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Caykur teas and local music instruments; tulum and kemence


 Tasting Notes on Turkish Tea

8 February 1998

Too long, much too long a time has passed since I received by surprise that magical cloth-packed package, tied with a string in an old-fashioned way, which carried two rare boxes of fine Turkish tea. I must thank Mr. A. R. Sakli for this gift, and I frankly recommend to all tea lovers to try some Turkish tea.

The first tea is a simple one, in a 250 g. box. The leaves are finely broken, with a uniform black colour that has an unusual blue hue. They smell bitter and a bit smoky. After a 5 minute steeping, the tea smells of pleasant bitterness, while the taste reveals again the light smoky tone, along with a fresh background, which reminds me of green teas. The tea has no astringency or sourness, it is smooth and medium-bodied, and lacks some character. Most of all it reminded me of the simple High Forest Ceylon that I had (from Mariage Freres). It has similar finely broken leaves, but with a brown hue. It has a similar bitterness, but instead of smokiness it has some sweet smell like cooked greens. It is lighter in colour than the Turkish tea, and also has no sourness. However, it lacks the fresh background, and is too light-bodied, too watery. Although both teas lack character (and I mean special attributes like those found in, say, Yunnan tea), the Turkish tastes much better.

To complete the picture I must note that Turkish tea was meant to be steeped for a long time, during which it extracts all its bitterness, and must be sweetened to be drinkable. I tried a mere 5-minute steeping, unsweetened.

The second Turkish tea is more interesting. It is Burcu (Kokulu Cay), translated to Aromatic Tea. Its leaves are a bit larger, although they also have been tortured under the CTC machines, in order to allow maximum extraction of the taste. This one has bergamot flavouring added, a pleasant one that reminds me of bitter citrus marmalade. A joy for any Earl Grey drinker, especially those who like subtly added flavours. The base tea is strong, bitter, and with a light, pleasant astringency. The bergamot flavour and aroma are weaker, and combine well with the tea. For some reason I feel some sage in the aroma as well, a herbal tone which is unusual in Earl Greys.

I have especially enjoyed this tea while drinking it with my brother-in-law, a Turkish Jew, in traditional Turkish tea cups (small, tall glass cups, about 4 oz. Each) with sugar cubes (not for me, thank you).

Both teas are Caykur teas, the great Turkish tea monopoly. The Turkish grow quite a deal of tea, but consume most of it, and is hard to find outside of the country. They are worth trying.

Gabi Shahar