I read a book once called A History of the World in Six Glasses. From the book I learned that we can think about the drinks we consume to help define our societies. Our relationship with what we drink is reflective of how we lead our lives. In the U.S, coffee is largely consumed while in Turkey, tea is the major drink. The cultures that surround these two beverages are vastly different.
People say that Americans are too busy. I am sure that, in many cases, this statement holds to be true. We spend a lot of time working and not enough time enjoying the rewards of our work. In the states, coffee is the elixir that helps us to manage. Even when we have grown immune to it, we still feel as though it has some effect on us. We drink coffee to help us battle early morning drowsiness, afternoon slumps, and late night fatigue. We often take our coffee to go and we have even developed drive-throughs to help us satisfy our need for caffeine and efficiency. When you do walk into a coffee shop you’ll find that the atmosphere is both tense and frenzied and not just because everyone is on their second latte. What was once a hub for social interaction, coffee shops are now a place for rushed meetings and stressed students.
In Turkey, it’s different. Instead of coffee, we drink çay. Because it is meant to be sipped slowly (and is never taken to go), çay encourages people to talk and relax and to learn about others. Çay is a concentrated black tea that stems from the Black Sea Region and is often served in a tulip-shaped glass. During the First World War, when coffee became difficult to access, tea rose to prominence as the primary drink of consumption in the Ottoman Empire; it has since become an integral aspect of Turkish culture.
Since living in Turkey, I have become an avid tea drinker. I like my çay açık, or light, with two customary sugar cubes. Many of my taste buds were victimized by scalding Turkish tea before I knew how to properly consume it but now I have become an expert at sipping copious amounts of çay without even waiting for it to cool down.
Almost always, there is complimentary çay after a meal. You are offered cay in homes, shops, and offices, which is a testament to Turkish hospitality. The constant flow of tea, keeps conversations going for at least an hour longer. I feel as though I haven’t missed opportunities to have a great discussion since I’m not as focused on rushing to my next destination. I learned that you can never really have a quick meal in Turkey and I don’t mind that at all.
I have learned from the Turkish example to drink çay, carve out more time to spend with others, and to take it easy.