Turkish Tea with 20 Questions- #1 Turkish beverage

Turkish Tea with 20 Questions- #1 Turkish beverage

Why is Turkish tea important?

We can say that Turkish tea is the number one drink within Turkish culture. It is almost closed to discussion 🙂 When you come to Turkey or Istanbul, you will see many people drinking tea whenever you turn your head to somewhere, and believe me there is no exaggeration. Turkish people generally drink tea:

  • At breakfast
  • At work
  • After dinner
  • With the guests during visits
  • As a side drink with desserts
  • During the meeting with friends
Turkish tea at Kadikoy
Turkish tea with Turkish breakfast

Moreover, Turkey is one of the countries having a great amount of tea consumption per person [1]. Basically, people love tea.

Please note that you may see various Turkish teas on the net, but we will talk about the original one and those variants around do not represent it.

What is tea? The difference between green tea and black tea

Its scientific name is Camellia sinensis. It is a type of Camellia and it is known as Chinese camellia in the Latin language. Moreover, the aromatic leaves of this plant are used for preparing tea.

Difference between green tea and black tea:

  • Green and black tea plants are exactly the same. Processes are different after harvesting.
  • Green tea is not enzymatically oxidized, however, black tea is. This oxidation makes Turkish tea black. Phenolic compounds in tea oxidized with oxygen, and this reaction is catalyzed by polyphenol oxidase enzyme and this enzymatic color reaction gives black color.
  • Even green tea is brewed at 70-80 C (~160-180 F) around 3-5 minutes, Turkish tea should be brewed with boiled water for around 20 minutes. This is necessary to get its optimum taste.
  • This long steeping process makes Turkish tea delicious. You know, this taste makes Turkish tea different.
  • Unlike English and similar teas, milk, etc. are not added. It is consumed as plain and hot.

Turkish tea history: Where does Turkish tea come from?

Tea history dates back to China before Christ (BC).

First trials about Turkish tea-growing happened in the 1880s by importing tea seeds from Japan and the city- Bursa which is close to Istanbul has been selected. However, this city’s environment was not ideal at all. The first serious attempt after this unsuccessful trial was performed by one of the mudarris (means professor, muderris in Turkish) Ali Riza Erten in Halkali Ziraat. Based on his investigations around the East Black Sea and Caucasus (Kafkasya in Turkish) and thoughts, he reported that cities Rize and Artvin were good candidates to grow tea since Batum and around this region already had tea plants.

As of today, East Black Sea region is pretty dominant for tea plants.

Turkish tea is called “cay” in Turkish.

Are the pots for Turkish tea different from other pots?

The difference is these pots for Turkish tea consist of two parts (pots).

1st pot (relatively smaller): This is the small one for brewing tea. Tea is put into this small pot and boiled water is added to it.

2nd pot (relatively bigger): This is the big pot to boil water. Intensive tea is diluted by this boiled water. Once the tea is ready, a mix is prepared by a ratio of Turkish tea and this boiled water.

What are Turkish teapot models?

There are two different models to steep tea. Basically, they are automated and manual ones.

  1. Electric/automatic Turkish tea makers/pots: Honestly, these are the most useful ones and kettles are easier to use. Steeping Turkish tea is a relatively long process compared to other teas or coffees. Tea gets more delicious with time. This time is around 20-30 minutes. And, automated machines bring many advantages.
    • 1st advantage is safety. Classical ones are a little bit riskier to children and unintentionally turning off the ingle. Especially, we would recommend the ones having sensors and keeping the tea temperature at a certain level.
    • I have been using one of Tefal’s models for 5 years and it has a pleasing performance. For this reason, this is our first suggestion.
    • Another consideration before buying a teamaker is material quality. So, stainless steel is the better one since it provides more delicious quality and healthier compared to ceramic, plastic, and glasses. And, you know, especially plastics are harmful.
  2. Classical manual models: If you don’t want to use electrical models or want to buy something cheaper, you can prefer manual ones as well. Please note that material type and quality are again important.

