Spot The Woman In A Turkish Tea House

There is a Turkish tea house in every town, city and village. It is part of all the establishments that go into making up a community. However  it is important not to confuse a Turkish tea house, with a tea garden, but how do you spot the difference?

Well, a Turkish tea house has no women in it. It is a male dominated environment that has been around for centuries .  Many years ago, I made the mistake of thinking that the unwritten rule of men only, would be relaxed on special occasions. I quickly learned different.

Venturing into a Male Dominated Turkish Tea House

My friend Samantha and I, decided that we would like to show support to a male Turkish friend of ours, that had just opened a tea house. His name was Murat and while we thought the tea shop was a stupid idea, he wanted to go ahead with it. Our protests of how much profit you can  earn selling 20p cups of tea all day, fell on deaf ears.

On that morning, we pulled up on the scooter outside the shop,  having taken great care to ensure our clothing did not reveal too much. On pushing open the entrance door, the noise cut out like someone had just turned the television off.

Imagine  15 tables of old Turkish men, all starring in our direction. My heart started beating fast, as I suddenly realized that visiting a Turkish tea house was not such a great idea after all. I was relieved when I saw our friend, Murat come out of a back room, but it was obvious from his face, the relief was not mutual. .

turkish tea house

Murat  hurried us through, to a room at the back of the shop, while frantically  shaking his head and apologizing to every single man that was sat, with a face like they had just swallowed a fly.

We entered the back room, Murat shut the door and breathed for the first time since he had seen us at the door. Beads of sweat were running down his forehead and he managed to croak the quiet words of “what are you doing here?”

Cut a long story short, we got served two cups of tea, had to sit in the back room and then were frantically hurried out of the tea shop like we had the plague. I will think twice before I try to enter a tea house again, however now I can look back and laugh about the stupid ideas that used to come into my head.

Ok, western women who are not well traveled, may now  be screaming that this is the height of sexism. You could probably call it that,  as there is no good reason why women should not go in a tea shop. This is however  a different culture and the Turkish Tea house tradition has been around for years.

Am I bothered that I can not enter a Turkish tea house? No not at all,  there are other places like a Turkish tea garden or a cafe,  where I can sit down and drink tea. Leave the Turkish men to drink their tea and chat all day. It is their life, their tradition and their culture.  I don’t want to change it, I want to embrace it.

turkish tea house

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Hi. I'm Natalie, a freelance travel blogger and writer specializing in the country of Turkey. I love hot summer days, historical sites and coffee.

24 Responses

  1. Nat

    Find a tea garden instead. More relaxing and less testosterone flying around! 😉

  2. Mayari

    Thank you Natalie,
    I plan to visit Turkish traditional tea house in my itinerary. Now, I put a red big cross on it :))

  3. Catherine

    I live in Turkey and this made my laugh eheh

  4. Victoria SImmons

    I look at it this way: in my own culture (America) women go to spas and such, where they may hang out for hours, drink coffee, and socialize with one another while pampering their own bodies. (I’m not the spa type myself, mind you, but I know those who are.) I don’t think men would be very welcome in such environments, except as a joke. Granted it isn’t an all-day, everyday thing, but I don’t think it’s bad for men to have all-male tea houses. I just think it would be nice for women to have all-female tea houses. But then, of course, their moments of respite would be a little more visible and official, and I’m sure the men wouldn’t like that!

  5. In that case, he deserves his outings to the tea shop. If that was my FIL, I would be round there straight away for the fresh cherries!

    Sure, I will check out your new feature. We are in the same FB group now so will keep an eye out for it.

  6. Hi Natalie,

    Yes, I think some Turkish men might waste too much time at the tea house. But I know my own FIL works like crazy in his garden and orchard, clambering up trees to gather cherries, harvesting hazelnuts, etc. So I can see why this tea house is a nice relaxing place for him. Thanks for the compliments on my blog. I’m launching a new feature soon – hope you’ll stop by to check it out.

  7. I used to view it exactly the same way Justine, although my father in law only occasionally goes to the tea shop. It was not until the MIL explained it to me that I realised it was a blessing for most women. Still think some of them spend too much time in them though. BTW – love your blog. good articles

  8. I so enjoyed this post, Natalie. I must admit that as an American woman married to a Turk I still bristle at the whole men-only tea house phenomenon in Turkey. But I had an interesting experience this summer that left me a little clearer about the benefits of this institution. We were spending the summer at my in-laws in a little village in the Trabzon province. Every day my father-in-law would head off in the morning to town and me, my mother-in-law and my kids would be left at home. I remember thinking how unfair it was that dede got to hang out. But after a few weeks I noticed that my mother-in-law would take little breaks during the day. She’d walk up the path to visit a neighbor, or a woman friend would amble over to our garden and we’d all stop for kahve and to chat. That’s when I realized that not having dede around was sort of a blessing in disguise and that my mother-in-law and other women have their own daly respites.

