Turkish Tea: Brewing and Serving Black Tea in the Turkish Way

Tea is indispensable in Turkish culture. There are many ways to make and enjoy Turkish tea, and you need to understand the meaning behind it to truly experience the drink. Keep reading to learn about the traditional Turkish tea set and other parts of the ritual!
Helena Shaw
turkish tea

What Does the Turkish Tea Set Consist Of?

The traditional Turkish tea set includes two stacked teapots called çaydanlık, tulip-shaped tea glasses known as ince belli (‘slim-waisted’), small plates to hold the glasses, tiny teaspoons, and a tray. The bigger of the two teapots is used to boil water, while the smaller teapot is for steeping the tea. It can then be diluted with water from the bigger teapot to reach the desired strength.

How to Make Turkish Tea – Brewing

Fist, you need to choose the right tea leaves. The most popular type of black tea in Turkey is Rize tea, which has a strong and deep flavor. You can use another black tea if you can’t find Rize, but make sure it has a bold taste.

Here’s how to prepare Turkish tea with the traditional set:

  1. Pour 1/4 cup of water into the smaller teapot. Add 5 tablespoons of loose tea leaves for 6 people (which yields 12 glasses, as most people will have seconds) and cover the teapot with the lid.
  2. Fill the large teapot with water, then stack the smaller teapot on top and place them together on the stove. Medium-high heat is ideal.
  3. Reduce the heat once it starts boiling, and let the tea steep for about 5 minutes. The heat from the lower pot will reach the upper teapot, giving the tea more flavor.
  4. Transfer half of the water (or a bit more) from the lower pot to the upper teapot, then fill the lower one with more water.
  5. Put the teapots back on the stove. Once the new water has started to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and let the water simmer for 10–15 minutes.
  6. The tea is now fully brewed! After serving, you can place the pots back on the lowest heat to keep the tea hot.
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Now that you have your pot of tea, it’s time to serve it properly. Keep reading to learn how.

How to Serve Turkish Tea

Once you’ve prepared the tea, bring the teapots to the table and pour a small amount into each glass. Fill the glasses about 1/4 of the way – each person will then complete the rest with water from the larger pot to their taste. In Turkey, strong tea is known as koyu, and weak tea is called açık.

Traditionally, Turkish tea is served without milk or lemon. In fact, adding these ingredients may be considered rude. However, some people do enjoy it with sugar – just lay it out in a bowl so that everyone can help themselves. Beet sugar is the most popular choice, but granulated sugar will also do.

Biscuits

Sweet or savory biscuits known as kurabiye are often served with Turkish tea in the afternoon. These can vary from flaky pastry treats to cheese-filled biscuits, and are a perfect complement to the drink’s rich flavor. If you’re serving the tea with breakfast, it’s not necessary to provide biscuits.

Tea Drinking in Turkey – The Cultural Meaning

In Turkish culture, serving tea is a way to show hospitality and offer warmth to your guests. You might be surprised that Turkish tea is even served at shops, restaurants, and government offices – it’s seen as a sign of good service to offer tea for free. If you’re ever offered Turkish tea, accept it and enjoy the gesture. It’s a sign that you’re welcome and appreciated.

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There are also tea gardens, outdoor areas where people can gather and enjoy tea together. The act of drinking tea with others is seen as a bonding experience, and is often done while discussing important matters or making important decisions. On the other hand, many people enjoy playing Backgammon or chatting with friends while sipping tea at a tea garden.

Summary

To sum it up, Turkish tea is not just a drink – it’s an integral part of the culture, with its own rituals and customs. Next time you prepare and serve Turkish tea, remember to do it the traditional way – your guests will appreciate it and feel honored to be included in the cultural experience.

And if you’re ever in Istanbul, be sure to visit one of the many tea gardens and enjoy a cup with some friends. It’s a relaxing way to take in the beauty of the city and bond with the people around you. Enjoy your cup of çay!

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