Recommended brands:

Note: Turkish samovar or tea kettle wood stove is also famous in Turkey. This also has a long history and using these ones in the picnics is a common thing to do in Turkish tradition.

How to make Turkish tea?

Steps are almost identical machines or manual pots. Here is the recipe for Turkish tea.

  • Step 1: Boil your water and try to consume/use soft water. The quality of water is important and will affect the taste of water.
    • Pour the water into the big pot (until the holes).
    • And boil the water.
  • Step 2: Add the boiled water to the small pot until filling till the level of holes.
    • One suggestion here… Add the water first and then put the tea. If you make vice versa, it would burn the Turkish tea which is not good.
  • Step 3: Put the tea powder into the small pot which contains boiled water.
    • Two people, 2 spoon tea powder or 2 tea bags (Approximately, 4-6 small glass)
    • Four people, 3 spoon tea powder or 3 tea bags (Approximately, 10-12 small glass)
    • Six people, 5 spoon tea powder or 4 tea bags (Approximately, 15-18 small glass)
    • Then make sure put the small pot on the big pot 🙂
    • Note: If you like Earl Grey, you can consider mixing normal tea and Earl Grey 50%-50% since Early Grey has a very dominant taste.
  • Step 4: Add some extra water to the bigger pot and boiled again. The water should be less than the holes. After boiling, decrease to low heat.
    • You are about to be ready. But one more step is needed.
  • Step 5: Be patient and wait! Allow it to steep for 20 minutes min. or 30 minutes for a better taste. Don’t turn off your tea maker or heater. And, you can keep it open till the last glass. It can be around 1-2 hours and after this period, its taste will not be good.
Turkish tea at home

How is Turkish tea served?

It depends on preference, but people generally prefer these types.

  • Light
  • Normal
  • Strong/dark

The service for normal tea is as follows. This is suitable for you if this is your time. Once you drink this, you can arrange tea based on your expectation. Furthermore, this ratio does not vary for small or big classes/cups or mugs.

  • Step 1: Pour the tea till 1/3 of the glass.
    • Note: If you use powder tea, use a tea-stainer to prevent powders to go inside of the glass. If you use a teabag, no need for a stainer.
  • Step 2: Fill the glass with hot water.

Yes, this is so easy, at least it is not rocket science 🙂 Bon appetite!

Note: If you want lighter or darker tea, you can fill till ¼ or ½ of the glass, respectively.

Note 2: We don’t recommend this, but the addition of sugar after arranging the mixture is a common thing in Turkey. So, you can consider this and you may need small Turkish teaspoons in order to stir it.

Note 3: During brewing, do not add sugar to the pot even some people use this technique. This is not recommended, either since it will also block the taste of tea.

Why are Turkish tea glasses small?

Small glasses are generally preferred for Turkish tea. Due to the reduction of the area on the mid-portion, they are often called thin/slim waist. People love this type since it shows tea’s color due to being glass and transparent and it allows it to be consumed hot enough. Most Turkish people don’t like to drink tea with plastic and cartoon cups. The main reason for this is to cool down the tea and not showing the color of the tea. However, using bigger glass cups is getting more popular among young people and white collars since it is more practical and prevents spending time to re-fill the glass.

Turkish tea with pastry
Classical small tea glass with pastry

Where can I buy Turkish tea glass sets?

We use the brands below at our homes, so you can feel comfortable and will be pleased if you buy them. These brands are very popular in Turkey as well.

You can find these brands in most of the malls in Istanbul. Furthermore, you can find any info on their websites. You can also find Turkish tea glass sets with handles which are more useful.

Moreover, there are good local shops in Grand and Spice Bazaars where you can find good glass sets. You can also find good tray designs in these bazaars.

Which Turkish tea brand is the best?

Please note that these brands are recommended by a food engineer, so you can be more comfortable 🙂

Things to consider:

  • Do not buy non-packaged teas. Actually, don’t buy anything w/o package. Because, we never know how these are produced, how these are stored, or whether the product is produced correctly.
  • If you want a real Turkish tea, look at the designation of origin. Some products are exported from Arabic countries and their taste is different.
  • I generally prefer tea bags and do not want to deal with powder, but this is your choice.

