Tuesday, 13 July 2010

samovar sipping

Tonight, I'm not talking about specific tea, because I can't. I don't have any idea what it was. Except that it was black tea and thick as oil.

There are some Turkish Döner stands that are not attractive, and on the other end of the spectrum there are very nice restaurants that serve upscale Turkish cuisine. But in the middle there are simple restaurants where the food is home-made and the kitchen is clean. These sorts of places in the middle are one I really like to eat in. You might know the Gyros-like sandwich as a Kebab (I've also seen Kebap), but whatever you call it, it's a very simple meal.

The best shops in Berlin look a bit shabby but the food is delicious. The most basic part of the sandwich is the meat that's shaved off a big slab that's spinning around in circles on a vertical spit. The guy cuts open the bread, lays a heap of shaved meat inside the bread, and here comes the best part: a bit of lettuce, cabbage (both white and red), onions, one or two slices of tomato, a yoghurt sauce and ground spicy pepper to taste. Some people only go for such a sandwich after, or in the midst of, a night of hard drinking, but I enjoy it as a quick filling meal.

Maybe I've lost whatever credentials I may or may not have had as a foodie by admitting I like Döner, but now it's out there. No turning back now.

After I took the empty plates back in the shop, I noticed a Samovar in the corner. For the regulars I thought. Well, aren't I a regular? Not only do I love Döner, but if the done thing after eating here is to have a cup of tea from the samovar, then shouldn't I take part? I certainly should. And I did. I asked politely first, and he seemed both amused and curious that I'd even want a cup.

So now I was into it. If I poured too much of the sludgy tea liquor from the little teapot cooking on top, I couldn't exactly spit it out and start over. If I didn't pour enough, the tea would be weak. What's the point of that?

So I went with about a third of the little cup filled with the tea essence. Then I filled the rest of the cup with the near-boiling water from the huge pot underneath. Still not sure I'd made the right choice as to the sludge to water ratio, I put a healthy amount of sugar in my cup and went back to the table outside.

There's no handle on these little cups, so I already knew the tea was very hot. I waited, took a very timid sip, and was pleasantly surprised by the thick, dark, sweet tea. This was the perfect way to chase down my spicy dinner. The last gold of the sun lit up the tops of the buildings as I slurped and contemplated my day.

I don't think I'm going to trade in my green tea or Oolong that I normally drink after my evening meal for muddy, strong black tea. But the next time I'm eating at any Turkish place, I assure you I'll scowl the corners of the room for their tea Samovar. I'd highly recommend you do the same.


  1. Tea seems adventurous to me now. So much for my thoughts about it being bland. Yet, not sure I would slug from the Samovar. You're a brave soul.

  2. Why is everything from Turkey so tar-like.
    The tea from the samovar is akin to the thickness of crude oil, and the turkish coffee is the same.
    I suppose that is why they sweeten everything to no end!
    I would love to try some true turkish samovar tea sometime! A trip to Europe is on my list of future endeavors!