“Tea Paradise” in Turkiye how new flavors lead to the growth of this industry?

Atop a terrifyingly steep mountain in northeastern Turkiye, Haremtepe looks like an island surrounded by a vast sea of ​​green.

Dozens of local tea-pickers, almost entirely hidden among the green vegetation of the hillside, quickly and efficiently pluck the leaves into large beanbags slung over their shoulders, before the next flood begins.

“This place is special,” said Kenan Sheftchi, owner of a tea plantation and a café in the village, adding, “Tea usually can only be grown in the tropics. But the local climate of the area, with plenty of sunshine and rain, means that tea can be grown. to flourish.”

Here, around Rize, a fertile province on the Black Sea, famous for its humid climate and monsoon-like rains, the majority of tea leaves are grown.

The British and the Chinese may get more attention, but Turkiye has the highest per capita tea consumption in the world, by some estimates.

A Turkish citizen consumes 4 kilograms of tea leaves a year, according to the International Tea Committee, which is equivalent to 85 million people drinking 4 cups of the drink a day.

Black tea is prepared in a samovar style, and is usually sipped from small cups shaped like lavender roses.

The traditional technique of preparing Turkish tea, using the “double boiling” system of two kettles stacked on top of each other, can be time consuming.

This is in line with the slower pace of life in Turkiye.

Tea consumption is a “social activity and pleasure,” according to Hüseyin Karman, president of Recep Tayyip Erdogan University in Rize, which earlier this year launched the Tea Library with 938 books dedicated to the drink.

Karman stressed that tea is “the glue that holds all people together in our society.”

Drinking tea is closely related to Turkish culture, according to Karman, as it dates back to the days of the Silk Road.

Centuries-old inns often housed tea houses to welcome weary merchants.

Under Abdülhamid II, who was sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1876 to 1909, tea was grown throughout the empire, Kerman explained, but yields were generally few because many places did not have a favorable climate.

It was soon discovered that the Black Sea region was more suitable for tea cultivation, and the country’s first tea factory was built in Rize in 1947.

“Tea production here on a large scale is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Karman said. “But this phenomenon has grown, spread rapidly, and is deeply rooted in the culture.”

New flavors

Although Turkiye produces up to 10% of the world’s tea, according to some estimates, the majority of it is consumed locally, and it is one of the ancient types of black tea grown on Reese farms, with an area of ​​​​767 million square miles.

But change is within sight for Turkish tea, and producers like Lazika, a Rize-based startup founded in 2016, are beginning to break with tradition.

The company, which works only with smallholder farmers, produces organic green and white teas, and often uses local ingredients such as yayla flowers from the nearby Katchkar mountains, which are soothing to taste, as well as allegedly having medicinal benefits. locals.

“Turkish tea is based on the old customs of people,” said company founder Emre Ersin. “There is no diversity, and it always has the same flavour. We want to change that.”

There is clearly a desire to make a change. In 2021, Lazika processed about 7 tons of hand-picked tea, but production has increased dramatically, and the company is scheduled to process 25 tons this year.

Others take different approaches to tea production, and Aitul Turan, who co-runs the women-led company Tea Chef, started making handmade tea after visiting China in 2017.

The headquarters of the company is located in Rize.

“I try to make the best tea by treating fresh, hand-harvested tea leaves with care, with great precision, without damaging the tea plant, while preserving the structure of the product,” Turan said.

Deep Love

Accompanied by her friend Yasmine Yazigi, the duo now harvest high-quality white tea leaves by hand, as well as produce handcrafted green tea, black tea, and even Japanese-style matcha.

“I have a deep love for tea production,” Turan asserted, adding, “We set out with the knowledge that we young people have responsibilities to know, develop and invent the history of Turkish tea.”

Even for the state-owned Turkish tea company,Çaykur, which employs more than 10,000 people in 45 plants, innovation is on her list.

At Çaykur’s laboratories, scientists test new technologies to improve a product’s flavor and consistency, and monitor everything from its pH, to its colour.

“We are always trying to create new levels of quality,” said Mehmet Çomoğlu, who works at the state-run Rize Center for Tea Research and Applications (ÇAYMER), stressing that “for Turks, tea is one of the most important components of their daily diet.”


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