Ask Mehmet: Sipping Turkish tea

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Ask Mehmet is a forum for people to ask questions of the local area, as well as the outer confines of the region and the country as a whole. To submit a question, send an e-mail with the subject "Ask Mehmet" to 39abw.pa@incirlik.af.mil. Then, look for an answer to the question on the 39th Air Base Wing's official website at www.incirlik.af.mil and Incirlik Air Base's Facebook page.

Question:
I see Turkish people drinking tea a lot. Whenever you go to a Turkish friend or shop, they immediately offer tea. I understand people here brew their tea differently, as well. Will you tell us how they brew tea?

Answer:
As you have observed, tea is the main beverage in Turkey, in cold or hot weather. Turkish people follow only the British and Chinese in total amounts of tea we drink. Some people drink 15-20 cups a day.

As some other nations have their own way of preparing tea, so do we. You'll need two kettles to do the job right - one large and one small. The small one sits on the top of the large one like a lid. One can buy the kettles as a set designed that way.

First, you fill the large kettle with water and put on the fire or stovetop to boil. Meanwhile, put tea leaves and a dash of water, enough to wet the tea leaves, into the small kettle. The number of cups you want to serve dictates how many tea leaves should go into the small kettle. Usually, it's about one teaspoon for each cup. Place the small kettle on the top of the big kettle.

Once the the water in the big kettle starts to boil, fill the small kettle with the boiling water from the big kettle. Add cold water to the big kettle, filling it up. Now, put the two kettles back on the fire or burner, again with the small one on top of the larger one. Wait until the water in the big kettle starts to boil again. By that time, the tea leaves have added their color, aroma and taste into the water. As the water in the big kettle boils, your tea is ready to serve.

Pour some tea from the small kettle into a cup then fill it up with boiling water from the big kettle. You can adjust the strength of your tea by pouring more or less from the small kettle. Put the kettles back on the fire until you finish drinking your first cup, then serve the second. At that time you can reduce the heat for the kettles.

You can add more cold water to be boiled to the big kettle. But don't add any more water, hot or cold, to the small kettle. Doing so makes the good tea in the small kettle to become bad. If you need more tea, you should go through the entire process again and brew new tea.

The amount of sugar to add depends on the person's taste. So many people drink Turkish tea without adding any sugar. In some parts of eastern Turkey, there's a special sugar called kirtlama. This is a piece of hard sugar people put under their tongues. They can drink several cups with one single piece of hard sugar that way.

Although it's not Turkish style, tea bags are available in the markets, both imported and domestic. You can also see tea of almost every fruit from apple and strawberry to orange and lemon. They are mostly sold in tea bags.

Many shops in the Alley serve apple tea to their customers. In fact, apple tea has become more popular than the regular Turkish tea. Apple tea is instant and you put it in hot water and stir it up. It is concentrated apple juice and sugar, therefore, you don't need to add sugar to your apple tea.

Tea is grown only in one small area in Turkey - in Rize located in northeastern Turkey by the Black Sea.

Turkish tea is served in special tulip-shaped teacups so people can hold them easier and feel the heat in their hands. Turkish tea is always served hot. Therefore, the American iced-tea may seem strange to Turkish people.

The apple tea, which is popular among the Americans, is totally different. It's the mixture of sugar and apple juice concentration. You put a teaspoon of it in a teacup with hot water and stir. Your apple tea is ready.