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 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).
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 Originally made from grape residues leftover from wine-making, raki has become a respectable beverage of its own right, with a deliciously muddled etymological history and a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.
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.
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.
Hi! I'm Susan, and this is my travel journal. You can read more about me here.
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