I didn’t fall off the face of the planet, but thank you for asking! Instead, I’ve amassed a huge amount of pictures and stories and I was too busy experiencing it all to bother posting it right away. But, I’m back. So let’s start where we left off with a little post on Turkish drinks.

Turkish Drinks: Turkish Tea

Turkish tea, or çay.

The most ubiquitous drink in all of Turkey has to be tea (çay), done in a unique Turkish way of course. Turkish tea’s amber coloring and strong taste contrasts deliciously with it’s serving ware: hour glass-shaped glasses nestled on top of dainty saucers, accessorized with a small spoon for stirring sugar–but not milk. Men drink glass after glass, all day long, in chess shops and shop stalls, adding sugar and sipping, sipping, sipping while they smoke and chat and shoo off cats. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar may be a tourist trap, but still, real life happens between the stalls, where the tea trays appear out of nowhere and vendors sit, chat, blow off steam, reel in customers.

I didn’t care too much for the tea’s taste, if I were to be honest (and I am, because this is my website), but I fell again and again for the ritual of ordering a small cup, stirring, sipping, and moving along. It’s a good opportunity to sit down and rest during a busy day of tourist life, much like it was in Myanmar (Burma).

Turkish Drinks: Yeni Raki


Water, raki, and water with raki. 

I wrote about this briefly here, but raki deserves its own place in the spotlight as the unofficial alcoholic beverage of Turkey. And I love that Turkey, an increasingly conservative Muslim country, has its own unofficial alcoholic beverage. Way to break stereotypes about drinks, Turkey!

Anise-flavored raki is served with water alongside mezze platters and meals in small, cylindrical glasses. First you pour in the clear liquor, next you top it with cold water, and then magic happens when the two clear liquids become cloudy and opaque as the dissolution of the liquor brings the anise seed oil particles out of balance. Originally made from grape residues leftover from wine-making, raki has become a respectable beverage of its own right, with a deliciously muddled etymological history and a competitive  base of manufacturers. Though the drink is similar to Greek ouzo or Jordanian arak with its anise flavor and reaction to water, raki is stronger in taste while ouzo is sweeter.

Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee. 

Probably the most famous of the Turkish drinks, the national take on coffee is unique and wholly un-Western. Brewed with the finest of fine coffee grounds mixing directly with the water, Turkish coffee is distinct from espressos, ristrettos, and other strong, small cups of joe in its brewing and filtration processes. In Turkey, the coffee grounds get dumped right in the cup along with the liquid, resulting in a fuller body and a bunch of sludge at the bottom of your cup. Once you master when to stop drinking, the coffee sings with its sweet notes and thick richness.

The sludge has its own purpose, however. When a drinker has drunk all of his or her coffee, mystics turn the cup upside down on the saucer while chatting and smoking cigarettes. A few moments later, the cup is turned back over, and the grounds on the inside spell out the sipper’s fortune.

Turkish Drinks: Bar Snacks Turkish bar snacks.

 Turkey does produce wine, but I didn’t get a picture of the bottle I ordered because I was too busy eating cheese and staring at the Galata Tower. I did remember to snap a photo of the snacks that were served with a different, foreign bottle I drank with my friend Lara on a balcony overlooking the Bosphorus because LOOK AT HOW HEALTHY THEY ARE.

Sweet delicious apricots and almonds plucked from groves just an hour’s drive away are normal snacks in Turkey. Thais gorge themselves with grilled pork bits while Germans down pretzels and chicken thighs. American gobble fried cheese sticks, and Russians eat spoonfuls of mayo without batting an eye. Turks? They eat fruit and nuts. I could totally get used to that.

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15 Responses to Turkish Drinks

  1. Tom says:

    I am so hungry/thirsty now!

  2. I am not a big fan of coffee, but sitting around drinking tea all day and eating fresh dried apricots (which I am willing to bet taste world different than their shipped, grocery store counterparts here in the US) sounds like heaven.

  3. Erica says:

    Yay you’re back! How’s TX?

    Is there a trick to holding those cups, because I really struggled with that. Really struggled. As in, I was using my scarf as oven mitts. no, tea mitts.

    The coffee picture is awesome!

  4. greeting from Turkey :) tea is liked in turkey alot :) coffee is drunk sometimes and on special days :)

  5. What beautiful images! Now I need a drink. :)

    • Susan says:

      Thanks Andi! I am drinking some coffee with a cardamom pod in it now…sort of my own Turkish coffee hack/bastardization.

  6. Katie says:

    I haven’t stopped thinking about that beautiful photo of apricots and almonds. Something about that just looks so perfect and delicious.

  7. I actually really liked those little glasses of Turkish tea. The coffee was nice too, but I hated the raki. I don’t like anise at the best of times, and raki has a pretty strong anise flavor.

    • Susan says:

      I hate anise normally, but if raki was SUPER cold and served alongside seafood, I actually liked it! Of course I had a glamourous Turkish friend making me WANT to drink it and feel chic, so that probably helped.

  8. really great. :) you know that what is delicious

  9. Sophie says:

    Your photos and writing are amazing!

  10. I never did try raki when I was in Turkey. I did however go out one night in Istanbul, shared a bottle of wine with a cute Turkish guy, then went back to his place and made out after watching some awfully trashy show that kept featuring Paris Hilton every 5 minutes (and no, it wasn’t The Simple Life).

    I did however try the coffee, which was delicious, although I didn’t get my fortune told at the end of it as there didn’t seem to be any available mystics.

    • Susan says:

      I am lucky enough to have my very own Turkish friend to read my fortunes! She also gave me tarot readings in college.

      You probably didn’t miss anything with raki. I mean, you did get the cute Turkish guy AND some trashy TV. What more can you want?

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