  9. I read one of your articles in which you ended up being the only female. I think if you are there with your partner, it is not so bad as they do show respect to you but if I am on my own, I feel very daunted and out of my depth

  10. Annika

    Hey Natalie,
    guess what? I have learned okey in a tea house! I am travelling with a male and though we do not have a house to stay in and I do not have female friends to stay with, men “have to” take me too when inviting Roberto for a tea. The first time it was a very weird feeling, so I tried to avoid it, but it happened again and again and every time I stopped at the door blinking towards the men inside to guess their reaction and our host looks at me and makes me come in. Still – I try to avoit it. But it is sooooo hard sometimes to find other places to play Tavla and Okey!!! 🙂

  11. Hi Guest, once we went into the back room, they continued drinking and chatting. It is not hard to understand Turks, it just takes time to learn the culture and in those days I was more about having fun, then trying to adapt to the culture.

  12. guest

    Hello Natalie,
    As a Turkish boy, I asked to myself; why they did so? Why they didn’t continue drinking and chatting like you didn’t come there? If there is an unwritten law, why i cant describe in my head? Surely, it is so hard to understand Turks.

  13. Hi Lynne,

    I like the glasses but I find them so small – Need to keep refilling to get a decent cup of tea!

  14. LynnH

    Oh, the Turkish tea glass! I have one I bought after a trip to east Africa (Egypt/ Ethiopia/ Kenya). Drinking tea from it reminds me of Egypt, in particular.

    My glass has an “evil eye” protector decoration on the side of it, and matching saucer.

    I knit Turkish-style socks in the US, have several pairs knit by hand in Turkey thanks to some extra-ordinary people. This summer I taught at a socknitting conference, a bit about a few Turkish sock features.

    Someday I’ll live in another country. Right now I’m in the US. I’ve lived within just over an hour’s drive from here since I was 4, about 1962. I’ve traveled some… as much as I’ve been able to afford. However, at least a few months somewhere else would make my largest life goal complete.

    We’re at least discussing possible places and times. It could happen. I’m planning for it, just not this year.

  15. Hi Mrs Ogur, I am so glad you like my blog. Made me laugh about your knitting patterns!! It is amazing how they manage to do it from memory. This custom is great as it also builds up the community as well.

  16. Mrs Ogur

    I love your blog. My friends could never understand why I was happy for my husband to go to his “kahve” All his pals was there, they would drink cay, coffee or water, maybe eat tost. All smoking. I would sit in the cay garden with my friends drinking cay and eating gozleme with Turkish ladies, showing me their remarkable knitting while I did my own from a paper pattern 🙁

    I did see my hubby in his kahve or sitting outside playing Okay or tavla and if I needed him he would come to me. I loved and enveloped this custom and would never want it to change.

  17. Hi Sarah, Only the first picture is mine I am afraid. I would love the other two to be. Like you say as well, there is the tea garden where women can go. However I am strongly addicted to caffeine!!

  18. sarah wu

    This is a really interesting experience, at least you got few quick snapshot before you were hurried out. It does shows that how important men were back in the old days. Or else this rule wouldn’t be carrying out. Good thing you can still have great tea from cafe or tea garden. 🙂 Tea looks so good, oh btw I’m a tea person too.

  19. Hi Heather, Thanks for visiting my blog. I had great fun reading your blog. Looking forward to more of your posts.

  20. Great story! I felt like I was there. A similar thing happened to me once when I visited a male-dominated Moroccan hookah bar. The only women there were likely to have been prostitutes, and it was quite the uncomfortable situation for everyone. I definitely didn’t mind avoiding those type of establishments in the future.

  21. Hi Youngturk. It is a weird set up, now you mention it. Their wives are also probably happy for them to be out of the house all day. At least they are not getting drunk!

  22. youngturk

    hahahaha:):)i have just imagined the situation and it must be really funny:)i mean its not rude or not a big problem but its weird.’kahvehane’ or ‘k?raathane’ is a very traditional place where generally elder(retired) men spend their times,play games,chats and share their problems and maybe relax because u know its better than staying all day at home with their wifes.they also usually all know each other.

  23. Hi Sam,

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I must admit, I do prefer Turkey to the Uk.

    I agree, about pictures. As they say, one picture speaks a thousand words. I will try to include more in my next blog posts.

  24. Sam

    Your so lucky to be in such a amazing place exploring these exotic places! Here in the UK im looking outside my window its the usual rain and gloom 🙁

    Very nice post, but i wish there was more pictures so i can imagine myself being there 🙂