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  • Writer's pictureJocette Lee

Sipping My Way Through a Year in Turkey

As the year progresses, there are many seasonal and cultural cues that indicate the change of time. Warm sweaters, beach trips, pumpkin cookies, and watermelon all have the ability to encapsulate the spirit of the season. In my time living abroad in Turkey, the indicators of seasonal change are a little different than America. While there may not be snow in Izmir or St. Patrick’s Day parades in Turkey, I find that there are other distinct ways to see the year passing - just look in your cup!

For the past few years, the Turkish beverages I consume have been a way to indulge in the spirit of the season. The following four beverages guide me through the year and have become new indicators of seasonal change during my ex-pat life in Turkey.

Winter: Salep

The first time I had a cup of salep was while riding the ferry from Besiktas to Kadikoy on a cold winters day in Istanbul. Served in a paper cup with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon, this drink immediately screamed holiday cheer to me. I have always been an adoring fan of eggnog so upon my first sip of salep, I was hooked. Salep is made of ground orchid tubers which are then mixed with milk and spices. While the ingredient of ground orchid tuber may be hard to imagine, think about it as a "cross between hot chocolate and rice pudding" but without cocoa. For me, it is the perfect way to welcome the cold months and keep your hand warm at the same time.

Spring: Sade Soda

There is nothing quite like crisp and cold carbonated mineral water to refresh and brighten the palate. In Turkey, sodas are often served in little green glass bottles that require a bottle opener to enjoy. They can be flavored with watermelon, lemon, apple, and more but I prefer sade, which means "plain" in Turkish. We buy these sodas by the crateloads and load our fridge to get them as cold as possible. In the Spring, it seems like a lot of our energy goes towards making sure the sodas are stocked. Much like the craze over LaCroix in America, we love our sade soda brands, especially Sarıkiz.

Summer: Ayran

For those of you unfamiliar with ayran (pronounced “eye-ron”), you might be surprised to hear it referred to as delicious and refreshing but stick with me. Ayran is made of Turkish yogurt, water and salt - sometimes basil or mint are added. The ingredients are mixed and frothed to perfection and served alongside many Turkish food staples such as lahmacun, pide or dürüm. Most kids grow up with ayran at lunch much like Americans are accustomed to milk cartons in their lunchbox. A cold glass of ayran is synonymous with summer and it is believed that "ayran is packed with electrolytes and is useful against dehydration...ayran is a quick and easy way to refill your body’s depleted stores of nutrients and minerals. If you find yourself walking all day in the summer heat and have perspired profusely, consider drinking a glass" (1).

Fall: Çay

While Turkish black tea (çay) is served all year long, I most enjoy drinking it in the Fall. Sitting outside in the warmth of the sun with a light sweater and slowly sipping Turkish tea is magical. The importance of çay socially, culturally and economically in Turkish society is hard to fully communicate (but I tried here). Turkish çay brings people together, makes people sit down, gives people a reason to rest and builds community. What a mighty and meaningful tulip-shaped glass cup of tea.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Interested in learning more about my ex-pat life in Turkey or Turkish Cuisine? Please continue to explore my blog and don't forget to subscribe to the blog!

Photography by Madly Photography


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