A Turkish tea cup

Turkish Tea: An Integral Part of Turkey's Culture

Mee Staff

Call us classic boring Brits, but in our opinion, nothing beats a builder’s tea. With a splash of milk, half a teaspoon of sugar and a drop of Mee for the perfect CBD drink. But, across this beautiful world, there are only a few hot and steaming beverages that come close to beating it. And Turkish tea is certainly one of them.

Turkey’s favourite hot beverage isn’t just popular. It’s a way of life with a rich history dating back centuries. In fact, Turkey has the highest per capita tea consumption in the world. To really prove just how much the Turks drink, in 2004 a study found Turkey consumed tea at 2.5kg per person, followed by the United Kingdom at 2.1 kg per person. Recent studies suggested that has gone up an extra kilogram, which means the average Turk consumes four cups a day! And you thought us Brits drank a lot of it!

It’s pretty clear that Turkish tea is important to Turkey’s varied and fascinating people. From sitting in cafes to hosting friends, it plays a crucial part in their culture. But its health benefits also play a part in its countrywide consumption. Let’s dive into its history and health benefits.

What is the history?

Turkish tea is a crucial part of Turkey's culture. Especially, considering the country's enormous consumption of the hot beverage.  From Izmir to Istanbul, from Northern Cyprus to the Bulgaria, Turkish tea cups and Turkish tea pots can be found in almost every restaurant, home and meeting place. But how did Turkish tea become so integral to their culture?

You can trace the origins of Turkish tea back to the Ottoman Empire. Back then, it was consumed in fancy Turkish tea sets by the upper class. However, when the Ottoman Empire entered a period of decline, the government promoted the consumption of Turkish tea to one – boost the economy, and two – to create jobs in the tea industry.

Thanks to early success, the Ottoman government then promoted it as a symbol of national identity. They also encouraged consumption in cafes and public spaces with Turkish tea cups shaped like tulips.Additionally, many people considered tea as a healthier alternative to alcohol, which was heavily taxed and regulated at that point in history. The development of new tea-growing regions across the country made Turkish tea a staple across the country.

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How do you use a Turkish tea set?

A good question, and important for you when you make it at home. The traditional way of brewing the tea – a black tea – is by using a double Turkish tea pot called a "çaydanlık.” Brew the tea leaves in the upper pot, then add hot water to the lower pot. Finally, the tea is poured into small Turkish tea cups shaped like tulips called "fincan". When brewing the tea at home, here are a few basic steps – though you will probably need a specific Turkish tea set!

Firstly, fill the lower chamber of the çaydanlık with water and bring it slowly to the boil. Then Put loose black tea leaves (or tea bags) in the upper chamber, or even put the tea leaves in a small tea pot and pour the hot water over it. After a few minutes, pour the tea from the upper chamber into the lower chamber and let it brew for a couple more minutes.

After a while, remove the tea leaves from the upper chamber using the small, long-handled spoon, which is called a "sağda." Fill the fincan with hot tea from the lower chamber and serve.

Serve your tea with a little sugar and a slice of lemon. Perhaps with a bit of baklava too! Finally, it’s also worth knowing that in Turkey, it is customary to pour the tea into your guests' cups, and then you must serve at least two rounds. 

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What are the health benefits of Turkish tea?

Turkish tea – like regular tea – has a variety of health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties and can even help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

There are also studies that suggest the consumption of Turkey's favourite tea can lower the risk of heart disease and of strokes, thanks to the fact it can allegedly lower cholesterol levels and blood vessel function. Additionally, consuming Turkish tea may improve digestion because of the polyphenols that help improve digestion and reduce bloating.

Finally, like regular tea and coffee, the caffeine can improve mental alertness and focus. Now, it certainly helps us feel better when we’re getting ready for a busy day of work.

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What types of Turkish tea are there?

A number of Turkish herbal teas are popular across the country. Local herbal shops, called aktar, regularly stock different types.

Apple tea is a Turkish tea used to treat digestive issues. It also helps balance blood sugar. However, some of its properties reportedly help with improving coughs and eye health.

Yarrow tea is also consumed in Turkish tea cups. Yarrow is a flower, then brewed in hot water, which is medicinally used in Turkey as an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial treatment. The tea also increases saliva and stomach acid that helps improve digestion.

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