Turkish Tea Culture: Everything You Need To Know

Turkish tea culture-Ling

Turkish people drink tea anywhere, anytime. Çay is their favorite drink, and that’s why it’s known as the national drink. They make tea at home, in stores, cafes, restaurants, and everywhere you can think of!

As a foreigner in Turkey, you may wonder why Turkish people are obsessed with tea and what makes it so special. Because Turkish tea culture is much more than just drinking it. It’s about socializing and bonding. Çay is an offer that nobody can resist in Turkey. So, let’s explore more about it in today’s blog post!

What Is Traditional Turkish Tea?

Tea (Camellia sinensis) is a plant whose leaves and buds are used to make beverages. After processes such as cutting, withering, rolling, fermenting, and drying, the tea plant turns into dried tea leaves ready to drink.

Tea has a significant economic value in the Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey. You may not believe it, but life literally revolves around tea culture in Rize, where most tea producers and factories are located. Because of its value in cultural and economic life, tea is called “green gold” (yeşil altın) by the local people.

Although there are different tea types, the most consumed and harvested type in Turkey is black tea. Additionally, the commonly used brewing technique to make authentic Turkish tea is by using teapots (çaydanlık).

History-Turkish tea culture-Ling

History Of Turkish Tea Culture

Surprisingly, Turkish tea culture doesn’t have a very old history. That’s because Turkish people were introduced to tea in the early 19th century.

At that time, Turkish coffee was still the preferred hot drink among locals. However, tea consumption began to spread with the opening of tea houses (çay evi) and tea gardens (çay bahçesi) in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. Since tea is more convenient and easier to prepare compared to coffee, it became the most loved and commonly consumed hot drink.

How Often Do Turks Drink Tea?

I can’t imagine breakfasts, social gatherings, business meetings, business negotiations, or ferry trips on the Bosphorus in Turkey without tea. You can always hear people serving tea and shouting “Çay!” in the crowded streets of Istanbul.

So, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Turkey drinks the most tea in the world, with an average annual consumption of 3.16 kg per person. For this reason, tea is one of the daily necessities of Turkish people today.

A photo of tea Turkish

Why Is Tea Important In Turkish Culture?

In Turkey, it’s a tradition to offer tea wherever you go. For example, when we’re going to a friend’s house, we say “Sen çayı koy, ben geliyorum” (Pour the tea, I’m coming).

However, there are some regional differences when serving tea. For example, in some regions, it’s consumed with a kind of candy called “kıtlama.”

In Turkey, people usually drink tea after meals, whether at home or out at a restaurant. Tea serving is mostly seen in local restaurants. Even if you don’t order tea, it is still served, and sometimes it is on the house.

Furthermore, tea is not just a drink but an essential socialization tool for Turkish daily life. It can be consumed at any time of the day, from breakfast until going to bed. Serving and drinking tea together is a sign of friendship, hospitality, and courtesy. In every Turkish home and workplace, a pot of tea is always ready to drink or serve to guests.

In addition to being the most consumed drink in daily life after water, tea is also served on special occasions, ceremonies, events, and meetings where all family members or guests come together and share common values.

Tea Vocabulary In Turkish

If you’re visiting Turkey, you should be familiar with Turkish tea culture and its vocabulary! Here, I’ve listed some useful phrases and tried to provide their context!

EnglishTurkish Context
Do you have tea?Çayınız var mı?Asking if they can serve tea.
One tea, please.Bir çay lütfen.Ordering a glass of tea.
Is the tea strong?Çay demli mi?Asking about the strength of the tea.
Plain teaSade çayIndicating a preference for unsweetened tea.
Tea with a little sugar.Az şekerli çayRequesting tea with a small amount of sugar.
The tea is brewing.Çay demleniyor.Informing that the tea is being prepared.
Tea conversationÇay sohbetiReferring to socializing over tea.
Don’t put the teapot in the glass!Bardağa demlik koyma!Playfully reminding not to leave the teapot in the glass.
Shall we have tea?Çay içelim mi?Inviting someone to share a cup of tea.
Tea pleasureÇay keyfiDescribing the enjoyment of drinking tea.
Tea timeÇay saatiTraditional tea-drinking times.
Is the teapot wet?Çaydanlık ıslak mı?Asking if the teapot has been pre-warmed.
I want strong tea.Demli çay istiyorum.Expressing a preference for strong tea.
Has the tea brewed?Çayı demlenmiş mi?Checking if the tea has finished brewing.
How much tea is in the teapot?Demlikte ne kadar çay var?Asking about the quantity of tea in the teapot.
Shall we get a simit while having tea?Çay içerken bir simit alalım mı?Suggesting having a traditional Turkish pastry with tea.

Want to learn more Turkish phrases for your trip? Use the Ling app and start learning useful Turkish for travelers! You can download it from the App Store or Play Store and get a free 7-day trial!

Final Words

By drinking tea in Turkey, you don’t just taste a local drink but also experience the traditional Turkish tea culture. I hope you don’t leave Turkey without drinking tea and eating simit along with it! You can also buy a package of black tea to bring home with you.

And if you want to learn more about Turkish culture and see some travel guides, check out Ling’s Turkish blog every day!

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