I had been hearing for some time from friends about this interesting place next to the Demirtaşpaşa metro station in downtown Bursa that serves an excellent, uniquely blended Osmanlı çayı, or Ottoman-style tea. I just had to try it, they told me. They assured me that it’s not only great-tasting, but it’s also good for the body and warms a person up on a cold day. Convinced of its merits, I joined my friends one cold, rainy afternoon to try a cup or two of this popular tea at the centuries-old Ördekli Culture Center.
Ördekli Culture Center dates back to the 14th century when it was built as a public bathhouse. After many years in dilapidation, Ördekli was reopened in 2008 as a beautiful neighborhood culture center that now features exhibition galleries, meeting rooms, a conference hall, and, of course, a tea room. With stone walls, arched doors, high domes, a marble fountain, and antique décor, Ördekli is an inviting place to relax for a few moments and get away from the hustle and bustle of the modern city.
Legend has it that the recipe for the tea served at Ördekli dates back to at least the mid-17th century. Whether that is true or not, Ördekli’s herb and fruit concoction is delightful. When we asked the waiter to tell us what is in the fragrant tea, he quickly disappeared into the next room and returned with a lengthy list of ten ingredients: ginger, hibiscus, linden, clove, lemon, orange, cinnamon, apple, thyme, honey, and an ingredient I had never heard of before called galangal, a root in the ginger family.
While Ördekli’s tea recipe isn’t a secret, it is, apparently, hard to replicate. As I was passing through the village bazaar a few days ago, I stopped at a spice shop in search of an Ottoman tea mix that I could make at home and sip in the comfort of my living room. The baharatçı sold me a blend containing a variety of roots, spices, and dried fruits, and I headed home with the hopes of bringing a taste of Ördekli to my kitchen. While my home-brewed tea was certainly well-flavored, it couldn’t compare to the excellent drink served at Ördekli.
I’m glad my friends introduced me to the Ördekli Culture Center. Not only does it offer a fantastic atmosphere for a little quiet conversation or contemplation, it serves some of the best tea I’ve tasted. When you’re in Bursa, be sure to visit Ördekli and ask for a cup of Osmanlı çayı. You’ll be glad you did.