Wherever you go there are copious glass cups of golden tea, mostly sweetened with crisp, white sugar cubes. Men sit in their shops, at cafe tables or lounge on walls sipping these warming glasses of chay. An alternative to chay is Turkish coffee, ground fine and boiled (with or without sugar and musky shards of gum mastic) in copper jugs on stove tops across the country, and then served in delicate espresso-sized demi cups. It is the most amazing energy hit you will ever come across. And just now I am thinking rather longingly of a fragrant cup of this viscous drink, because my head feels like it's full of cotton wool and candy floss.
In addition to tea and coffee, Turks also have a huge variety of sweet dishes that make perfect accompaniments to their warming beverages. Number one has to be the delicately flavoured Turkish delight, morsels of jelly shrouded in powdered sugar and studded with hazelnuts, pistachios or almonds. These come in piles of cubes, long tubes or huge cones, and have as many flavours as you could possibly imagine. My favourites include pomegranate & pistachio, and rose water with hazelnuts. The carrot and apricot rolled in shaved coconut also ain't bad.
Next stop on the sugar hit express has to be baklava - a sweet symphony of crispy filo pastry, crushed nuts and silky rose-water flavoured syrups. Some are diamond shaped, some come in cigar rolls, others look like bird's nests with pistachios nestling in their crunchy centres. All are delicious.
My next favourite treat, were the most amazing honey donuts I have ever eaten. I discovered them while eating a wharf-side local version of a fish burger by the harbour in Istanbul. I am not even sure what these are called, but they are absolutely delicious. They have the consistency of crisp churros, soaked in honey syrup and served with crushed pistachios sprinkled over the top. They are the perfect ending to the fried fish sandwich doused in tart lemon juice and salt.
I also got to try a rather more authentic version of my Turkish rice pudding - I think I got the flavours right, just need to refridgerate it a little more before I serve it in future.
And just one last footnote... pomegranate juice, crushed in an old fashioned orange juicer. A stunning colour, with a tartness that is the ideal method clearing the sweetness from your palate when you finish your baklava, Turkish delight or rice pudding. Highly recommended.