Turkish Tea

Being Australian and having lived in Tokyo and Dublin where drinking is more like a vocation than a social past-time, comparatively, Turkey is like a teetotaling uncle who only on special occasions is seen partaking in a harder beverage.

Instead of happy hour and after dinner “meet-for-drinks”, Turkish people meet after work and fairly late into the night for çay (pronounced, “chai”). Cay is Turkish tea taken black and served with a cube or two of beet sugar. It’s made using a two-tiered kettle. The bottom half boils fresh water while the top half holds the steeping tea. Because the tea is so strong (today, I noticed the pot had 8 teabags in it) and the cups it is typically served in are Hobbit-sized, half a cup of tea is poured from the top half and then the rest of the cup is filled with the boiling water from the bottom half.

Turkish tea is drunk at all times throughout the day and served everywhere. Yesterday, I was waiting at the bookstore for the store attendant to finish helping me copy the abridged manual for the Reiki I class we had today, and the shop girl offered me tea. In a bookstore!  There I sat next to a shelf of English-Turkish and Turkish-English dictionaries sipping my tea as the after-school kids milled around shopping for pens and test kits and me watching the girl unjam the copier for the upteenth time. Outside, it’s not uncommon to see young boys weaving through the crowd and cars with tea-laden copper trays delivering çay to a local shop or business.

Tea is served at every meal. And if it’s served outside of mealtime, it’s common to nibble on some kind of sweet treat; Turkish delight, halva, a cookie, or a piece of baklava.

The other day I wondered why every night I’m still wide awake until 2am. I think the answer might be in the çay.