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Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies

CULTURE: Afiyet Olsun + Neighbors + Super Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

The Easiest Plate-Filling Peanut Butter Cookies

Knock Knock knock echoes from my apartment door. As a single woman who was raised in the States, I’m cautious of this sound. In the first week of coronavirus entering Turkey, I’m particularly so.  I’m not expecting any deliveries or visitors, but I look through the peephole.

The lady who lives in the apartment across the hallway from me stands at the door, looking right at the peephole – like she sees me. In her hand a plate of chicken and bulgur pilaf. I smile and open the door. Everyone in my building is keeping social distancing pretty seriously, and she pushes the plate into the door while simultaneously turning her face away as she isn’t wearing a mask and mumbles, “Afiyet olsun” (the Turkish equivalent of “Bon Appetit”). 

No, this wasn’t a special occasion. Recently I went to visit a friend who was injured and unable to walk (let alone cook for her family) for a while. Her Turkish neighbors kept a steady flow of home-cooked food coming, especially those first few days, without being asked or setting up a meal train.

While that circumstance was indeed a special occasion, I wonder if what made the action so organic is that bringing food to one another is already a commonplace occurrence.  Neighbors bring one another plates of food without ceremony with the expectation that you will return the dish with some homemade treat of your own to share. 

Once, the same neighbor from across the hall stopped me and my roommate as we walked down the hallway, on our way to dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants. “Wait, wait!” she waved us down. She proceeded to fill a bowl with popcorn as an appetizer and waved us back into our apartment to wait for the rest of the dinner she was cooking. Bit by bit she brought dishes to our door as they were prepared: salad, pilaf, beans. We grazed the whole evening as the plates and bowls began to collect on our table.

I felt cared for (even if my plans for the evening had been canceled in the process) especially as a single woman living in a foreign country. I knew that my neighbors care enough for me to make sure I’m at least well-fed. 

But another thought also began to come to mind as the plates piled up. I had already been made aware of the expectation to fill a plate once it was brought. This can certainly feel overwhelming for the ex-pat who has not yet mastered Turkish cuisine or knows what of the foods they do know how to cook would be palpable for a Turkish palate. 

Thankfully, I have found that the following recipe has been a hit among my Turkish friends and neighbors. It is also incredibly easy and quick. So easy that my neighbors and friends don’t believe me when I share the recipe. So quick that I can whip up a batch and return a plateful of hot cookies to my neighbors within 15 minutes of receiving a plate. 

The Easiest Plate-Filling Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup of chocolate chips of our choice

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F).  
  • Mix egg, peanut butter, and sugar until fully incorporated. 
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Fold in chocolate chips. 
  • Scoop onto a prepared cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. 
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Let cool for 2 minutes before transferring to a borrowed plate and bringing to neighbors. 
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies

Note: The trick to these cookies is finding a good peanut butter to use. While JIF brand peanut butter is now available in Turkey (and is my personal favorite), it is often quite expensive when you can find it. The only brand that I’ve tasted that is similar to the peanut butter in the States is the Tuğba brand which advertises having no added sugar. It comes in crunchy and smooth (either of which can be used for this recipe) for a reasonable price. 

I hope you find these as yummy and easy and I do! Let me know if you try them!

What is your go-to food for sharing with neighbors?

Afiyet olsun!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination. 

In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live. 

Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

TURKEY RESORTS: Grand Yazici Club Turban

*** Pre-note: As I wrote over on my Top 10 tips for choosing an All-Inclusive Resort in Turkey post, all hotels are required to abide by strict rules for reopening and hosting guests. Please visit the Grand Yazici Club Turban website for this information.

After reviewing three all-inclusive 5-star resorts in Marmaris area, I can tell you without a doubt that my interactions with the Grand Yazici Club Turban and their staff were by far my favorite. 

Travel writing looks different in Turkey. Typical professional courtesy emails don’t always get through to the correct representative. I have considered translating my emails in Turkish (as not all ‘English’ speakers are created equal as well). Plus, Turkish hotels (unless they are a large chain), are more accessible and happier to communicate with over the phone. 

