Tea and coffee are imperative to Turkish culture. You can’t walk 3 steps without being offered tea or coffee, which is usually offered in exchange for a conversation, or most likely a business transaction. Shop owners are constantly haggling you with a “Yes, please” and an invitation to sit and chat over a cup of tea. The hopeful end result for them is that you will buy whatever they are selling. Sometimes the sales pitch won’t come for a while, but it almost always does. Now, I’m not scolding them for this quality, I look at it as a genuine act to get to know their customer and better offer them what they really want instead of just throwing everything at them. It’s actually kind of smart, even though most of the time, it can become a little awkward and unnerving. I appreciate the relational aspect of the Turks.
Obviously, Turkish coffee (turk kahvesi), has that name for a reason. It is found in almost every cafe, restaurant, you name it. Since I’m clearly a coffee person over a tea person, I had my fair share of Turkish coffee, some definitely better than others and definitely not with the 3 pounds of sugar they usually put in it. There’s just something magical about drinking Turkish coffee in Turkey, and I’m not one to miss out on the magic.
But, interestingly enough, most Turkish people drink black tea (turk cay). That’s really I ever saw Turkish people drinking; about 5 ounces of tea with 3 sugar cubes. They absolutely love sugar. It’s insane, and a little disturbing. But, despite their affinity for sugar, Turkish people share life over tea. Now, obviously, I didn’t understand exactly what I heard during my eavesdropping on their conversations over tea, but I can only assume it’s about nothing and everything at the same time. It’s genuine and true.
To appease the Westerners, or really any tourists that visits, they serve apple tea (elma cay). They trick you into thinking that it’s very “Turkish”, but really it’s mostly just for tourists. We found this out halfway through the trip and felt tricked, deceived, LIED TO! (It’s quite alright though, we were quick to forgive). We were offered LOTS of apple tea, like lots. But, it tastes like hot apple cider, so we gladly took the handouts.
The tea is served in little hourglass shaped glasses with a saucer and spoon. This one thing, more than anything else reminds me of this wonderful little country. The sound of that mini spoon clinking against the glass takes me straight back to the little street cafes. It’s so brilliant that something as simple as a sound transports you back to wonderful memories.
I brought back my own little tea set and some instant Turkish apple and lemon tea. Although not quite as great at the real deal, it’s close enough to bring back the little piece of my heart I left in Turkey.
What a beautiful and wonderful way to share culture with foreigners, a little tea and a little conversation. It just fills my heart with joy.