Monday, April 26, 2010


Sociologists claim almost every culture on earth has a traditional hot drink. However in Turkey, çay (pronounced like "chai", though it bears no similarity to the sweet American coffee house drink- sans the minimal tea content in the latter) is more than just a drink, it is a way of life. It follows every meal, accompanies many cigarettes, and not offering a cup to a visitor would be anathema. It's not uncommon to have upwards of 8 glasses a day... depending on how many friends one sees. Even businesses usually offer a glass customers while they wait, be it a small neighborhood store or multi-billion dollar cooperations like Türk Telecom, who gave me a glass when I was signing up for phone/internet service this last week.

Turkish çay, like Turkish coffee, is a potent, concentrated beverage. It's over-steeped, served boiling hot, and- thankfully for western palettes- sweetened to taste. The occasional aficionado with take it sade (unsweet), but most people will put 1-2 sugar cubes in. The sugar/caffeine combination gives a pretty good buzz... but that doesn't stop Turks from drinking it late into the night.

Drinking a lot of çay is a prerequisite to cultural assimilation... and a really good excuse for just hanging out. Heck. Throw-in a tavla board and a nargile, and you've got the rest of your evening planned.

1 comment:

laceylou said...

I like this post Michael, and I'm encouraged when I read your updates on all the Turkish happenings! I hope you're loving your new home.