However, Club Turban had no issues responding to my emails. Jülide at guest relations was terrific, easy and quick to communicate with via email. 

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive
Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

On the west edge of Marmaris city starts a chain of beachfront resorts and hotels; the first hotel you will see is the Grand Yazici Club Turban. If you want the night-life of Marmaris with the privacy and luxury of a resort, this is the perfect location. 

Built in the 70s, it is the first resort in this strip of the area. Turban, the owner, asked to build on the once government protected land to host future conferences and governmental workers. Since Turban has passed away, the family business has continued under the brother and sister duo; the brother is owning the one class up Club Turban, and the sister possessing the nearby Grand Marmaris Palace. Both are only open seasonally, usually March to October. In the winter, guest can enjoy snowy wintery activities while staying in the family’s smaller 18-room hotel in Uludag.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

The hotel only looks like it has been here much longer than its 30 years because the hundreds of tall pine trees scattered throughout the grounds give it an earthy, old neighborhood feel. The hotel was very strategic about building around the existing trees, even to the point where balconies and roofs created holes and corners to allow for their lean into the buildings. 

The 459 room resort provides several types of accommodations; 224 of which are villas. Whatever style room, you would like, they most likely have. 

The Main Rooms: Our room was located in the main building which two years ago was considered the adult-only section of the resort. Now open to any guest, the main building rooms range from 40 m standard rooms to the 210 m Presidential suite: standard room, one bedroom Suites, two-bedroom suites for families, all with balconies facing towards the resort and thermal pool.

Villas are available as well.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

Arrival by car, we were greeted warmly in English by the gate staff, and our car was taken for parking. I am still unsure where the car was parked but there was no need to worry about it, and it is included in your cost.  After the quick check-in, we received our bracelets and information sheets with the services information and a map of the 41,000 meters grounds. The concierge, Huseyin, a 20-year employee of Grand Yazici who works at the winter hotel in Uludag and in the summers here, kindly showed us to our room. 

To our surprise, a beautiful arranged tray of fresh fruits, nuts, dried fruit and cookies accompanied with wine and whiskey were delivered to our room. For marine and executive rooms, extra included services are given such as breakfast to the room upon request, a baby buggy, and flowers upon arrival. For those living the ultra luxurious life, services such as a butler, golf car, and private pavilion are available for a fee. 

Guests have the option of 6 different pools located throughout the grounds; including a ‘relax pool’ for guests over the age of 14 years old, indoor heated pool, a thermal water pool, and a special children’s pool and slides. Otherwise, private 330-meter beach comes set up with sun loungers and umbrellas for guests every morning.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive
Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

One will never go hungry here. The main restaurant serves breakfast, late breakfast (which makes me think of the hobbits and their 2nd breakfasts), lunch, dinner, and even a midnight Soup (which we never stay up late enough for).  As well, there are snack bars, coffee breaks, and early lunch and supper options for children.

Outside of the central area, guests can enjoy the pool bar, beach bar, my favorite – the Coffee Corner, and the kids favorite, the Lemon Cafe, where they can get free ice cream whenever they want.  Week-long guest receives one included al la carte meal from either the Chinese Restaurant or the Kebab House. The La Pergola Italian Restaurant, Mavi Seafood Restaurant, and the newly opened Steak House are all extra cost.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive
Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

During the day, Mini Club programs run all day for ages 4 and up. Babysitters are available for younger ages at an extra cost. 

As well, entrance to the Turkish Baths, Steam room, and Fitness are included with additional services at a fee. In the evenings, guests can enjoy a mix of entertainment, from 9 PM entertainment show like magic or acrobatics, live music every night at 9:30, and on the weekends alternating Disco and “White dress” parties. Like most all-inclusive resorts, doctor, spa, fitness area, beauty center are all available at an extra cost.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

Repeat guest receive priority and perks like booking for al la carte restaurants and discounts for all spa services. 

