Photo of the Day: Smoked Turkish cheese

photo of the day
It used to be a common expression to say that someone “smoked like a Turk,” and I can confirm after living in Istanbul for nearly two years, Turks still love their smoking. Even after the indoor smoking ban of 2009, cigarettes and nargile (water pipes) are very common here. This portrait by Flickr user MichaelAV captures two of the Turks’ other loves: çay (see the tiny tea glass on the left) and cheese. So beloved is Turkish cheese that I’ve heard of Turks packing their suitcases full of it when traveling abroad. Be sure to try some with your Turkish breakfast or along with a glass of rakı at cocktail hour if you visit Turkey.

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London: A nontraditional tea

london nontraditional teaHigh teas loom large in the fantasies of many tourists. How is it possible, I was wondering to myself earlier this month, that the only teas I’d enjoyed since moving to London in January were simple cream teas at various country pubs and inns? Most of these cream teas were notably lovely, with scones slathered in double or clotted cream the main event in each case.

But a blow-out high tea had evaded me.

I recently remedied the situation, though in a distinctly nontraditional way, by sampling the Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanctum Soho Hotel in London. Begun in late 2010, the Gentlemen’s Tea turns the typical high tea on its head. The starring item is the tray of three types of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, served with pewter tankards for sipping and a small ice bucket. The three types of whiskey, each of which I naturally felt compelled to sample, include the basic Jack, the flavorful Single Barrel, and the twice charcoal-mellowed Gentleman Jack.

There were other nice things on the menu, all vaguely masculine. There are starches and a lot of meat, with no raw vegetables in sight. Highlights include a fat poached oyster slathered in a sweet relish, seared steak on toasted sourdough, and a Yorkshire pudding stuffed with roast beef and horseradish. All are diminutive three-bite numbers save the gargantuan lamb and potato hotpot, which could do duty as a main course.

Tea (not an afterthought, really!) followed the parade of nibbles and liquor. And then came a cigar as the final “course.” A waitress asked if we’d like to be accompanied to the rooftop to enjoy our cigars.

The tagline of the tea is “The Ultimate Indulgence” and at £50 ($82.50) per person, it is certainly a self-indulgent little escapade.

Other nontraditional teas in London include the Mandeville Hotel’s Men’s and gluten-free afternoon teas, and TeaSmith‘s afternoon TeaSmithCeremony, which pairs teas with various pastries and chocolates.

The author was a guest of Sanctum Soho for the Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea.

[Image: Flickr | cookbookman17]

How to Taste tea Properly

Turkish tea truck offers Istanbul version of food truck trend

tea truckThe food truck craze is nothing new to many Americans. Long a popular foodie option in New York, Los Angeles, and even Cleveland, it’s a food trend that’s constantly evolving to bring new ideas and tastes to the, er, table. The Turkish food blog Istanbul Eats, who launched a book version last year and now offer food tours of the city, spotted a very local version of the mobile eatery trend along the Golden Horn. They posted a few photos of Mehmet Abi’s çay kamyon (that’s tea truck in Turkish) on their Facebook page this week, complete with a seating area for sipping a hot glass. You can find Mehmet’s truck parked by the Karakoy mosque near the hardware market at the Galata Bridge, ask around for the Perşembe Pazarı (Thursday market) to find it.

Turkish çay is already quite mobile. Around Istanbul, you’ll spot men carrying trays of glasses to deliver to local businesses, the empty glasses are later collected or returned to the çay shops. And while coffee chains like Starbucks and Gloria Jean’s are quite popular in Turkey, you won’t find Turks drinking çay out of paper cups, the honor system works well for to-go orders as well.

While the food truck craze as we know it has yet to hit Istanbul, Turkish food is going mobile in other places. Pera Turkish Tacos launched late last year outside the former Tavern on the Green space in Manhattan and recently became the first food cart in the city to get a liquor license.

VIDEO: Istanbul in 1967

As an expat in Istanbul, I enjoy seeing anything Turkey-related, and this vintage video of the former Constantinople is especially fun to see. Narrated by a droll British commentator, you travel over and around Istanbul, checking out some of the big sights such as Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, as well as life on the Bosphorus before the bridges were constructed to provide alternate access between the European and Asian sides of the city. Not too much has changed in 45 years, though the traffic seems lighter and the city less crowded than with today’s populate of 13 million (or perhaps more) people. I’d like to say that the Galata Bridge is no longer a “man’s world,” but fishing is still mostly men-only even if women are not only “veiled or hidden away”.

They do miss out on some correct terminology: the “different and delightful” bread ring is a simit, best accompanied by some Turkish cheese or with a full breakfast spread. The “hubble bubble pipe” is a nargile, found at many cafes and bars around the city and savored with a hot glass of çay (only tourists drink the apple stuff) or a cold Efes (if your nargile bar happens to serve alcohol). Barbeque remains a national pastime of the Turks and yes, “any old tin” will do. As in 1967, Istanbul is still the place to savor a fish sandwich fresh from the water, hop on a ferry between continents, and admire your newly shined shoes.

Students to travel the world in search of tea

students travel in search of tea

College students across the United States will spend the Summer in a variety of ways. Some will work, some will play and others will continue their education on campus or in a variety of summer options that involve travel. At Harding University in Arkansas, some will discover that the things we drink play important roles in our culture as students travel the world in search of tea.

“It’s a way of approaching history by studying a drink and its role in culture, society, politics and economics ” Jeff Hopper, a professor of humanities at Harding told

Earning 9 credit hours, students will trace history over the summer through the movement and changes of tea, studying how each culture incorporated the drink into their lives. The six-student group will stop in China, Indonesia, Russia among other countries where tea played a critical cultural role. Four of the students were on a similar journey last year with a coffee theme.
“Many more people in the world drink tea than coffee,” Hopper added. “Tea is thousands of years old. Coffee is not. It takes us back further, it’s embedded much more into religious ceremonies and cultures.”

They will even stop in Boston where the group will commemorate the original Tea Party and its backlash on the East India Tea Company.

“The East India Tea Company was the largest in the world,” Hopper said. “That would be today like spilling a tanker load of Exxon oil on purpose. Tea was a symbolic commodity in the relationship between the colonies and Great Britain.”

The trip will end in London, where they will visit the Twinings Tea Museum and enjoy high tea at Fortner Mansion.

“High tea is a British term for a celebratory, ceremonial drinking of tea with special food and treats,” Hopper said. “They have sandwiches, biscuits and cookies and it’s traditionally held in the late afternoon. If I were a British gentleman, and I wanted to entertain you, the most elegant way short of a dress-up dinner would be to invite you to tea at 4 p.m. The amount of amenities, jellies and currants determines the formality.”

There are no plans for a third beverage-oriented trip next summer although another coffee-themed trip may be organized.

Flickr photo by Maks Karochkin

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