Recommended Turkish tea brands:

What does Turkish tea taste like?

Turkish tea has more aroma taste compared to other teas. For instance, when you drink green tea, you may feel more plant aroma, but drinking black tea or Turkish tea makes feel both plant aroma and strong taste like coffee.

Definitely, Turkish tea is aromatic and delicious. But, Rule#1, you should drink, fresh, and quality tea.

I drank Turkish tea and it was not delicious and harsh-tasting. Why?

Actually, Turkish tea is soft and delicious. However, after steeping for long hours, it loses the aroma and softness. Some of the cafes and restaurants serve the same tea for long hours. Thus, it is not delicious at all.

A couple of reasons:

  • Tea may not have quality
  • Water may not be good
  • Tea brewed long hours
  • If you are hungry, drinking tea does not make sense. Traditionally, Turkish tea is good after a meal and/or served with food.

How to understand quality?

  • Lively red color
  • Aromatic smell and taste
  • Soft and hot
  • Bubble free

What is recommended as a side? How to drink Turkish tea?

  1. Healthy way: Before talking about the standard way, here is the healthy and non-traditional way. Despite Turkish tea is consumed at breakfast or with snacks, biscuits, and cookies traditionally, this is not good for health and has some negative effects. Tea has components that affect iron absorption and may lead to anemia. The best way is to drink tea after 1-2 hours after a meal. Because tannins in tea can bind iron and cause anemia. Please consume tea after your main meals. If you drink rarely (tea one or two glasses) in a day, it may not be a problem to consume tea, but please don’t drink too much.
  2. Traditional way:
    • If you plan to come to Turkey and Istanbul one day in the future, have your Turkish breakfast including simit (Turkish bagel), cheese, olive, and Turkish tea with a Bosphorus view. This is a classic.
    • Besides Turkish bagel, you can drink tea with borek (pastry in various shapes), gozleme (Turkish pancake), croissant, or a sandwich.
    • Or, you can eat a dessert (e.g. Turkish delight, baklava) and drink tea.
Turkish breakfast and Turkish tea
Traditional Turkish breakfast with Turkish tea

How to store Turkish tea?

  • You should store Turkish tea inside of a glass jar and the jar should not be exposed to air. This will prevent getting humidity.
  • The environment should be cool and dry.
  • It should not be exposed to sunlight.
  • If you live in a humid and hot environment, it would be better to keep it in the refrigerator.
  • If it is a bag, you can store it till the expiration date. It is around two years, but you know more time is less quality.

Can I drink Turkish tea while I am pregnant?

Doctors generally state that one glass of tea would not be harmful and bodies generally tolerate this. One of the important points here is to drink tea not directly with a meal and to drink after 1-2 hours after the meals. This means that tea will not prevent the absorption of iron and will not cause iron deficiency. It is very important to understand iron is very important for mother and baby.

But, please note that coffee and tea are not recommended during the pregnancy since they contain also caffeine. This may cause insomnia, anxiety, and further related issues with your body. For these reasons, you may consider drinking Turkish tea is rarely without exceeding 1 glass limit during the pregnancy.

Things to consider if you are pregnant:

  • Not to drink with meals
  • Be careful not to drink coffee and tea on the same day
  • Not to drink late evenings/nights
  • Not to exceed 1 glass/cup per day

Note (highly recommended): Before drinking coffee and tea, always ask your doctor what to do if you are pregnant!!!

Is it harmful to drink too much Turkish tea?

You know that Turkish tea contains caffeine like green tea and Turkish coffee.

Caffeine is an alkaloid and it has a stimulus effect like the other alkaloids. So, it generally makes people keep awake, feels mentally awake, and feel energizer. Because of these effects, it is mostly preferred by students and employees. But if it is consumed too much, it can cause insomnia, anxiety, and caffeine addiction. Especially, drinking tea late evenings/nights may affect the standards of health. Another important point to be mentioned that tea prevents iron absorption and can cause anemia.

