You could be forgiven for presuming that Turkish tea is a standard product: served strong, drunk from the same tulip-shaped glasses, well-sugared and consumed as hot as possible. Not so.
You could be forgiven for presuming that Turkish tea is a standard product: served strong, drunk from the same tulip-shaped glasses, well-sugared and consumed as hot as possible. Not so. Here are two variants Fethiye Times encountered on the recent trip to Kars, one of which she was already familiar with, the other a delightful new find.
First of all the custom of drinking tea ‘kıtıklama’. Fethiye Times first encountered this thirty odd years ago in Iran and it is also practised in eastern Turkey. Instead of putting sugar into the tea, a lump of sugar is held between the teeth and the tea is drunk through the sugar. Apparently this works best with pure sugar loaf, not the lumps we get here that are pressed from loose sugar. Pure sugar loaf, still sold in the east, is very hard and doesn’t dissolve easily. So a ‘kıtıklama’ tea drinker takes a small piece of pure loaf sugar, sticks it between his teeth and, on a good day, that one small piece will see him through five teas.
Secondly, and it has to be said this has not been observed by Fethiye Times but was confirmed from several sources, again on the Kars trip. In Erzurum when you order tea you are served two teas – whether you want them or not. One ready for drinking in the normal fashion; the second with its saucer on top of the glass to keep the tea hot. Fethiye Times failed to establish the reason for this strange custom although at least two possibilities were proposed. One, that it is so cold in Erzurum you need at least two teas to warm you up and bringing them together saves the waiter work. You should have spotted the flaw in that one – what about the long, hot summer? No doubt the Turks would claim you need at least two teas to have a refreshing affect in Erzurum’s dry, dusty summers. Finally it could just be that the good folk of Erzurum really like their tea.
We welcome all theories as to why double teas are served in Erzurum – or any other weird tea tales readers may know.