As some of you know, Boston is my new home. It’s been a couple of years since I moved here, so technically it’s not “new” anymore, but it still feels that way as I’ve spent most of last year in India. What makes a place home for me is always its people. I was lucky to form a close friendship with the wonderful T as soon as I arrived, and my circle of people has slowly expanded since.
One of the things I’ve done with some regularity during these years is to have tea with a lovely group of women called Ladies Who Tea—of course, we gave ourselves that title :-). More often than not, this now-ritual gathering has taken place at the beautiful home of G, who, besides being an economist and a painter, is an excellent host. Tea at G’s is no light matter. She has so thoroughly spoilt us with the never-ending spread of food, the ever-flowing supply of tea and coffee, and the long-lasting conversations in her colorful home, that I now find other tea ceremonies, such as the one at the Boston Public Library, a bit underwhelming.
G is Turkish, and that explains a lot of her enthusiasm for tea. And by tea I don’t mean just the drink, but the entire ritual associated with tea-drinking. Turkish culture, like so many others, understands and appreciates the value of communing with a group of friends over slow sips of a hot beverage. Like the Swedish fika and the Bengali adda, Turkish tea is meant to be savored with others, always accompanied by lively conversation and often with delicious food.
A turkish tea-kettle, çaydanlık, looks like a double-boiler; the lower compartment is used to boil water and the top for brewing concentrated tea. In Turkey, tea means sweet black tea, drunk without milk.
First, water is boiled in the lower part of the kettle. Next, loose black tea leaves are added to the upper compartment and boiling water is poured over. Then the tea is allowed to steep to the desired concentration in the top half that is placed back on the bottom half. The still-hot lower portion keeps the top kettle from going cold. Gradually, more hot water is transferred from the bottom to the top as tea-drinking reaches full-swing.
Sugar cubes are optional and non-Turks like me also get away with the addition of milk.
And that’s about it for a perfect cup of hot Turkish tea. Repeat infinitely, throw in lots of good food, a group of chattering women, a warm Boston afternoon, and you get a special moment worth cherishing forever.
Thanks, G. Already looking forward to the next one!