It’s a well-known fact that Turkish culture revolves around tea. Turks drink it for breakfast (coffee is for after breakfast if you are a Turk). They drink it after meals. They drink it between meals, at bus stations, while waiting in line at the electric company setting up their utility service (yup, even there). In short, you are never more than four steps away from Turkish tea.
Now I like tea, but I don’t love it. And when I drink tea, Turkish tea is not my favorite. This is blasphemy in Turkey, so please don’t spread it around. But I long ago stopped worrying about fitting in or breaking rules, so I tend to turn down tea when it’s offered. I prefer to use my daily caffeine quota on really good coffee.
Sometimes you have to drink the tea.
When that nice shopkeeper you rush past every day, the one who greets you with a cheerful “hello” or “happy holidays!”, who picked you up when you tripped over the uneven sidewalk and went flying through the air--when he offers you tea for the 100th time, you have to drink the tea.
Or the nice waiter, who waits on you every day, greets you by name, remembers not only your favorite meal but also which drink you order with which entree--when he brings you tea, you drink the tea. Even if it’s going to make you a little bit late getting back to the office.
Because it’s not about the tea. It's about slowing down and having a chat. Getting to know the people you’re surrounded by daily or catching up with friends. Offering hospitality. Drinking tea is a social activity.
So this holiday season, remember: it’s not about the perfectly cooked turkey, the goose, or the perfect holiday centerpiece. In fact, isn’t it the holiday disasters we remember best? In my family an especially fond memory is of the time the turkey was stuck in the pan and the energy needed to pry it loose caused it to fly across the kitchen splat into a wall. No one remembers how that turkey tasted that year.
It’s the slowing down and sharing of our lives that really matters. Even if it’s only for the time it takes to drink a tiny glass of tea.