Posted by: Stephanie Nawyn | June 25, 2010

The beauty and danger of Turkish tea

As promised, I’m going to continue to put up a few more posts and pictures of the trip, since there was too much going on and Henry required too much attention for me to devote my evenings or mornings to getting everything posted. I hope this doesn’t seem anti-climatic.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention tea on this blog, since it is such an important part Turkish culture. Sure, they have their Turkish coffee, that thick dark drink similar to Greek coffee and a burly older brother to the espresso. But tea is very special to Turks, so special that with the exception of airplanes I only had it served to me in this glass:

I asked about the glass, and why people never drank tea in ceramic cups or mugs. It was the color that was important, I was told. Turks like to be able to see the color of their tea, in part because it is beautiful and in part because practically you need to be able to see the color in order to determine if it is the right strength. You see, Turks make their tea in a double tea pot, with the tea brewing in the top tea pot above plain boiling water in the bottom pot. When you serve the tea, you pour the incredibly strong tea from the top pot first, then add plain boiling water to get it to the proper strength. Without being able to see the color, you couldn’t get the ratio of tea to water correct.

The beauty of this method is that everyone can have the tea to their desired strength. But since every Turk I met liked their tea strong, there seems to be little need for this double tea pot method. But it looks lovely on the stove, and half of the eating experience is visual, so there you go.

Now, anyone who has ever touched a glass that has just been filled with boiling water can see the problem here. Without a handle to grasp, you are bound to burn your fingers drinking this tea. What I gathered from observing my hosts for the past two weeks is that you suffer through the searing pain for the pleasure of drinking hot tea until you drink enough so that the very top of the glass starts to cool. Then you can leisurely hold the glass in your hand, rather than pick it up quickly to sip and then replace the glass to it’s saucer (which most often is cut in the shape of an upturned flower) before you lose too much skin off your fingertips. Great art often requires suffering, after all.

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