Turkish hosts will offer you more and insist you drink more. If you really don’t want to drink anymore, put your teaspoon across your tea glass and your host will understand that you are telling him or her “Honestly, no, I’ve had enough, thank you very much” It sounds a little much, but it’s the best way to avoid a clip around the ear (something my mother would do if I was rude to someone offering a drink) and means you don’t need to drink gallons of tea just to please the host!

Erhan Kostepen is the Executive Chef and co-owner of Doya