How to make Turkish Tea

In this post I will give a little information on the history of tea, it’s importance in Turkey and how to make Turkish tea like a local! Just an FYI, Çay is Tea in the Turkish Language History of Tea The legend goes that In 2732BC, Emperor Shen Nung was sat in his garden when some […]

In this post I will give a little information on the history of tea, it’s importance in Turkey and how to make Turkish tea like a local!

Just an FYI, Çay is Tea in the Turkish Language

History of Tea

The legend goes that In 2732BC, Emperor Shen Nung was sat in his garden when some leaves dropped from a tree he was sat against and fell into a pot of boiling water.

Below is a video I made depicting the leaves falling into the pot of boiling water! Made with tea leaves, sticks & dry ice! (Had fun making this video! Probably too much time on my hands)

He was intrigued by the pleasant aromas he experienced and drank some, this was the first experience of tea.

Tea was originally made popular by the East India Company transporting tea to Europe from China in the 1600’s and with the decline in popularity of Alcohol, we started consuming tea! The first tea bag was actually invented inadvertently where Thomas Sullivan who sent tea to customers in silk bags which was mistakenly used to steep tea.

The vast majority of Turkish Orthodox tea (The tea that you see in the Turkish tea pots described further in this post) is grown in Rize which lies in the Black Sea region of Turkey. The first tea seeds in this region were cultivated in the 1930’s and due to the long life span of tea plants, they are still most likely the tea plants we cultivate and drink today!

What is Tea?

Tea starts off in life as leaves on a bush which left to its own devices would actually grow into a large tree but to keep it more manageable it is pruned to keep it at waste height. This leaf is from the plant species: Camellia Sinensis and this same leaf can be processed differently to produce either Green or Black tea. Sinensis leaf is first plucked, this can either be a lot of leaf or just the top two leaves and a bud (which generally tastes best) and then taken to factories where it undergoes the following basic process:

  1. Withering – Excess moisture is removed by laying the leaf out and exposing to air.
  2. Cutting and Shaping.

Following these two steps, it is then either made in to black or green as follows:

Black Tea (Siyah Cay)

3. Fermentation – The cut tea is left in warm conditions for the enzymes in the leaf to oxidise which turns it black (a lot like when you cut lettuce and the edges turn black).

4. Drying – Leaf is dried to remove moisture, this makes it easier for transportation but also maintains shelf life.

5. Sorting and placing into packets for us to buy.

Green Tea (Yesil Cay)

3. Fixation – the leaves are either steamed or roasted to inactivate the enzymes in the leaf, this prevents it from oxidising and turning black.

4. Drying – Leaf is dried to remove moisture, this makes it easier for transportation but also maintains shelf life.

If you want more information on the tea process, you can read it from Wikipedia. 

How to Make Turkish Tea like a Local!

  • Choose best quality tea (younger leaf if possible) as the leaf is more subtle has a less waxy surface and less fibre
  • Choose soft water, hard water will cause discoloration of the tea and will taste dull.
  • Boil water in bottom pot first. Tip: Add small amount of water to top tea pot with tea leaf inside, swirl and then pour out. This will remove dust and small particles from the teapot so it does not enter the glass.
  • Next add boiled water to top pot with two heaps spoons of tea and put back to the simmer for around 10/12 minutes.
  • Serve by pouring the infused liquor first, then add water from the bottom pot depending individuals preference. Less liquor will provide a weaker tea, more will make it stronger.
  • Optional: Add sugar, usually two small spoons of sugar per glass. This masks the subtle bitter taste which some will enjoy more.

Below you can see a typical Turkish Cup or Glass and a Turkish Tea Pot (Top Pot or Caydanlik in Turkish).

Brands of Turkish Tea

There are many brands of Turkish Tea. Below are what I believe to be the main brands currently on the market. They are generally sold in loose packs of 500g or 1000g. The brand you choose is up to personal preference but all are very popular by the Turkish population. All three of the brands mentioned below are based in the Rize region of Turkey.

  • Lipton Çay
  • Doğuş Çay
  • Çaykur Çay

Turkish Tea Sets

One of the things I love about visiting Turkey is to browse the Grand Bazaar or Taksim Square to look at things like Turkish Tea Sets. There is just something about them that seem so unique and interesting to me.

Tea Set
Photo by Explore Istanbul

Other Interesting Facts

  • The shape of Turkish Tea glasses are very much similar to an hour glass. The reason for this is so that when you tip the glass to drink, the leaf remains in the lower half of the glass.
  • Tea is the second most consumed beverage in Turkey, just slightly behind that of water!
  • The Turkish are renowned for there Apple Tea, read more about that here