There are also various positive health effects of tea. Drinking 2-3 small glasses per day (rarely drinking 1 small glass during pregnancy) can be tolerated, but this depends on your health level. It is also for sure that its calory is lower than coke or other aromatic beverages and tea has antioxidant components. These antioxidants are very important for our health and prevent us from many diseases including cancer, influenza and more. It is also good to drink Turkish tea during winter in order not feel cold. Moreover, it is healthy and delicious.

In summary;

  • Do not drink more than 2-3 small cups.
  • Do not drink late evenings and nights.
  • Drink Turkish tea after 1-2 hours after a meal.
  • Do not drink with a meal.
  • If you are pregnant, do not drink more than 1 small cup and it is highly recommended to ask this question to your doctor.

Is drinking Turkish tea beneficial to health?

  • Turkish tea contains antioxidants.
  • It is beneficial to keep the body temperature at a certain level during the winter months.
  • It prevents thirst during the summer period.
  • Since it does not contain sugar, it is better to consume instead of beverages containing sugar like coke, juices, sugary coffees. It also helps in weight loss/control. So, do not put sugar in your tea.
  • It makes feeling energized and awake due to caffeine.
  • It is natural and sugar-free.

How to make tea without a double teapot?

Basically, there are different ways but having these different techniques change this tradition a little bit. If you think a little bit and simulate what electric kettle/automated machine or manual double teapots do, we can say that why not 🙂 This is not recommended at all and Turkish tea needs a good brewing process with a heat source but here is an idea.

  • Step 1: You still need a cooker or heat source and even you can use a pot or a small saucepan or a small metal pan for the steeping.
  • Step 2: Put powder Turkish tea in a filter (a small cup having small holes for interaction with water) inside of this cup with a full of water or if you don’t have a filter to put in the pot, directly put powder to the pot. And then let it brew for 20-30 minutes.
  • Step 3: Boil hot water in a different cup.
  • Step 4: Pour Turkish tea into your glass (or flask) as we explained above by using a tea-stainer and then pour the boiled water.

Where to drink tea in Istanbul?

You can find good Turkish tea all around Istanbul and there are also good tea gardens. Here is a shortlist.

  • Tarihi Cinaralti Cay Bahcesi/Tea Garden
  • Namli Gurme at Karakoy
  • Beltas Café or the House Café at Ortakoy
  • Baylan Patisserie Kadikoy
  • Dolmabahce Café Besiktas
  • Kadikoy Istanbul Kitapcisi (Bookstore at Pier)
  • Beltur Cafes on the coast in Maltepe and Bostanci
  • Bagdat Avenue Mado
  • Mecidiye Pavilion Café
  • Yakamoz Restaurant Kanlica
Tea at Baylan Patisserie, Kadikoy

Turkish tea vs. Turkish coffee

Since teas and coffees are two different groups, it is not fair to compare them.

They are not rivals and we mostly think that they are brother and sister 🙂 Probably this is because we like both of them. They are two dominant figures in Turkish culture.

Turkish tea is consumed more frequently compared to Turkish coffee. So, going back to the title, this is the Number 1 hot beverage in Turkey. In addition, tea is irreplaceable and if we take this out of Turkish culture, this would be a thing that can not be easily replaced. In summary, this is a routine.

Turkish coffee is more linked to history, hospitality, and not a routine as much as tea and probably consumed less than tea. We can say that a person generally drinks one cup of Turkish coffee in a day, but 2-3 cups of Turkish tea. On the other hand, usually, younger people do not prefer Turkish coffee too much.  They prefer tea or other coffees like filter coffee and others.

Conclusion

Whenever you look around in Turkey, you see people drinking tea and it is in daily life a lot. It is easy to brew and delicious.

When you visit Turkey and fantastic Istanbul, drinking Turkish tea will also be on your top list with fantastic views (e.g. Bosphorus view).

In this post, we hope you also learned how to brew it with different techniques. So, you are ready to add Turkish tea into your daily life regardless of your location. But, always remember how to consume this, remember positive or negative effects on your health!

We hope you enjoy it 🙂

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_in_Turkey
Istanbul Fantasy