How would you drink your tea?

m. Cevik ARIKAN

How many different replies, would I have received from different sorts of people to the question: "How would you drink your tea?"  Before you think of an answer and reply let us go over how to prepare tea, and review the method: Of course, there are those that know how to prepare tea quite well on the face of the world: we call that "steaming the tea with a double boiler" (extracting tea through steaming). Those folks have a special double kettle. The kettle is made up of 2 parts.  The bigger kettle is larger and is only filled with water. Water boils in this kettle only. This kettle has a handle and a spout. The smaller kettle sits on top of the larger one and has to be balanced in order to avoid water spillage. The top smaller pot also has a handle and a spout. The top pot can become slippery and therefore one has to avoid distracting the balance of the 2 pots, otherwise one will have a messy oven top. 

Of course there are better-designed double steamers but let us get by with what we have, in the meantime.  On the top pot one puts tealeaves. Those that care about the quality of the tea will wash the tealeaves and get rid of the dusty particles. This smaller pot is placed over the larger pot with the boiling water, turn on the oven top and boil the water to 100 degree Centigrade and wait for it patiently.  As soon as the water boils, one transfers some of the boiling water to the top pot.

The masters of this art usually know exactly how much of the water to transfer to the top pot. Later cold water is added to the bottom pot to compensate for the lost amount.  More patience is required at this stage because one has to wait for the water in the larger bottom pot to boil again. One should know for how long to steam the tea because to much steaming can give the tea into a bitter taste, and too little steaming can cause the tea to have a raw herb like taste. While all this is going on the tea master has to pay full attention to the smell and the sight to achieve the perfect tea. Have you ever smelled the aroma of the perfect tea? And the water is just boiling, isn't it? Now you can lower the oven top. Your tea is ready to be served.

Now it is time to decide what kind of cups to use. A person may chose different cups. You will have to ask: What kind of cup would you like to have your tea in?

What kind of cup would you like to have your tea in? Would you have some tea? Would you drink some tea? Would you like some tea? Shall I give you some tea? In what cup? And some may ask: Do you drink your tea in Turkish? Or you would not ask at all, and go go bring the tea, go fill up the cups and bring the tea, or just serve the tea. Which one would you pick?  O dear, are there 40 types of tea cups? Let us see what we have in our home for the beautiful steamed tea: English china tea cups look alike, fashionable Pashabahce tea cups; with pink grape designs, and mugs with picture of bears, Mickey mouse, fish, house whether they match or not these are our American style tea cups.  And last but not least the thin waist fragile glass gold trimmed teacups. The connoisseurs of tea chose the thin waist, fragile glass gold trimmed teacups. Those thin glass cups with thin waists are not complete without a china plate.  Now the china tea cup settled on it red plate, the tea in the cup is transparent yet as bright as rabbit's blood as we would say in Turkish. And have you seen the vapor? And the aroma? Have you experienced the aroma? All right is so let add some sweetener and pick our spoons gently and start stirring: djin, djin, ding, ling, sllowly without rushing as we stir let us watch the melting sugar as we listen to the sounds. Can you hear the notes, the melodies? And the groung tea leaves dance in the cup. Slow down, honey!  Do not stir hastily like my grandpa, as if the tea cup is about to abandon you. My grandpa tries to hurry, Yet he does not know he has parkinson disease and his hands tremble yet he stirs hastily, noisily. Maybe he can not hear the noise he creates because he does not hear well. Or if he does hear , he sure does not know how to listen to the danty tea stirring sounds! If tea is spilled on his plate he call outright away: "Bring a napkin, tea is spilled!" "change his plate tea has spilled" he has reached to be 100 years old but yet he feels guilty and tries to pour back the tea into the cup by himself. My aunt still keeps very busy taking care of him.

Let us go back to our well stirred tea.  When your tea is sweetened you would place the spoon on the side of the plate. Maybe you want to taste the tea now. You fill up your tiny spoon and gently touch it to your lips. At that point you may decide to add more sugar. If you like the taste you need to drink your tea while it is still hot. Holding your dainty tiny glass cup you take your first sip. The tea's burning, aromatric, sweet taste spreads into your mouth sip by sip.

My Grandpa and my uncles who have learned from him have tin palates, so to speak! They drink the boiling tea fast and very noisily. When you look again you see their tea cups sitting empty ..waiting to be filled. New activity starts..those in charge of steaming the tea keep refilling and refilling again and again while the pot is still steaming. This goes on until the tea spun is layed over the cup, meaning "I do not want my tea cup refilled anymore". The Serving person can take a deep breath and relax. Those that have tin palates never seem to get enough of the tea and never seem to enjoy the aroma.

Why then is the glass tea cup thin waisted?        

Why is it surface smooth and regular?

The tea cup that fits into your palm is so small! With your fingers you would draw a circle around the  mouth then move your finger slowly downwards and if you move the cup slowly inside your palm you feel all its warmth. You take a sip  feel the cup on your cheek and take one more sip..this is how the taste of the steamed tea is enjoyed. And this is how a cup of tea is remembered for 40 years..wouldn’t anybody want to experience this pleasure for forty years  or would you rather be a tea cup?

As for the other cups..the mugs are heavy to pick up, and a mug does not fit into your palm. The design and shape of the mug shadows the tea. Anyway by the second gulp your tea has gotten colder. The little spoon falls right into the cup and one ..the larger spoon does not produce the dainty stirring sounds. The English china cups on the other hand do not make you feel at home. For those cups one does not need to steam the tea bag would serve the purpose. Those tea bags change colors as you dip them into the hot water. A strong aroma and color surfaces right away. We the Turks easily know this is not the tea we are accustomed. The dear Chinese drink tea too. They love their Jasmine aromatic yellow tea. I believe the Brazilians and Africans drink a lot of tea too. I wonder how they drink their tea? We need to know. But first we need to know how to drink our own Turkish tea, how to hold the thin glass cup, how to sip slowly. Those that already know should be proud because then the cup, the one who prepared the tea is as happy as the one who drank it. Don’t you think so?

March 3, 2001

Samovar, or self-boiler..generally stands in the middle of the tea-table.
1882 Pall Mall G. 14 June 2/1 The samovar is a tea-kettle which has its fire in a tube running through it, and which, with a few pieces of lighted charcoal dropped into the tube, maintains the water at boiling point with a minimum of evaporation.

Translated by Roz Kohen DROHOBYCZER from Turkish.

m. Cevik ARIKAN'in web sayfasi: http://www.angelfire.com/ma2/merhaba
E-mail: Meltem.Arikan@umassmed.edu

BAHAR sayisi web'dedir.



@The Light Millennium magazine was created and designed
by Bircan ÜNVER. 6th issue. Summer 2001, New York.
URL: http://www.lightmillennium.org