Traditional Turkish Tea Cups and Kettle
Turkey is the fifth largest tea drinking country in the world, consuming mostly rich black tea. It's served strong, dark and piping hot in thin, small, tulip-shaped glasses called ince belli. Turks often add excessive amounts of sugar to their drink, but will never be found adding either honey or milk.
History of Tea Drinking in Turkey
While the Turks, like the Moroccans, do enjoy sweet minted tea and also serve an apple tisane, it's the brew made with Keemun, Assam or Russian black tea alone that is the most typical.
Tea drinking in Turkey actually dates back to the 1600s. According to one legend, coffeehouses, recently introduced by the Syrians into mainstream Turkish culture, had quickly become places where men would gather to drink coffee, puff on hookahs, play games, and discuss the affairs of the day. But around 1633, after a series of fires caused by hookahs swept through the land, an angry sultan ordered all the coffeehouses to be closed. People switched to tea—and life went on as usual.
Making Turkish Tea
Turkish tea is full-flavored and too strong to be served in large cups, thus it's always offered in little glasses which you have to hold by the rim to save your fingertips from burning (because it's served boiling hot). You can have it either lighter (weaker) or darker (stronger) depending on your taste, as Turkish tea is made by pouring some very strong tea into the glass, then cutting it with water to the desired strength.
The mechanism to do this comes in the form of a rather peculiar (yet totally effective) dual-pot kettle (the top containing the tea, and the bottom the water).
- Prepare a small teapot by adding about one heaping teaspoon of good, black tea (Keemun, Assam, Russian Caravan, English Breakfast all work well) per cup.
- Boil about 1 cup of water per cup of tea.
- Pour half of the boiling water into the teapot.
- Turn the flame under the tea-kettle down and replace the teapot onto the tea-kettle (so that it boils with the steam underneath).
- Let it steep for at least 15 minutes.
The tea is then ready for pouring into the small tea glasses, usually 1/3 or 1/4 full depending how dark or how light you prefer your tea. The tea glass is then topped-up with hot water from the tea-kettle. The pot of tea should then be drunk within 30 minutes.