Anyone who lives in or visits Turkey will know that tea plays an important part in every day life.
But do you know why tea has become so central to Turkish society and how much people drink?
Let’s take Fethiye as an example
Throughout the town tea gardens provide a relaxed setting for a glass of tea for women and men,
while kıraathane, which translates as reading rooms but which is in reality are tea rooms,
are usually only frequented by men, who are usually chatting amongst themselves while playing backgammon or Okey and drinking tea, of course.
Restaurants usually include herbal as well as black tea in their menus, alongside rakı and wine.
Turkish homes invariably have a teapot (çaydanlık) brewing on the stove.
But one of the most delightful aspects of the Turkish tea drinking culture is the caycı or tea vendor,
who can be summoned in a matter of moments by shopkeepers, very often using a basic intercom
like a baby monitor, making shopping an unforgettable experience for foreign visitors.
Friendship in a tea glass
Tea can be consumed at all hours of the day or night and offering a glass of tea to visitors
is an important part of Turkish hospitality.
How much tea?
According to the World Bank every year the average Turkish person gets through more than three kilos of çay,
but our research does not reveal exactly how many glasses of strong, hot and frequently very sweet çay are consumed every year.
However, despite the opening of coffee shops in recent years, a walk around Fethiye suggests it must be in the billions.
Turkish black tea
Turkish tea is grown in large quantities on the Black Sea but despite its popularity,
it only became the beverage of choice in Turkey when coffee became difficult to obtain and expensive after WW1.
Rize is a now an important centre for processing and shipping the tea grown in the surrounding area.
Tea was introduced in the region in the 1940’s and 1950’s, changing the region’s destiny,
which was desperately poor until then.
The city has a tea research institute founded in 1958 and terraces of tea bushes are the main
sight in the town’s panoramic view.
Turkish tea is usually described as ‘black tea’ (siyah çayı)
but there is also Earl Grey: it’s not early grey by the way, even though it’s drunk at breakfast!
There are alternatives to black tea with sage and thyme topping the list but green, apple, rosehip and
linden are invariably offered too.
All over Turkey, like in Fethiye for example, herbal teas for many ailments can be found in local herbal shops and markets.
Tea drinking nations unite!
While China maybe the largest consumer of tea, at 1.6 billion pounds a year,
the amount per person looks a lot different: Turkey, Ireland, and the United Kingdom
are home to the world’s biggest tea drinkers.
Could this be one of the reasons why the British, Irish and an increasing number of
Chinese visitors just can’t get enough of Turkey?