February 20, 2011

Istanbul. June, 2007

It’s interesting to me that so many people speak about Turkish coffee when the overwhelmingly preferred beverage in Turkey is tea. Strong, dark, served in tulip-shaped glasses on saucers with tiny spoons, çay is everywhere you look, day and night. Sometimes pre-sweetened, most times with sugar cubes on the side. (I’ve seen men put the cubes directly into their mouths and then sip the tea through them.) Bars even offer a delivery service that is a wonder to behold: a young man (usually a teenager) is dispatched with a tray holding several filled glasses, the tray suspended by three chains that come together in the carrier’s hand, similar to the trays suspended from each side on an old-fashioned scale. And the variety of tea leaves! Some locally grown teas come from plantations along the Black Sea. Most, judging from the more-expensive kinds on display in the Spice Bazaar, are imported. I saw this simple glass outside the entrance to the Beyazit Mosque near Istanbul University, but it could have been anywhere at all in this City of the World’s Desire.

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