Turkish Delight and a Cup of Tea in Istanbul

“She’s here!” he grinned. “Finally! We have been waiting for her.”

You’d think I was old friends with the man who welcomed me into the shop, but this was my first time to the city and my first time meeting him.

Sam and I had started out the day with the intention of visiting some of Istanbul’s main attractions – perhaps a little wandering through the Grand Bazaar or even a visit to the underground Basilica Cistern – however, as often happens in a new town, we were sidetracked by something colourful – in this case a window display brimming with trays full of Turkish delight!

Seeing as it was around tea time and this friendly man was eager to have us as his guests, we decided to step into the sugary haven that is Hafiz Mustafa for a little afternoon treat. Because when in Istanbul…

Turkish delight in Istanbul, Turkey

Inside the place was teeming with activity – old friends catching up over a cup of tea, young couples flirting across the table, and a growing queue of customers waiting to purchase their favourite sweets to take back home. We worked our way through the crowd and managed to find a small round table near the back.

Hafiz Mustafa, since 1864

I have to admit, prior to setting foot in Hafiz Mustafa, I was under the impression that there were only 2 varieties of Turkish delight: plain and with nuts. Well, I was proven wrong once our waiter handed us thick menus with every kind of Turkish delight you could possibly imagine.

The different flavours for plain Turkish delight included: rose, cinnamon, mint, strawberry, lemon, orange, kiwi, pomegranate and apple.

Strawberry flavoured Turkish delight

But that was just the beginning. You could also get what I would call ‘gourmet Turkish delight’ with fillings like hazelnut, walnuts, pistachios, pomegranate seeds and even coconut.

Dare I tempt you with more?

On top of that, they were serving halva, which is a dessert I recently tried in Israel. Halva is a sweet paste usually made from sesame seeds or other nut butters, and like all desserts, you can get the plain version or the one filled with chunks of chocolate, coffee, and hazelnuts.

And don’t get me started on the baklava, a sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with honey.

And if that wasn’t enough, there were cakes, puddings, candies, and dried fruits like figs and nectarines also on the menu.

Fancy gourmet Turkish delight in Istanbul, Turkey

When it came time to order, I opted for the pomegranate with chunks of pistachio and shredded coconut, while Sam went with the classic strawberry dusted in powder sugar. We figured that the smaller dishes starting at 5-7 TL would be a modest sampling size, but instead we got 2 platefuls. (I can’t even imagine what the bigger portions are like!) In retrospect we probably could have ordered just one plate to share and that would have been enough, but this way we ended up with some treats to take back home.

Turkish Tea served in a glass in Istanbul

As for the tea selection, that was another menu full of delightful options. We asked the waiter for his suggestions and ended up with a glass of Turkish tea and another of apple tea. Aromatic, full of spices, and perfect when paired with a sugary treat.

More sweets available at a Turkish delight shop in Istanbul

If you ever find yourself in Istanbul, make some time to pop into a Turkish delight shop! Not only is it a fun way to spend the afternoon, but your friends and family back home will also thank you when you bring back a box of treats as a souvenir.

Sam and Audrey having Turkish delight in Istanbul, Turkey

Now here is a little video of our afternoon outing with plenty of friendly banter and singing from our waiter that day:

 

Have you tried Turkish delight? What’s your favourite kind?

27 Comments

  • I have yet to have a positive Turkish delight experience…. My only real exposure to them was when I lived in England and volunteered at a school. At Christmastime, the presents from parents included boxes and boxes of chocolates and Turkish delights. I hate to say it, but they just tasted soapy to me, and I haven’t tried them since. Maybe I need this “when in Turkey” experience.

    • Audrey says:

      Eek! It definitely shouldn’t taste soapy. I find that the ones with nuts aren’t as sweet, so maybe the plain ones might be a better kind to try.

  • Lemon is the yummiest flavour I’ve tried. 😀

    • Audrey says:

      Ooo, I’ll have to sample the lemon one next time. I assumed it would be bitter so I stayed away from that flavour.

  • Sam says:

    GAH! That all looks so good! I think my favourite is the rose flavour, but then I haven’t had any such all-emcompassing Turkish delight experience as this. That must soon be remedied.

    • Audrey says:

      I’m curious as to what the rose flavour would taste like. I can’t say I’ve ever tried eating rose petals before…

  • Karisa says:

    Your photos are so gorgeous! I’ve never tried Turkish Delight but I’ve wanted to ever since I first read The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. 🙂 It looks mouth-watering!

  • memographer says:

    Mouth-watering photos, Audrey!!! One of the reasons I wanna go to Turkey.
    That man from video has said he was waiting for you for six months… and Sam bought it 🙂 What a country!

  • Stef - Food & Photos around the world says:

    Oh yes, I did try Turkish delight! We were in a tea and spices shop and the vendor filled us up with all kind of Turkish delight. Pure sugar schock 🙂 But so tasty. I liked the one with pomegranate most.

  • Renuka says:

    Great! I enjoyed the little video too 🙂 Since I have a sweet tooth, I particularly liked this post. I didn’t know Turkey is known for such delicious and beautiful looking sweets. Lovely, enticing pictures!

  • Jeff says:

    So sweet! By judging with your photo, every delicacy seems so sweet. I didn’t know Turkey can offer all this.

  • Pinar says:

    Hey Audrey,

    Are you still in İstanbul? If you decide to visit Ankara let me know.
    Enjoy your time in Turkey! Pinar

  • Jonas says:

    my cousin lives in Turkey. Always brings delicious sweets. Beautiful country.

  • Corinne says:

    Turkish delight is exactly what its name tell you it is…a delight! In Turkish, you call it “lokum”! And all flavors are extremely yummy. Loved the video! BTW – Istanbul is a big city and they know that the thumb’s up sign means “OK”, but if you travel to any smaller places, try not to make that gesture, it’s not a good thing! Enjoy Turkey!

  • MollyG says:

    Elba Chia (apple tea) was my favorite discovery in Istanbul! I brought home a giant vacuum sealed bag of the “loose leaf” stuff from one of the shops. Probably my favorite souvenir ever.

  • allmyprettyones says:

    Turkish Delight is not yummy to me, so I don’t understand the craze over it. But I did love the apple tea, as well as the way regular tea was served. The rest of the local food was delicious!

  • Tiffany says:

    I’ve never been a big fan of turkish delight, but like you, I didn’t know that such a variety exists! The photos look mouthwatering and I might just give it a try again when I’m in Istanbul 🙂

  • Rebecca says:

    great pics! and OMG YES YES YES to it all! I was in love in Turkey with its food… everything needed to be consumed especially in those tea shops!

  • Beth says:

    I’ve never tried Turkish Delight, but it looks so pretty! I’ve always seen it sold in random places, even here in HK, but I’ve been waiting for the right time to finally give it a try!

  • OMG that looks like heaven. I loooove baklava!

  • Jenna says:

    I really enjoyed this little glimpse of Turkish life and how there was so much background noise in your video–it seems like a lively place filled with locals.

  • Heather says:

    Oh my goodness, I be that kid in the candy store! I used to work in an office in NYC and my supervisor was from Turkey. Every time she went to visit her family she came back to work with boxes of Turkish Delight and we were, well, delighted 🙂

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