Monday, October 17, 2016

Culture Corner 10.17.16

Hi everybody! I didn't think I'd be doing another piece on Culture Corner, but here I am! The previous week I blogged about Japanese-Shinto thought of the cycle of life, bells, impurities, and how all of these ideas are interconnected.

That's why I thought I'd be writing a follow-up piece on it but... things happened and suddenly I felt like sharing with you all... wait for it:

Turkish Tea and Coffee!

When I think of coffee, the first thing that comes to mind is "Starbucks."
Drinking a cup of that dark-roasted, bitter beverage with a pint of milk is soothing.

Something I learned recently about coffee is the etymology; the coffee comes from the Ottoman-Turkish word Kahve. That fact has been imprinting itself in my consciousness more and more lately, especially when I reminisce about all the time I spent in Turkey, never fully appreciating the nuances of coffee in Turkish culture and, to an extent, in America.

First up is some history (and a really brief one) on coffee. It comes from the Ottoman Empire and was a staple product in social culture. It was the go-to beverage when you wanted to socialize or have a get-together of sorts. Whether it was the Sultan and his generals, or a merchant with his friends, all sorts of people would gather at coffee shops to socialize.

All the time I've spent in Turkey has crystallized my opinion that coffee, while it may serve the role of that go-to drink for socializing and relaxing, has been Americanized to a large extent. What I mean by this is that when people want coffee, Starbucks is the first choice. You'll still have "Turkish Kahve" being sold at cafes and some restaurants, but it's more of a "I'll drink coffee because I need my morning coffee before work" kind of thing.

Also, anybody who's been to Turkey should know that tea has usurped coffee.

In my Turkish household, we have tea daily. Typically, we brew tea during the morning and night. We use two pots: one to boil water, the other to brew the tea leaves. Using a tulip-shaped glass (if you go to any part of Turkey, be it the metropolis, urban towns, the mountains, or the high plateaus, you will find tea. I once heard an adage from my grandfather that went something like "When you have a guest, you must start brewing tea and ask if they'd like some. If you are a guest and the host offers you tea, you will take it because no Turkish person can decline tea."

I've even heard my father remark that our blood is "made of tea." Cool to know that I have tea flowing through my veins. Delicious. Something to note is that all the tea leaves in Turkey are produced from one area called Rize (I went there last summer, here are some pictures). Turkey is the worlds 5th largest producer of tea. (Maybe they're higher? Who knows. My family consumes a nations worth of tea per month).

Here's the most commonly found pack of Turkish tea, which is also called Red Tea.

-Onur Ayaz

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