They are all over the place. More spread than Minarets, than cars and sea gulls. For some, they even serve as true sights of Istanbul regardless the magnificent mosques, the Bosporus Bridge or the Maiden’s Tower. Like the Bosporus they are part of the life of 12 to 16 million citizens. And, like the amount of citizens, no one dares to make a guess on the amount to tea glasses. It’s all about tea, served in small glasses.
Before I came to Istanbul, I wasn’t much into tea. Although my mom enjoys it a lot and never gave up to make me try her marvelous herbal tea when I was visiting her, for me as a coffee addict tea always came along with a flu or a grumbly stomach. In the beginning, it was hard to find some decent black coffee – Starbucks just does not count and I took me some time to discover Kanve Dünyasi. When the communication problem became obvious, I gave up and stuck to tea, or as they say “cay”.
There is no time of the day and very few places in town where you don’t have cay. Especially, Cay is served after the meals and with the Turkish breakfast instead of coffee. In the narrow streets, you see some old men handing around, watching the scene and having some cay glasses with them. In the bazar or the shopping miles, a young man with a tray rushes around the shops and distributes some glasses. Even in the government institutions you can get the impression that the cay glasses move are more often between the desks then forms and documents. The German saying “Abwarten und Tee trinken” aka “Wait and Wonder” suits very, very well.
Usually, there is back tea with its red-brownish color and along, if you like, one or two pieces of sugar. Since the tea goes into the glass first and is poured with hot water, you can choose the intensity of your cay. Very delicious as well: Apple tea, the Elmar cay. It is a very tasty alternative, if it’s not prepared with syrup but fresh made. Of course, you get any kinds of tea in bags, but in the Turkish Tea Culture this is interpreted as the insulation of the Sultan 🙂
Along with food, cay mostly is for free but if not you get it for peanuts. Depending on the location the price varies between 0.50 und 5 Lira. Besides enjoying cay in Cafés and restaurants, go and visit a tea garden, the Cay Bahcesi. So far, I don’t have a solid explanation for it, but there, the proportion of men is extremely high and above average.
My favorite spot to have a cay is the ferry. Now in winter, if you manage to catch a sunny day, feel some sea breeze, a small cute cay glass in your hands and at least a 20 minutes chill out. Well, I wouldn’t be a coffee addict, if I wouldn’t enjoy a Turkish coffee from time to time in an equally cute, espresso-sized cup 🙂