Cay: the Turkish national drink

Turkish coffee brings to mind such a headily evocative image: two mouthfuls of sweet caffeine and inch-thick sludge at the bottom of a tiny cup. But it’s cay, tea, that’s far and away Turkey’s national drink and no less poetically presented.

Turkish cay is made quite differently to my usual Lipton’s bag in a mug of boiling water method. For a start, they use a double kettle arrangement. Our wonderful hiking guide, Koray, explained that first the water in the lower kettle is brought to the boil; that is added to tea leaves in the upper, smaller kettle; fresh water is brought to boil in the lower kettle and, by the time that boils, the tea above has become a good strong brew ready to be diluted and sugared according to personal preference.

Turkish tea, with double tea pot

Unlike that other nation obsessed with a cuppa, Britain, in Turkey it’s served without milk and made using tea leaves not tea bags. But just like the English, cay lubricates social interaction. It’s so fundamental that at restaurants it’s almost always provided free of charge at the end of the meal and shopkeepers get their fix from fellas walking up and down the high street.

Tea and a cigarette, Turkish style

Most charming to me was how at the big, noisy, hectic inter-city bus stations there’s a tea man swinging through the milling crowds with a tray of tiny glasses and sugar cubes offering cay as a free service to passengers and bus company officials.

Me, with cup of tea, on a mini bus at Hatay inter-city bus station

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One Response to Cay: the Turkish national drink

  1. Çay is among my fondest memories of the three years I lived in Turkey. Thanks for freshening them. Çok güzel!

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