After a meal in Turkey, there is always one more course: tea. Served in a slim-waisted, elegantly curved glass, the piping-hot liquid is inevitably whisked to the table right after your meal, amber-colored and deeply bitter. This is true whether you are at the local dürüm shack with three low-rise tables or a prize-winning fine dining restaurant.
In addition to simply being a popular beverage, tea is both a daily routine and bonding agent. Frequent visitors of Grand Bazaar know very well that a kind tea offer comes from the shop owners even if you don’t buy anything. Dinner parties at Turkish households always end with a couple rounds of tea – in fact, the host starts brewing tea right after or even before dinner.
Trivia about tea in Turkey
Tea glass shape: Resembling a tulip, the Turkish tea glass is designed to cool the upper part of tea fast while keeping the lower part hot.
Teaspoon: Since the tea glass is special to Turkey, the teaspoon, çay kaşığı, is also a special shape, smaller than the one the rest of the world calls a teaspoon. The standard global teaspoon is called a tatlı kaşığı (dessert spoon) in Turkey.
The color of tea: To imply that tea is well brewed, Turks call the color of tea tavşan kanı or blood of the rabbit.
Where to shop for tea
The Guide Shop carries Lazika teas, which are some of the finest you’ll find in Turkey. Using tea that is hand picked in the Ardeşen Fırtına Valley of the Rize tea growing region along the Black Sea, this black tea surpasses the common brew. Using early leaves harvested in late spring by local farmers, the tea contains no additives and expresses rich aromas and a full-bodied flavor. Get the teas from shoptheguide.com.
Turkey’s top tea producer, state-owned Çaykur’s branded tea shop Çayla features a range of tea blends from the classic Turkish black tea to mixes of tea and spices, to green or white tea. At Çayla’s spots around the Asian side, you can also sit down and have a teatime session.
Starting out serving the royal family and the noble households, Ronnefeldt has a variety of high-quality tea blends available around the city. Try them at La Patisserie Lune, Şütte, or Dem Karaköy, and find them at Doğa Şarküteri, Santal Şarküteri or Gurmeköy and Gimtaş stores. Online purchase is available at www.tea-excellence.com
With some Far East influence and mythology behind, Melez Tea offers various blends for different purposes. Troubles in sleeping, ease the sugar craving, or soothing the mind are all possible with Melez Tea blends. They offer a subscription service and deliver monthly packages as well. www.meleztea.com
Fashion powerhouse of Turkey, Vakko used its expertise of picking the best to tea as well. Vakko Tea Atelier has a handful of carefully selected tea blends, each offering a different taste and a different mood. Find them at Vakko and Vakko Boutique stores and shop.vakko.com.
In addition to the 54 teashops where you can sit down and sip the hot crimson liquid, there are stores in the Grand Bazaar where you can purchase tea to brew at home. A quick wander around one of the world’s oldest shopping malls will lead you to your next favorite tea store.
A stroll inside the Egyptian Bazaar will unlock a world of spice. We would love to say follow the smell, but that would get you lost, so just look around almost every shop with spices in front will get you dried Turkish tea leaves for tea time at home.
Where to shop for tea products
The iconic tulip-shaped Turkish tea glasses are a crucial part to the tea ritual. Find the classic and slightly modernized versions by Paşabahçe and LAV brands.
Crate & Barrel’s tea brewing accessories can be modern and useful alternatives in your kitchen. Stores like Vakko Home, Beymen, Boyner, and Mudo Concept have both the tea glasses and pots for making Turkish tea.
In addition to their special blends, Melez Tea offers brewing tools, pots, cups, and much more at their online store as well as their store in Reşitpaşa. Kongre Caddesi No.81/A, Reşitpaşa; T: (0212) 229 29 69
Where to drink tea
Adjacent to Firuzağa Mosque in Cihangir, Cihangir Firuzağa Kahvesi has become a hub for neighborhood locals along with actors, directors, and many others from the movie and TV industry. The menu only consists of tea and coffee. It might be hard to find a place to sit almost every hour of the day since it’s a place to see and be seen. Defterdarlık Yokuşu No. 59A, Cihangir; (0212) 243 29 14
Çayla is a branded product of Turkey’s top tea producer Çaykur. The venue has a separate menu featuring an array of tea-based products, ranging from Turkish delight to ice cream. There is also an herbal tea list, from which you can order a to suit your mood. Çayla has also mixes of dry tea that you can take home. Bağdat Caddesi Palmiye Apartmanı, No:225/1, Kadıköy; T: (0216) 360 0828
Brainchild of award-winning scientist and successful entrepreneur Veysel Berk, Çaycı is to Turkish tea what Starbucks is to coffee. Berk modified the electronic tea machines available on the Turkish market in order for the machines to be able to brew fresh tea every fifteen minutes. Trump Towers AVM, Kat B3, Şişli; T: (0212) 356 23 56
Dem in Karaköy boasts a comfortable and calming atmosphere, and the space has a relaxed homey feel with attractive decor. The tea menu offers over 60 selections from around the world with tasting notes for each, including: white, green, oolong, black, pu-erh, red, herbal, and smoked teas, providing customers with rare choices unlikely to be found elsewhere in the city. Dem has a branch in Moda as well. Hoca Tahsin Sokak No.17, Karaköy; T: (0212) 293 97 92
With its rich tea culture, Istanbul is home to a plethora of tea gardens packing a great combination of history and good views. Check out our favorite tea gardens around the city.