Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing my delightful new tea friend Karin, who lives in Istanbul, Turkey. Here she is shown with her adorable daughter Talya, who is 4 and just started school. Karin discovered my blog some weeks ago, sent me an incredibly kind e-mail, and we have been corresponding ever since. It has been so much fun getting to know a fellow tea lover in Turkey and learning about the tea customs there. Although she is from Istanbul, Karin actually grew up in California before she returned to Istanbul and, as she put it, "got married to a Turkish boy" (he's cute, too!). After college she worked in the professional world before becoming a full-time mom. So it's no surprise her English is terrific, which is a good thing since I can speak only one word in the Turkish language. Through a little research, I learned that "çay" is the word for tea, and it is pronounced like our word "chai."
That became an important thing for me to know because Karin recently sent me a package so I could experience some Turkish tea! It's so fun to receive an exotic package in the mail, especially when you know what is inside. (She also sent me a tin of Turkish Earl Grey, which I will save and write about on another day!)
I even loved seeing the Turkish stamps on the package, and of course I have saved them for some future craft project.
Karin had already e-mailed me the directions for making Turkish tea, and I was eager to try it because the preparation method she described is so unlike how we make tea here in the U.S. I adapted her directions a bit to use with the equipment I had on hand, and I took photos so you could see my Turkish Tea Ceremony. First, I opened the package of "çay" to study the tea's appearance and scent. It had a wonderfully fresh, woody fragrance, and the pieces of leaf were very dark brown with a few auburn colored bits throughout.
In Turkey they use special stacking tea kettles similar to this camp-style tea kettle I once borrowed from a friend.
So instead, Karin said that I could use a large metal tea kettle and a small metal or ceramic teapot. Since I don't currently have a metal one I used my stovetop glass tea kettle, removed the lid, then placed a small glass teapot (and lid) on top. She said to use 1-1/2 teaspoons of tea leaves per person and one cube of sugar (I just used a teaspoon of sugar instead). Brewing the tea with the sugar "makes the flavours play happily inside the tea ... while the water is boiling underneath. Do not add water to the small kettle." OK. I did that, as she suggested, until I could hear the water beginning to boil.
Once the water is boiling, you reduce the heat to low, add 1 cup of the boiling water per teaspoon of tea to the small kettle (or teapot, in this case) on top. Then you add fresh water to the large kettle and again place the small kettle (or teapot) on top, covered with the lid. So in this photo I have just added boiling water from the kettle to the glass teapot on top, added fresh water to the large kettle and returned it to the stove.
The part that surprised me most was when Karin said to "allow the tea to brew in the water for about 15 minutes. The tea is ready once all of the tea leaves have sunk to the bottom of the kettle." Well, after 15 minutes my tea leaves hadn't sunk, so ...
I sort of jiggled the teapot a bit and they started falling. After about 5 minutes, the tea leaves had sunk. I was intrigued by Karin's description of the tea's color: "The tea should be bright red. The Turkish people call it rabbit blood color, so I prefer to say bright red!" I agree with Karin on that!
Finally, she said to fill a tea glass 1/3 with the strained tea and 2/3 with hot water from the large kettle. I wondered if the tea would be bitter from all that steeping but found it was perfectly delicious! This tea had a very rich, full flavor, with no astringency at all! And it was already sweetened from the sugar, so I loved it just as it was. I am so pleased to have had this fun new tea experience, and most of all I am honored to have acquired such a lovely new tea friend! (And of course I am even now gathering a few goodies to send to Istanbul to keep this overseas tea party going!)