HomeTravelHow new brews are stirring up Turkey's tea paradise

How new brews are stirring up Turkey’s tea paradise

Editor’s Note — This CNN Travel collection is, or was, sponsored by the nation it highlights. CNN retains full editorial management over material, reporting and frequency of the articles and movies throughout the sponsorship, in compliance with our policy.

(CNN) — Atop a terrifyingly steep mountain in northeastern Turkey, the village of Haremtepe resembles an island surrounded by an enormous ocean of inexperienced: verdant, bushy rows of tea plantations proceed so far as the misty skies fleetingly permit to be seen.

Dozens of native tea pickers, virtually solely hidden among the many hillside’s deep inexperienced vegetation, shortly and effectively pluck the glistening leaves and deposit them into massive cloth sacks slung over their shoulders earlier than the following deluge begins.

“This place is special,” says Kenan Çiftçi, the proprietor of a tea plantation and cafe within the vertiginously positioned village. “Normally, tea can only be grown in equatorial areas. But the microclimate of the area, lots of sun and rain, means that tea can thrive.”

Here and all throughout Rize — a fertile province bordering the Black Sea that’s identified for its humid local weather, monsoon-like rains and breathtaking vistas — is the place the vast majority of tea is cultivated in what’s the world’s greatest nation of tea-drinkers.

The Brits and Chinese, steeped in tea historical past, could get extra consideration, however Turkey (or Türkiye because it now name itself) has by some estimates the very best consumption per capita on the earth — the typical Turk consumes 4 kilograms of the leaf a 12 months, in keeping with the International Tea Committee, the equal of its 85 million folks ingesting 4 glasses a day.

‘Culinary pleasure’

Much of Turkey’s tea comes from the plush plantations of Rize province.

Ruslan Kalnitsky/Adobe Stock

Brewed in a samovar-style utensil referred to as a çaydanlık, the potent loose-leaf black tea is often sipped from small, tulip-shaped glasses at very common occurrences. At the identical time, the normal approach for brewing Turkish tea — utilizing a specific “double-boiling” system of two kettles stacked atop each other — can take a very long time to arrange, and so goes hand in hand with the customarily slower tempo of Turkish life.

“The consumption of tea is as much a social activity as it is a culinary pleasure,” says Hüseyin Karaman, rector of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University in Rize, which earlier this 12 months launched a Tea Library that holds 938 books devoted to the drink. “It’s the glue that holds together all the people in our society.”

From the bucolic terrains of the Black Sea to the laid-back Kurdish tea gardens of jap Turkey and the ultra-hip cafes of Istanbul, tea is used for the whole lot from welcoming strangers to catching up with mates; kicking off the day to enjoyable on the finish of a meal; or to slurp languorously over a sport of backgammon.

The ingesting of çay is deeply entwined with Turkish tradition, in keeping with Karaman, relationship again to the times of the Silk Road — the centuries-old roadside inns often known as caravanserais would typically have tea homes to welcome weary merchants — and proof of tea leaves have been traced again to the sixteenth century within the Ottoman Empire.
During the reign of Abdülhamid II, who was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1876 to 1909, tea was planted all throughout the empire, explains Karaman, however yields have been typically poor attributable to many locations having an unsuitable local weather. However, it was quickly found that the Black Sea area was higher fitted to tea cultivation, and in 1947 the country’s first tea factory was established in Rize.

“Tea production on a large scale here is a relatively modern phenomenon,” provides Karaman. “But it grew and spread quickly and became deeply embedded in the culture. Now, it feels as if tea has been around for thousands of years.”

Stirring it up

Turkey processed 275,000 tons of tea in 2021.

Turkey processed 275,000 tons of tea in 2021.

Emre Erçin

Yet whereas in keeping with some estimates Turkey produces up to 10% of the world’s tea (275,000 tons have been processed final 12 months), most of it’s consumed domestically and most of it’s nonetheless the age-old number of black tea that’s grown on Rize’s 767 million sq. miles of tea plantations, which is then harvested throughout a six-month interval from May to October, earlier than being withered, rolled, fermented after which dried.
However, change is brewing for Turkish tea, as producers like Lazika, a Rize-based startup based in 2016, are starting to interrupt with custom.

The firm, which works solely with smallholder farmers, produces natural inexperienced and white teas, typically utilizing native components comparable to yayla flowers from the close by Kaçkar Mountains, softening the style and, some locals declare, offering medicinal advantages.

“Turkish tea is concentrated on the old habits of people,” says founder Emre Ercin. “There’s no variation. It’s always the same flavor. We want to change this.”

There’s clearly an urge for food for turning over a new leaf: In 2021, Lazika processed about seven tonnes of hand-picked tea, however manufacturing has ramped up significantly and this 12 months it is set to course of 25 tonnes.

The firm has additionally opened up a restaurant in Istanbul to promote its wares, with extra deliberate quickly. “Our consumers have a new taste. It just requires a little effort,” says Ercin. “Their eyes are being opened.”

Others are taking totally different approaches to manufacturing. Aytul Turan, who co-runs the women-led Tea Chef firm primarily based in Rize, began to make handmade tea after visiting China in 2017.

“I try to make the best tea by processing the fresh tea leaves, which are harvested by hand without damaging the tea plant with great care and precision, while preserving the product structure,” she says.

‘Deep love’

A scientist at ÇAYKUR, Turkey's state-owned tea-producing company.

A scientist at ÇAYKUR, Turkey’s state-owned tea-producing firm.

Peter Yeung

Along together with her pal Yasemin Yazıcı, the pair now harvest high-quality white tea leaves by hand and course of it themselves in addition to producing handmade inexperienced tea, black tea and even Japanese-style matcha.

“I have a very deep love for tea production,” provides Turan. “We set out with the awareness that we young people have responsibilities to know, develop and innovate the history of Turkish tea.”

But even at Çaykur, Türkiye’s state-owned tea firm, which employs over 10,000 folks throughout 45 factories, innovation is on the agenda.

At Çaykur’s laboratories, scientists in white coats consistently take a look at new know-how and methods to enhance the flavour and consistency of the product, monitoring the whole lot from pH ranges to paint tone. For sure blends, a “2.5 leaf” course of is used to take solely the bud and two youngest leaves of the tea bush — thought of by some to lead to probably the most refined style.

“We always try to create new levels of quality,” says Muhammet Çomoğlu, who works for the state-run Rize Tea Research and Application Center (ÇAYMER). “For Turks, tea is one of the most important parts of the daily diet.”

But as Turkish tea continues to develop and evolve in new instructions, its capability to convey folks collectively stays. In a toast to Turkey’s nationwide drink, a 30-meter-high constructing within the form of an enormous Turkish tea glass — together with a bazaar, viewing terrace and, sooner or later, a museum — was opened within the metropolis of Rize this 12 months.

“To live without tea is no life at all,” says Hasan Önder, the bazaar’s supervisor. “We must celebrate this important part of Turkish life, both among ourselves as well as sharing the delicious story with visitors.”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular