Beverages: Beyond the Turkish
Coffee and "Ayran"
have been written about the Turkish coffee; its history, its significance
in social life, and the ambiance of the ubiquitous coffee houses. Without
some understanding of this background, it is easy to be disappointed by
the tiny brew with the annoying grounds, which an uninitiated traveler
(like Mark Twain) may accidentally end up chewing. A few words of caution
will have to suffice for the purposes of this brief primer. First, the
grounds are not to be swallowed, so sip the coffee gingerly. Secondly,
don't expect a caffeine surge with one shot of Turkish coffee-, it is not
strong, just thick. Third, remember that it is the setting and the company
that matter - the coffee is just an excuse for the occasion... Tea, on
the other hand, is the main source of caffeine for the Turks. It is prepared
in a special way, by brewing it over boiling water and served in delicate,
small, clear glasses to show the deep red color and to transmit the heat
to the hand. Drinking tea is such an essential part of a working day, that
any disruption of the constant supply of fresh tea is a sure way to sacrifice
productivity. Once upon a time, so the story goes, a lion escaped from
the Ankara Zoo and took up residence in (he basement of an office building. It
began devouring public servants and executives. It even ate up a few ministers
of state and nobody took notice. It is said, however, that a posse was
immediately formed when the lion caught and ate the "tea-man," the person
responsible for the supply of fresh tea! A park without tea and coffee
is inconceivable in Turkey. Thus, every spot with a view has a tea-house
or a tea-garden. These places may be under a plain tree looking onto the
village or town square, on top of a hill with majestic view of a valley
or the sea, by a harbor, in a market, on a roadside with a scenic overview,
by a waterfall or in the woods. Among the typical tea-gardens in Istanbul
are: the Emirgan on the European side, Camlica on the Anatolian side of
the Bosphorus, the famous Pierre Loti cafe, and the tea-garden in Usküdar.
But the traditional tea-houses are beginning to disappear from the more
tourist-oriented seaside locations, in favor of "pubs" and "Biergartens".
Among the beverages worth mentioning are excellent bottled fruit juices.
But, perhaps the most interesting drink is "boza", traditionally sold in
neighborhood streets by wandering vendors on a winter's night. This is
a thick, fermented drink made of wheat berries, to be enjoyed with a dash
of cinnamon and a handful of roasted chick-peas. Boza can, also be found
year-round at certain cafes or dessert shops. Finally, "sahlep" is a hot
drink made with milk and sahlep powder. It is a good remedy for sore throats
and colds, in addition to being delicious.