The Dalaman Airport caters to guests heading to Marmaris area and this hotel. If needed, the hotel arranges transfers to the hotel. While we had a car, there is a mini bus to Marmaris that guests can catch at the entrance of the resort every 10 minutes for 3 TL.

If you are interested in this hotel for a large conference. The Club Turban has the largest in the area fitting over a 1,000 in the main area. The large room can be split into 3 smaller rooms and customizable services are provided as needed for your conference. 

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

Some final and personal thoughts:

For $110 a night for a standard all-inclusive stay, I felt that this hotel is worth every penny. 

Their goal is to make the guests “holidays unforgettable and happiest time by providing high-level service.” 

CONS: 

Being a large resort means that it also comes with lots of guests. Upward of 1,800 people can be on the property in the peak of high season. Other than the crowds of meal times, the noise around the grounds is minimal. 

While the colors were neutral tones, I found the sitting room set to be dated. Out of all that, it wasn’t a deterrent from going back, which we did by the way. Being a 40-year-old hotel, that is really impressive.

Most rooms do not have a view of the sea, but for us, it wasn’t necessary. 

PROS: 

Our suite was one bedroom and one sitting room with two bathrooms. The rooms were amazingly spacious with room for our clothes and bags to be tucked away out of site.  I love being able to unpack at a hotel. Always makes it homier when you can empty your luggage. 

The AC is self-regulated, and each room comes with a ceiling fans. I LOVE BOTH of these things, and I loved that BOTH of them worked well.

The showers have on-demand hot water and excellent water pressure. This gal with thick hair loves BOTH of these things when she has to wash her hair.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

Because of the trees, shaded sitting areas where plentiful given us space to work and relax outside and away from the sun (which my white skin does not like). 

The size of the hotel means they can provide the best entertainment and services for their guest.  This property is fantastic for families because the hotel offers suites with a sitting area for families to enjoy together. As well, the evening activities are for both families and couples. Heads up though, not all of the entertainment starts until late May or June.

Now I need to know…

Have you stayed at this resort before?

What did you think?

What is your favorite or not favorite part of staying here?

***Disclaimer*** For my travel article, I received a tour of the hotel and grounds. I also received a discounted stay with a complimentary upgrade to a suite in the main building.  As well, we enjoy an Al la carte dinner with the guest relations personnel, Jülide, at the Chinese Restaurant. However, regardless, all opinions are my own.

Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort

TURKEY RESORTS: 10 tips for picking an all-inclusive resort in Turkey

I hesitated to post this. It may seem an odd time to read about all-inclusive resorts but I wrote this series a while back and still find it applicable as hotels are reopening! Also, I have added an extra 11th tip just for the COVID-19 rules here in Turkey!

(ALSO, stay tuned for the 3 all-inclusive resorts I would recommend in the Marmaris location! Those 3 posts will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks!)

Maybe you got here by googling “Should I stay in an all-inclusive resort in Turkey?” If so, you are in the right spot.  Here I share my top 10 tips for staying at an all-inclusive resort in Turkey. Keep reading to see if you are the type of person that should even stay in an all-inclusive type place!  

If you are like me at all, a go-getter, maximizer, see all you can ‘vacationer,’ then this post is maybe not for you. BUT WAIT A MINUTE! If you are the yang to my ying, like my husband who loves to stay in one place for as long as possible, this could help you understand your other half a bit.

Staying at an all-inclusive hotel is NOT MY usual go-to vacation, but it is SO incredibly popular in Turkey with foreigners AND Turks alike. 

Marmaris Turkey Sentido Resort

The foreigners, mostly Brits/UK and Russian, want to come warm up from the eternal winter that should now be spring. They bask in the sun getting the worst sunburns I have ever seen.  They could care less about anything in Turkey except pouring mass amounts of vitamin D into their bodies. 

