Friday, September 3, 2010

Çay or Chai?

You say it the same way, but if you order chai in Turkey, you won't get what you're expecting, you'll get çay. The word simply means tea.

Tea is very important to Turkish culture. Most of what is consumed there is grown in the Turkish province of Rize, near the Black Sea. Per wikipedia: in 2004, Turkey had the highest per capita tea consumption in the world, at 2.5 kg per person--followed by the United Kingdom (2.1 kg per person). Now I live in the south and we like some sweet tea here, but not that much!

This is the way they make çay in Turkey:

Get a teapot like the one in the picture on the right, not necessarily a fancy copper one. Most people have a stainless steel version at home. In the upper kettle, place loose tea and a little bit of water. Fill the lower with water and set in on the stove to boil. The idea is to have concentrated tea on top and dilute it according to taste in each glass with the boiling water from the lower kettle. Serve çay in the hourglass shaped glasses like the one in the picture (this one is missing it's saucer) with or without a few sugar cubes. Hold the glass at the rim, btw or you'll burn your fingers.

There are herbal teas too, such as ada çay (sage), or ihlamur çay (linden) which are supposed to be good for digestion. When you visit the carpet shops you'll famously get apple tea. Between you and me, they all taste good but I think the tourists are really the only ones who drink them.

Now if you don't know what chai is, I recommend that too. It's an Indian version of tea which is essentially black tea with spices and milk. You can make it yourself by adding clove and cinnamon to your tea or you can get it at most grocery stores. I had a very nice spiced chai latte at a friend's house last week. She picked it up at Target.

I'm happy to see that tea is making a comeback in the US as well. Tea bars serving gourmet teas and exotic blends are at the mall. Master tea blenders have crawled out of the woodwork selling loose teas and lovely hand tied bunches called art teas that open up like a flower in the pot. (I like Harney & Sons. If you get a chance, visit their tea room outside NYC and pick up some Jasmine Fairy Maidens.) Tea pots and cups have even resurfaced out of grandma's cabinets. I have plenty of tea pots, but if you really love tea, get yourself an electric kettle.

All of those things make great gifts (hint). Tea promises a relaxing morning or afternoon curled up with a book (mine) or a nice time with friends discussing one (again, mine). If you have the talent and inclination, you might even try some tasseography with the loose leaves for fun.
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1 comment:

LTM said...

beautiful picture... I had a British boss once who always observed tea time. She was neat. I wish I liked tea more... I was in SF once and had tea in Chinatown. They put those chewy Jasmine drops in them... I think they're jasmine--? Still, I like that teapot! :o)


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