To understand the genesis of Ilgaz Bilhan’s Dünya Çay Evi (World Tea House) venture, it helps to know what inspired Ilgaz to devote his time and energy to realizing tea’s potential to bring people together. During a visit to Estergon Castle (a Turkish cultural museum) in Ankara, Turkey, Ilgaz found himself sitting with a friend under an Uzbek tent, drinking tea and contemplating the future. Estergon Castle is a replica of Esztergom Castle in the town of Esztergom near Budapest, Hungary, which was occupied by the Ottomans during their nearly 100-year rule of Hungary, beginning in 1543. For Ilgaz, who owns three teahouses in Istanbul, the Estergon Castle visit sparked a confluence of ideas and experience that led to the creation of Dünya Çay Evi.
Launched less than a year ago, Dünya Çay Evi is an ambitious two-part project. The first part is well underway – a book that chronicles the diverse tea cultures that exist across the world. Ilgaz and his partner have chosen to highlight 30-40 countries known for their tea production, tea consumption, or both. The list includes countries one would expect, such as China, India, Japan, and Sri Lanka, as well as surprising entries, such as Somalia, the Czech Republic, and Portugal. Over the past eight months, Ilgaz and his team have been studying the tea traditions and preferences in each of the countries on their list. Once their research is complete, they will write their book in Turkish, publish it in both hard-copy and ebook forms, and then have it translated into 15 languages.
The second part of their project will build on the information they have collected during the first part. In fact, it will bring to life the tea cultures of each of the countries they have covered in their book. Moving from an academic learning model to an experiential learning model, Ilgaz hopes to offer tea lovers in major metropolitan areas in each of the subject countries the opportunity to sample a variety of tea cultures under one roof, or tent, as the case may be. Within each “world tea house,” tea enthusiasts will be able to wander from one tea culture room to another, enjoying a Japanese tea ceremony in one, black Turkish tea in a tulip glass in the next, and Russian tea from a samovar in the third. In each tea culture room, visitors will be immersed in the tea culture represented, down to every detail, including the dress of those preparing and serving the tea. Each world tea house will let participants sample a wide range of teas and tea cultures without spending thousands of dollars jetting from one country to the next. Not surprisingly, Ilgaz plans to open the first world tea house in Istanbul.
At present, Ilgaz is looking for like-minded investors who see his vision for Dünya Çay Evi in their own countries and want to participate. If you are interested, email Ilgaz at [email protected]