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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Geopolitics of Coffee and tea

One of my favourite blogs is the It’s About time one – which sends me on a daily basis marvellous pictures of old paintings generally on a theme such as the ruffles which adorn the necks of aristocratic figures or the preparation of foods in medieval times – eg here and here
Some amazingly modern faces and styles are in evidence
I hadn’t realised that the famous Vienna coffee shops came from a some coffee beans being found in the fields outside Vienna in the aftermath of the Ottoman siege of Vienna in the 17th Century. Curious that the main thing which impacted me on my first visit to Istanbul some 25 years ago was their teas! In powder form and carried on trays around the bazzars and served as you looked at carpets.
My 3 years of ceremonially receiving and serving teas in small, beautiful bowls and teapots in Uzbekistan 1999-2002 almost killed the coffee habit in me. The coffees of Sofia dragged me back to the dangerous weed – but, at least, Sofia hedges its bets by having so many small shops which seel both coffee beans and Chinese teas!
I wanted to get an explanation for this apparent decline in Turkish tea-drinking but Google seemed strangely hooked on either the Tea Party or the Greg Mortensen saga (Three Cups of Tea). Wikipedia tells me that
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 the First World War. Upon the loss of southeastern territories after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, coffee became an expensive import. At the urging of the founder of the republic, Atatürk, Turks turned more to tea as it was easily sustainable by domestic sources
A Greek site tells me that tea there was expensive and, on independence from the Ottomans, was considered an upper-class habit. Another site told me of the Ottoman (red) tea spoken about by travellers and still apparently available in places such as Bursa - with 10 different natural ingredients - ginger, havlıcan (a plant in the ginger family), hibiscus, linden, cloves, lemon, orange, cinnamon, apple and thyme.

And I found this superb tea and carpets site which reminded me of the carpet-buying days in central asia and Turkey which preceded my current passion for painting.

Finally some lovely miniatures from the website with which I started

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