Turks on the other hand, women in particular, want to get away for the week and NOT COOK ONE SINGLE THING. While this stigma is changing, so many Turkish women still cook daily elaborate family meals FROM SCRATCH. My Turkish friend explains it to me, “I just want to go relax and have someone else cook for us.”

So, all-inclusive resorts are their salvation providing both non-stop sun in the summer and meals made by others.

But not all 5-star all-inclusive resorts are created equal… BY FAR. 

I spent hours making a list of 5-star hotels in the Marmaris region and then strategically went through them. I checked pictures of the room, the property, the services, and prices. I was also writing a couple of articles on the websites and my own. So I spent the appropriate amount of time researching. 

Now having stayed or toured four different resorts, I want to share with you my 10 tips for staying at an all-inclusive resort in Turkey:

1. Not all 5-star hotels are created equal. 

   Do your research. Ask your neighbors, friends, etc. In Turkey, you go on verbal recommendations. It is the best way to find the best resort anywhere. 

2. All-inclusive means food and drinks (plus the minibar). It does NOT mean all the services.

   Yeah, you are thinking, “of course, Catie, you should know that” but at the same time it’s hard to figure out what IS and IS NOT included on your ‘all’-inclusive pass. Yes, the mini bar in your room is included… no, room service is not. Yes, enjoy the sauna and Turkish bath…. but you must reserve your spot beforehand. 

But usually, there is a beautiful little tea time with, of course, tea, but also little treats to ‘tide you over’ until the dinner buffet.

Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort

3. Just to add to #2, you get all the alcohol you want. (***disclaimer, drink responsibly)

 Jason and I aren’t huge drinkers; we enjoy an occasional wine or beer. If you are a big drinker or just want to enjoy a cocktail any time of day without judgment because you can, this is your go-to place. Alcohol can be expensive in Turkey, so an all-inclusive stay is worth it depending on the amount of alcohol you wish to consume.  Although technically you could do that in your vacation, you just may not have all the ingredients to have a margarita one day and a martini the next.

4. All-inclusive does not mean secluded. 

   Yes, your resort may be on the beach and yes, the pictures may only show ten people enjoy a 1,300-meter pool. In reality, there are usually 100s of people at the same resort during the same time you are there. Fortunately, the resorts are well planned out and are good at creating space for guest to give the illusion of fewer people around. My advice? If you are not a fan of lots of people on your same vacation, a resort may not be for you.

Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orkas Resort

5. Check the kid programs. Not all kids program and activities are created equal.

   Depending on the ages of your kids and how much you actually want to see them, make sure to check out what the resort offers. Club Turban has childcare program most of the day and even night parties for kids such as Disco Night. Smaller resorts(like Marti resorts) provide shorter intervals of childcare – morning and afternoon 2-hour activities from ages 4 and up.  (P.S. – Maybe sure to check if ice cream is included!!!)

6. Heck. Check the general entertainment programs! 

   Lots of hotels provide movies, game rooms, and daily activities. Others provide dolphin shows and acrobatic/magic shows for all ages. Even better, the weekends usually mean there are themed dance parties for the guests!

7. Languages: But I don’t know Turkish!

   Who cares? About 90% of the guest don’t either. Most of the staff can communicate basic needs and requests in English (which I will say that other guests may also not know!).  Be brave, suck it up, and figure out how to communicate via charades, if necessary, what you need.

8. To Valet or not to Valet? 

   Out of the three hotels, only one of the hotels did valet service every time, and it’s generally because parking is so limited. I am not sure where we would even park, but thanks to them, we didn’t have to worry about it. We also did not tip them. GASSSSPPPP. Well one, they were so crazy busy that we hardly had time to say thank you before they were on to the next guest. Two, that is what they are paid to do.

Marmaris Turkey Marti Resort

9. Do I need to tip? 

   A tip is different in every country. In Turkey, it is only expected more in touristy places because other foreigners have come before continuing to tip like they were back home. It is usually not necessary to do so, but it never hurts to give the valet or bellman a 5 TL tip here and there. Generally, room service staff do not get paid as well and if you can leave a tip at the end of the week stay, it is much appreciated. However, I am never sure if it actually gets shared or given to the right people. I can almost guarantee this is a foreigner idea and not usually practiced by Turks. 

