Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Turkish Tea -- Cay

It seems incredible to me that I've posted here for a year and a half, almost 70 entries, without once posting Turkish tea! Maybe because it's so common place to me now, we drink it every single morning, that I've started to take Turkish tea for granted.

Growing up in the South, as a child I never imagined that anyone would drink tea other than the way I always had, ice-cold and heavily sweetened. Then my family took a trip to Canada and at a restaurant ordered our normal tea. We all looked at each other surprised when we were served hot tea. The beginning of cultural awareness for me. :-)

In Turkey, tea is the life-blood of the nation, and most certainly of the economy. People outside of Turkey hear a lot about Turkish coffee, but that is usually drunk mostly in the evenings, after dinner, as a dessert drink, and usually on special occasions, not an every-day beverage. Tea, however, is consumed all day long, continuously, several glasses per person.

When visiting Turkey, you'll be invited to drink tea in every home you visit and every shop or place of business you enter if you're spending much time there (especially if you're buying a carpet). You'll see tea sellers (caydanliks) carrying their swinging tea trays going from shop to shop, business to business, selling their freshly prepared tea. The economy would come to a halt if the tea supply was wiped out.

I heard a funny joke once about a lion who escaped from the Ankara zoo and hid in the bottom floor of the parliament building in downtown Ankara. He caught and ate the Turkish Prime Minister first, and no one noticed. Then he gobbled down a couple of other party leaders and important bureaucrats. Still, no one was interested. He munched on some newspaper editors and business CEO's. No one cared. But when he made a snack out of the cayci (the tea seller) the city got up in arms, searching and scouring each building until they found and captured the missing lion.

No one messes with a Turk's tea and lives to tell the tale. :-)

Turkish tea is always served freshly made, very hot, in small tulip-shaped glasses, which permit the drinker to absorb the warmth of the tea into their palm while admiring the amber-colored liquid. It is also prepared in a Turkish teapot (caydanlik), which is a double-boiler teapot with a smaller kettle which sits on top of a larger one. I've often seen both Turkish teapots and tea glasses in Middle Eastern groceries and markets here in the US. Or simply use your double boiler.


tea (in Turkey, everyone uses loose-leaf black tea, but bagged tea will work)


Fill the bottom kettle with cold water. To the top kettle, add one well-rounded teaspoon of tea (or one teabag) per serving desired. Place top kettle on top and heat on stove until the water boils in the bottom. Lower the heat in the bottom kettle and continue boiling for about 5 minutes. This heats the tealeaves in the upper kettle before adding water.

Then add water from the bottom kettle to the top, about 3-5 ounces per serving, leaving at least half the water in the bottom kettle. Return both pots to position and continue brewing on low heat for at least another 10 minutes.

When you serve, pour the tea from the top pot into each tea glass until about half full, then top it off with the hot water from the bottom tea pot. In this manner, individual preferences as to how strong or light someone wishes their tea can be fulfilled. For those who prefer a lighter tea, simply pour more water and less tea.

Sweeten with stevia, if desired, and enjoy while hot!


If using loose-leaf tea, you can use a strainer to ensure that no leaves get into your tea glass. However, once a pot of tea has been properly prepared, most of the leaves will have settled to the bottom and not much will enter the glass. If you still have leaves floating on the top of your brewing tea, then it probably hasn't brewed enough.

Preparing tea in this manner gently heats the tea, releasing its full flavor, without harshly boiling or scalding the tea leaves.

Other Options:

Recently we've been adding a few cloves and about an inch of cinnamon bark to our tea as it steeps. I really love the tea like this, and one of my daughter's friends guzzles it by the gallon when she visits she likes it so much. Others like to add lemon to their tea.

Experiment with different spices and enjoy!


Confessions of Vi said...

Do the Turks ever sweeten their tea with cherries?

SP SIPAL said...

Turkey is a big country, so I by no means know all the customs, but I've never heard of this. However, my husband says he's heard of Turks sweetening their tea with jelly, and sour cherry jelly is very popular in Turkey.

crummyd said...

I do hope you get this! Have you ever made cay for a large grop? I would like to brew it for a group of sixty which will certainly not work with my caydan! Any suggestions? Can you brew that much easily at one time? They will all be serve at once.

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