Turkey, a captivating destination straddling both Europe and Asia, is famed for its rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and a wealth of cultural experiences. Among these unique cultural experiences is the country's distinct tea and coffee culture that is deeply entrenched in the heart of its societal fabric. The longstanding tradition of tea and coffee drinking in Turkey is not only enjoyed by the locals but is a fascinating allure to the global visitor keen on unwrapping the Turkish way of life.
Tea, locally known as cay, is an inherent part of Turkish daily routines, be it at work, at home, or during social gatherings. Flavorsome and intensely colored black tea, sourced from the lush tea gardens of Rize province in the north-eastern part of Turkey, is savored countrywide.
The Art of Tea Brewing
An intrinsic part of the tea culture in Turkey is the art of tea brewing itself, with a Turkish two-tiered tea pot, known as the caydanlik playing a pivotal role. The bottom pot boils the water, while the top, smaller pot brews the tea. The brewed tea is then served in tulip-shaped glasses, allowing one to appreciate the deep red color of the tea, an image synonymous with Turkish hospitality.
Tea houses, locally known as cay evi are common across the country, serving as important social hubs where people gather to chat, play games, and engage in local politics over a cup of tea. Below are some of the notable ones:
Ortaköy Çay Bahçesi, Istanbul: A lovely garden located next to the Bosporus where one can enjoy tea while taking in the view of the shimmering water and the magnificent Ortaköy Mosque in the background.
Pierre Loti Cafe, Istanbul: Named after the famous French novelist who frequently visited this café, it offers an impressive view of the Golden Horn Bay, making it an ideal spot for tea lovers to relish their drink.
Turkish coffee, historically known in Turkish as kahve, is not just a beverage but a complete cultural experience. A UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Turkey, this unique brew is celebrated for its strong taste, its serving method, and the fortune-telling tradition associated with its grounds.
Turkish Coffee Brewing and Serving: Turkish coffee is prepared in a special pot called cezve, where finely ground coffee beans, sugar, and water are combined and heated until it froths. The coffee is then served in small cups, with the foam on top and the grounds settling at the bottom. This thick, rich brew is often enjoyed with a glass of water and a piece of Turkish delight to balance the strong flavor.
Coffee Fortune Telling: After drinking Turkish coffee, it's common to read fortunes from the leftover coffee grounds on the bottom of the cup — a fun tradition deeply embedded in Turkish culture.
The coffeehouse, or kahvehane, is a staple in Turkish society. They serve as places for socialization, relaxation, and of course, the enjoyment of Turkish coffee. Some of the most famous ones include:
Historic Mandabatmaz, Istanbul: Renowned for their thick and foamy Turkish coffee, this place is often regarded as the best coffee shop in Istanbul with a history dating back to 1967.
Fazil Bey’s Turkish Coffee, Istanbul: Located in the famous Spice Bazaar, this historic coffee house is known for its traditional Turkish coffee served alongside a delicious piece of Turkish Delight.
The tea and coffee culture in Turkey is a reflection of its people's warm hospitality and love for delightful conversations. So, don't forget to pause your sightseeing for a while, pull up a chair in a cay evi or kahvehane, and immerse yourself in the authentic and rich cultural experience of Turkey.