How to Make Turkish Tea
Significance of Turkish Tea in Turkish Culture
Despite the worldwide reputation of Turkish coffee as the Turks' most popular leisure drink, once you arrive in Turkey, it will not take very long to find out that, in fact, Turkish tea (cay-CHAI) is the national drink of the country. It is available everywhere and is the most important social lubricant. It is brewed from tea leaves grown along the Blacks Sea coasts of Turkey. We drink it in the morning, during the day, before and after meals and offer it to our visitors, customers and friends.
Turkish tea is traditionally prepared in a double-decker teapot, called caydanlik (chai-DUN-lk). A caydanlik set consists of one small and one big teapot, smaller of which fits on top of the bigger one. The small teapot is used for strong tea and the big one for boiling water. You dilute tea with boiling water to your preferred strength.
Turkish people prefer to serve it in tulip-shaped glasses rather than ceramic cups. Make sure you hold the glass by the rim if you do not want to burn your fingertips. It is served either weak (acik, ah-CHK) or dark (demli/koyu, dem-LEE/koh-YOO). If you don't specify your preferred strength when you order tea, it will be served middle strength.
You do not have to specify if or how much sugar you want when you order your tea, contrary to Turkish coffee, because Turkish tea is not sugared while being made. We usually use sugar cubes and waiters leave a couple of them on your saucer, otherwise, there should be a bowl full of sugar cubes on your table.
I have never seen a Turkish person who puts milk in his/her tea and I can assure you that I have drank tea with thousands of them in my life. However, if you can't do without milk, you can often get it if you ask for it.
If you think you are serious Turkish tea drinker and want to go bananas, you can go to a tea house or tea garden where they serve the tea with samovar, which allows you to refill your glasses yourselves as much as you like and have your tea as weak or strong as you like.
How to Make Good Turkish tea
You may like Turkish tea so much or you may simply want to take something back from Turkey to share it with your friends at home or your colleagues at work, then I suggest you to buy some Turkish tea and one of caydanlik sets to make some for your friends and colleagues and serve it with some Turkish delight. The ones who expect fine flying silk carpets or elegant ceramic plates from you will be a bit disappointed but you will manage to make most of your friends happy with this gesture. Now you have only one more hurdle to overcome: You need to learn how to make good Turkish tea unless you have a friend to make it for you or take one of the Turkish caycis (chai-DJEH, tea-waiters who serve tea wherever you go in Turkey) back home with you. Here is how you make a good Turkish tea:
1. Fill in the large teapot with water and set it on the stove.
2. Add tea leaves in the small teapot and place it on top of the big one. Do not add any water in the small teapot. The idea is to heat up the tea leaves with the steam of the big one so it can help diffuse its flavour when brewed. It is recommended to use one teaspoon of tea leaves per person.
3. Once the water comes to boil, add the boiling water to the small teapot.
4. Turn down the stove to low and let the steam of the boiling water in the big teapot to keep the water of the small teapot hot while brewing for about 15 minutes. The tea is ready once all of the tea leaves have sunk to the bottom of the kettle.
5. You can now serve the tea. You pour the tea first and then dilute it with boiling water to your preferred strength. If you brewed it long enough it should not have any small tea leaves, but you can use a tea strainer. Mid strength tea should have light brown colour. It is also recommended to consume a pot of tea within 30 minutes as extended brewing time will make its taste too strong and bitter.