Turkish tea, called çay,(pronounced Chai) is black tea which is consumed without milk, is produced on the eastern Black Sea coast, which has a mild climate with high precipitation and fertile soil. Turkish tea is typically prepared using two stacked kettles (çaydanlık) specially designed for tea preparation. Water is brought to a boil in the larger lower kettle and then some of the water is used to fill the smaller kettle on top and steep several spoons of loose tea leaves, producing a very strong tea. When served, the remaining water is used to dilute the tea on an individual basis, giving each consumer the choice between strong (Turkish: koyu; literally “dark”) or weak (Turkish: açık; literally “light”). Tea is drunk from small glasses to enjoy it hot in addition to showing its colour, with cubes of (Turkish: kesme şeker) beet sugar. Turkey has the highest per capita tea consumption in the world, at 2.5 kg per person—followed by the United Kingdom (2.1 kg per person).
Tea is an important part of Turkish culture. Offering tea to guests is part of Turkish hospitality, tea is most often consumed in households, shops and mostly kıraathane, which is social congregation of Turkish men. Despite its popularity, tea became the widely consumed beverage of choice in Turkey only in the 20th century. It was initially encouraged as an alternative to coffee, which had become expensive and at times unavailable in the aftermath of World War I. Upon the loss of south-eastern territories after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, coffee became an expensive import. At the urging of the founder of the republic, Turkish people turned more to tea as it was easily sustainable by domestic sources. Turkish tea is traditionally offered in small tulip-shaped glasses which are usually held by the rim, in order to save the drinker’s fingertips from being burned, as the tea is served boiling hot.