Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Turkish Tea, or Çay

When I first moved to Turkey, I found the tea drinking a bit different than throwing a bag in a cup of boiled water.  First the tea pots threw me.  Two on top of each other?  Water on the bottom and tea on the top.

Then there were the glasses.  Drinking boiling tea from a tiny, hot glass with no handle?  Ouch.  And because the glass is small, it is just as easy to spill as it is to singe your fingerprints.  And how many sugar cubes does one need for that?  And if you are hosting, you need to be on the ball and fill that glass as soon as it is empty - small glasses finish quickly.

I learned very quickly that tea, or çay (pronounced chai) is a very important part of daily life in Turkey.  It starts the day with breakfast, is served at work, in tea houses, in cafes, at home again in the afternoon or evening, when guests come visit.. and the list goes on.  Many important decisions are made over tea - work decisions, life decisions, political decisions.

I got used to it quickly.  And who wouldn't?  Not only is it everywhere, but it is also very good.  

I still start my days with it and I hate to leave it in the morning.  I also drink it in the afternoon when I am working from home.  However, I find I miss that culture of tea everywhere.  I even considered an electric Turkish tea kettle at work, but that could get a bit tricky with a hot desk.

In Dubai, the norm is more the Starbucks and equivalent franchises of the world.  Arabic coffee (which is a Turkish coffee with cardamom) and Moroccan tea (mint tea) are easily available, but it is not quite the same.

Perhaps it is the comfort factor of Turkish tea.  The many glasses that I have shared with friends over the years have left me with a Pavlov-like reaction when I taste it.  Even on the most exhausting and challenging days, there is something comforting about çay.

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