10. The laundry scheme. 

   Want to know what the most expensive thing is at the hotel? Laundry. At 4 Euros for pants and 2 Euros to clean a shirt, you are better off doing your laundry in town… or just bring enough clothes. Nope, laundry is NOT included. 

   Seriously, Jason and I try to pack light. We also pick apartment-style accommodations when we travel for the soul purpose of having a washing machine to use when we want. What can I say, I love some clean clothes. And so do you – even if you don’t like doing laundry. Our recent trip of one week was extended for three more days which is just long enough to push us over the edge of needed to wash clothes (think exercise, running, yucky clothes). So instead of using the resorts laundry service, I took a bag full of clothes to the local laundromat and paid for a load. One shirt and one pant cost the same as washing all my clothes in town. Not overly convenient? No, but I enjoyed an afternoon in town while saving some money on cleaning my clothes. If money is not an issue, just use the resort’s laundry service. 

BONUS: Bring your own snorkels and floaties! With our travel schedule, we didn’t think we would have time for it, but we definitely did! We regret not bringing our water stuff!

11. COVID-19 times:

Turkey has been one of the strictest when it comes to pre-cautions for preventing the spread of COVID-19. I should know – my family has now been until 9 consecutive weekend lockdowns. Our daughter is still only allowed out at certain times during the week…

As hotels have just started to reopen as of June 1, every establishment must undergo strict health and safety measures before reopening as well as continue to abide by government set rules. For example, each occupied room must go several days between occupants for thorough cleaning and airing out. Please consult your hotel of choice to see what rules must be followed, and/or check the hotel website for information (some hotels are still working on posting this information).

So those were my 10 tips for staying at an all-inclusive hotel in Turkey.  

Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orkas Resort

Final thoughts, is it worth it? 

– If staying at an all-inclusive place for a week is on your bucket list, there is no better place to consider than Turkey. The prices here beat any other tropical area resort, and the staff is extremely warm and friendly.

– If you are an expat living in Turkey, a resort will give you the feel of traveling to a foreign country without having to pay to leave Turkey. Score for not having to take a plane to feel like you left the country.

– If you are a large family with active kids that love being outdoors wanting to enjoy an easy vacation on a budget, resorts are perfect for you because there is something for every member. 

Are you an all-inclusive resort-type traveler?

What tips can you add?

Let me know why YOU love spending your vacation here. 

TasteslikeTurkey NiaMcRay Izmir Turkey Çay Tea Time

CULTURE: Tea Time in Turkey

When I lean out on my balcony and listen to the sounds of Izmir, they are abundant.

I hear the stray dogs in the park outside my apartment barking, chasing cars. I hear the call to prayer, echoing across the valley, the melodies bouncing between the mountains. I hear the breeze off the sea, rustling leaves. I hear the sound of children playing, of car horns, of stray cats screeching.

Above it all, a light tinkling sound, like a windchime. Like the uncontrollable laughter of fairies, or the ringing of a distant silver bell comes the sound I’ve come to love the most: the sound of çay [pronounced the same as “chai”] spoons clinking against the glass as people stir the sugar into their tea. It is the school bell for life lessons, the gong for heated debates, the signal that work has paused, and the doorbell for the gateway to new relationships to be opened.

TasteslikeTurkey NiaMcRay Izmir Turkey Çay Tea Time

Çay and Hospitality Culture in Turkey

Hoş geldiniz! In Turkish, that’s “You have arrived pleasantly” or simply, “Welcome!” As a westerner living in Turkey, the most impactful difference in culture for me has been the idea of hospitality, which can start with this simple phrase. In the States, someone is hospitable if they invite you over and offer you something to eat or drink, or if they bring you a meal when you are going through a rough time.

