Turkish Tobacco-Smoking

Last Updated on May 2, 2019

Who hasn’t heard of Turkish tobacco? It’s surprising:

— Tobacco (tütün) is not native to Turkey, but to North America. Tobacco was imported to the Ottoman Empire to be cultivated.

— Most Turkish tobacco is mild and aromatic, not strong.In fact, it’s so mild that a cigarette of 100% Turkish tobacco would not have a full, satisfying flavor. It would taste too weak, too thin; but it would be naturally low in nicotine and carcinogenic substances. (The exception is tumbak or tömbeki, the dark, strong high-nicotine tobacco grown near Konya and Antakya for use in nargiles—water pipes.)

— The finest Turkish tobacco was not grown in Turkey proper. It’s the prized Yenice (YEH-nee-jeh) leaf developed in Macedonia (although Yenice leaf is now raised in Turkey along the Black Sea coast.) Mild Turkish tobacco is blended with stronger, fuller Virginia and Burley tobaccos to make a full-flavored, satisfying smoke.

— Manufactured cigarettes (sigara) sold in pack(et)s are a 19th-century invention. Before the development of the cigarette-manufacturing machine, smokers rolled their own or, more commonly in Ottoman lands, smoked tobacco in long-shafted pipes called çibuk (chee-BOOK) or çubuk (choo-BOOK, “stick”).

— The nargile (hookah, hubble-bubble or water pipe) is currently enjoying a renaissance of interest in Turkey. (See the nargile page.)

— Tobacco is still an important export crop in Turkey.It’s grown along the Aegean coast near Izmir and Ephesus, and along the Black Sea coast between Sinop and Samsun.

— Cigarette smoking is a passion among many Turks, a few of whom ignore the No Smoking signs (Sigara Içilmez) in public buildings such as airports, railroad stations and theaters. However, most transport, including airplanestrains(except for the smoking cars) and intercity buses are smoke-free.

— Few Turks smoke cigars, and Western-style pipes are an artsy affectation in Turkey. Briar pipes are rare, and even the beautifully-carved meerschaum pipes from Eskisehir sold in most souvenir shops are rarely smoked by Turks. Meerschaum pipes are for selling to tourists who prize meerschaum pipes.

The Nargile (Water Pipe)

Turkish Coffee

Turkish Tea

Turkish Delight

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Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Tea, by Tom Brosnahan

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