the appetizer:

Though Turkish cuisine is a fusion of Turk, Arabic, Persian, Central Asian and Greek cuisines, there are also many regional differences in Turkey's cooking, from the Black Sea's corn and fish to the eastern region's mezes and kebabs.

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Coffee, Tea and Sociability

Coffee entered the world of Islam from Yemen sometime in the mid-16th century and brought into existence a new institution-the Turkish coffee house. The sociability inherent in meeting with friends to sip coffee and discuss the affairs of the day became immensely popular.

It was not a smooth beginning, however. The state of euphoria produced by coffee was poorly understood. Indeed, some clerics saw it as an intoxicant and therefore against Islamic law. There was also the fear that the coffee house setting would unleash political unrest. On more than one occasion in the course of the next century, coffee houses were prohibited, only to re-open. When these establishments finally gained acceptance and respectability, they profoundly changed society by providing a unique opportunity to gather socially outside the home.

Tea, like coffee, is a long-standing Turkish tradition. All of country's tea is produced in the province of Rize, and there is quite a demand for it. Not only do Turks prefer tea over coffee after meals, they drink tea all day long, during business negotiations or socializing. Tea is a brisk business. Little glasses of tea, carefully balanced on trays suspended by three metal chains, are borne by boys scurrying up and down the streets, waiting for the nod to bring another round. It is said that tea is served in glasses so that the important qualities of clarity and color can be more clearly seen. Precisely two cubes of sugar appear on every saucer.


From Eat Smart In Turkey. Reprinted by permission of Ginkgo Press.


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This page modified January 2007