The idea of hospitality runs much deeper in Turkey. It is an attitude about time that is driven from a heart bent toward hospitality. Hospitality doesn’t have to be something meticulously planned out (although it certainly can be!). Rather, a posture of hospitality is one open to connecting with people in meaningful ways, allowing one’s schedule to be interrupted for the sake of the person in front of you.

TasteslikeTurkey NiaMcRay Izmir Turkey Çay Tea Time

Few things exemplify this as much as çay zamanı, or tea time, in Turkey.

Tea is quite possibly the easiest thing to find in Turkey. Here in Izmir, as you walk along the seaside, tea sellers call out loudly, letting you know you can stop them and get a hot cup. Every restaurant, every café has it. It is a must-have when picnicking or grilling out with friends and family. Everyone drinks a few glasses at breakfast, and it’s almost as important as a smoke break during work. It is a staple in the home. In fact, Turks drink more tea per capita than any other country in the world. Yes, an average Turk drinks more tea than the Chinese, British, or Irish by far.

On average one person will drink the tea from nearly 7 pounds of tea leaves each year! I have heard from several people here: “Oh, yes. I drink up to 20 cups of çay each day.” Of course, not everyone drinks twenty glasses each day, but it is such a plentiful drink here, it is easy to see how one could easily do so.

Çay is one of the drinks of hospitality in Turkey. If you are invited to someone’s home, expect to be offered çay. If you finish your meal at a restaurant, a complimentary glass of çay will be brought to everyone at your table so that your conversation can continue.  If you stop by a shop and start up a conversation with the shopkeeper, he will offer you to sit wherever may be possible in the cramped space, and bring you an hourglass-shaped cup of çay on an ornate saucer with a tiny spoon and one or two sugar cubes alongside it. In fact, I haven’t entered a rug shop where I was not offered a glass of the deep red drink as the owner pulled out rug after rug of various designs, reading my eyes to narrow down his display to designs I gravitated towards.

This is how Turkish society runs: fueled by tea. Even though it is highly caffeinated, the calming effects of tea make this drink, and the culture it inhabits, a “slow down, have a sip, stay a while” atmosphere. When you are offered a cup of çay, you are invited to slow your busyness and truly be with those around you.

Over a strong and flavorful glassful, you may find yourself sharing stories from your childhood before you’ve exchanged names with your fellow drinker. There is something beautiful and deeply human about sharing a moment in which a stranger becomes an acquaintance – or even a friend. Most of the experiences I’ve had like that in Turkey have been over a glass of çay. It’s actually the most-drunk beverage in the country, besides water. And though this is a common experience today, this wasn’t always the case.

History of Tea in Turkey

Of course, as Turkey has been the connector between east and west for most of history, located in the most crucial area of the silk road, tea has been moving through Turkey for over two millennia. Surprisingly, however, tea did not become a part of everyday Turkish life until the early twentieth century when the government made efforts to grow the crop in northern Turkey where tea production now booms.

Rize, one of the three major tea-producing cities of Turkey that borders the Black Sea, is home to 60% of tea production in the country, which supplies about 260,000 tons of that lovely leaf per year. Due to the demand for tea domestically, very little is exported, despite Turkey being the fifth largest producer of tea world-wide. So, if you are looking for some of that famous Rize çay, it may be hard to find outside of the country.

If you do find some, however, you’ll want to brew it right.

How Turkish Tea is Brewed:

One of the most unique things about Turkish tea compared to its counterpart in other countries is the way it is brewed. Firstly, it is brewed in a double-boiler kettle called a çaydamlık. The bottom kettle is filled with water, and the smaller, top kettle is filled with the dry black tea leaves. As the water in the bottom kettle boils, it slowly roasts the tea leaves, and you can smell the rich flavor. Once the water has boiled, water from the bottom kettle is added to the tea leaves to steep while the bottom kettle continues to boil. This creates a dark tea concentrate in the top kettle.

TasteslikeTurkey NiaMcRay Izmir Turkey Çay Tea Time

When my Turkish tutor taught me how to correctly brew tea, I got the sense that she deemed this one of the more important cultural lessons she would give me. Indeed, it has become a useful skill to have. I have found that there is never a wrong time or season to make a çaydamlık full of çay and be ready to invite someone to have several glasses with you.

The çay is then served in an hourglass-shaped cup that is reminiscent of the Ottoman tulip. Traditionally the çay concentrate is poured to the top of the “hips” of the glass, or even to the middle of the “waist” of the glass (depending on how strong you want your tea). The rest of the glass is filled with boiling water. Even diluted by the water, the tea is pretty strong. As these traditional glasses have no handle, one of the skills that must be acquired quickly by the Westerner in Turkey is the ability to hold a hot glass filled with freshly steeped tea by the rim and sip from it.

TasteslikeTurkey NiaMcRay Izmir Turkey Çay Tea Time

There is a variety of ways to take one’s çay: light-colored, medium, or very dark (also called rabbit’s blood for the dark red color), with or without sugar (stirred into your tea with those dainty spoons, or, like some older folks like to do, stuck between your front teeth or in your cheek), even sometimes with lemon, but never with milk.

However you take your çay, remember to take the moment to slow down, enjoy someone else’s company, and have a few glasses. For, as the Turkish adage goes, “conversations without tea are like a night sky without the moon.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination. 

In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live. 

Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.

2019-Review-2019.FollowingtheFunks-Review.Turkey

REVIEW: 2019 – Adoption, Rebranding, + Visitors

What better way to get back into the game. I said this last February(2018) when I finally published our 2018 Review. I am breaking my ‘how late can a year review be recorded’ by publishing this 2019 Review halfway through March *cough* April!

Jason and I forwent one of our favorite traditions of grabbing sushi and go through my list of year-end questions. Instead, we celebrated with our friends at their new home across the bay. It was a fun night of good food and some game-playing, topped off with entering the new year while on our drive back into Izmir.

FIRST OFF: ADOPTION

2018 was ‘technically’ the year we became parents. In 2019, custody of our daughter was legalized. Our private adoption will be finalized in 2020. 2019 started in weariness, uncertainty, and trusting the Lord for His plan; it finished with a celebrating with certainty that we have a beautiful 1-year-old daughter, Sofia Marie.  Due to our adoption here, we will be around for another 2 years in Turkey to complete the necessary paperwork.

If you are just joining in … you can find our adoption information here: Announced our adoption plans! (Adoption video #1 on our YouTube channel, but you can view the adoption playlist here.) Decided we had to move to America for said adoption plans….Then decided not to move to America because of an unexpected but exciting private adoption opportunity that came up here in Turkey!

SECOND: REBRANDING

Due to our adoption, we have placed almost all travels outside of Turkey on hold until all of this adoption stuff is complete and for 2019, we stuck close to Izmir. We SAID we were going to share these travels but it just hasn’t been practical right. There are so many parts of our lives that just don’t revolve around travel even though we are ex-pats! Also, because our status in Izmir is a temporary one, I hope this website will eventually be more all-encompassing of our lives as the Funk family – balancing life, work, expat living, mini-travels, and parenthood.

Hence the change of name from FunkTravels to FollowingtheFunks! We hope you will stick around longer than what Izmir, Turkey has to hold for us. (Don’t worry, we are still here for another couple of years!)

THIRD: VISITORS

One of the BEST parts of 2019 was all the visitors we had. While Jason and I would love to think it was due to us, we know it is because of an adorable little baby. Several friends came down from Izmir or ‘popped by’ for a night on their way somewhere. Thank you all for coming to see us!

 

Finally, here is our recap of 2019:

?My parents stayed for 10 weeks with us here in Turkey and saw Sofia grow from 6 weeks to 16 weeks! That is a lot of growing they got to be a part of! We took them around Izmir, down to Ephesus and up to Pergamon.

FollowingtheFunks-Review Ephesus Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Pergamon Turkey

?Spent a weekend showing my parents Pammukale, Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Sardis.

FollowingtheFunks-Review Pamukkale Izmir Turkey

?February we said goodbye to Catie’s parents and started ‘solo’ parenting again. 

?In March, we celebrated year 5 of marriage in Kusadasi with our sweet Sofia. We took her to the beach for the first time. 

FollowingtheFunks-Review Anniversary Izmir Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Izmir Turkey

?In April we took Sofia for her first major roadtrip to Istanbul to meet some of our old friends there. We also had the honor of hosting the Keil family in Turkey!

FollowingtheFunks-Review Istanbul Tulips Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Izmir Turkey

?In May, our friends, the Bradley family, came to visit for a few days.

FollowingtheFunks-Review Ephesus Turkey

?Also in May, we celebrated adding twins to our nephew and nieces clan and another nephew joined in October!

?But most importantly, we finally received legal custody for our adoption of Sofia and we announced her to everyone! We felt like we could start to breathe normally and relax more.

?At the beginning of June, our friends the Rowells (our South East Asia traveling buddy) came for a week and we literally rented a house in Bodrum for a week and did nothing. It was AWESOME. And we spent a weekend in Alacati with the Cruz family. The flowers were in full bloom!

FollowingtheFunks-Review Bodrum Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Bodrum Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Alacati Turkey

 

?June brought some sad news that one of Catie’s friend(definitely considered family) passed awake. She went to the states for a dear friend’s funeral while Jason was a rockstar at solo parenting. She also got to see the twins!

FollowingtheFunks-Review

?A few weeks in the summer we passed it like a true Izmirlian with some friends at a summer house. Sofia took her first trip out to sea.

FollowingtheFunks-Review Izmir Turkey

?Sofia’s also had her first major sickness which left us taking her to the hospital for a fever.

?In September, we finished our 3rd year living in Turkey. Sofia went to her first Turkish wedding.

FollowingtheFunks-Review Turkish Wedding Turkey

?At the end of October, Jason’s parents, Wanda and DeWayne came to visit! We took them to Ephesus and Pamukkale!

FollowingtheFunks-Review Izmir Turkey

FollowingtheFunks-Review Pamukkale Izmir Turkey

?November – Sofia turned one!

FollowingtheFunks-Review Sofia First Birthday Izmir Turkey

?Again Catie left Jason for a wedding of one of her bestie’s in the states. (Don’t worry Jason has just made a trip to the states!)

FollowingtheFunks-Review

?In December, after a lonnnngggg 5+ years, Catie got to snow ski once again in Uludağ. Our family spent a few days together enjoying a cozy ski lodge friends and lots of snow!

FollowingtheFunks-Review Uludag Skiing Turkey

Some other random thoughts:

If you are wondering:  We still think our car is the best purchase of 2018…. about all the modes of transportation we used in Izmir, and then (finally) bought a car at the end of the year in 2018! (Maybe we should do a video about it and allllll the things that comes with owning a car in Turkey one day…)

If you haven’t had a chance, you can still read about things to do IN IZMIR and day trips from here.

Several words come to mind as we think back to our year: parenting, hurdling over all the legal hoops, hardship, but so much more joy. It is fair to say that our lives have now been rotated to revolve around Sofia! But now that she is a year old, we feel there is some ease that is coming back into our independence.

WRAPPING IT ALL UP:

When we started this expat journey, we committed to 3 years of overseas life. As we enter our 4th year living in Turkey, we can’t wait to see what God does next. He has been so good to show us how great of a community we have here in Izmir especially in this season of change and unexpected blessings.

2019 finished out in a blur and all of a sudden it’s April 2020 (even though I started this post a month ago!). While we have not been overly present here on social media in the last few months, it does not mean that we’ve been lazy! We have so many good things to share as we are finally adjusting to the work/parent life balance.

THANK YOU for sitting around when our posts have lulled and being part of our 2019.

Jason + Catie + Sofia