(CNN) — On top of a rugged mountain in northeastern Turkey, the village of Haremtepe is like an island surrounded by a vast ocean of greenery: green rows and forests of tea plantations continue until the misty sky is suddenly visible.
Many of the local tea pickers, almost hidden among the deep green vegetation of the hill, quickly and efficiently pick the shiny leaves and place them in large cloth bags hung on their their shoulders before the next tide begins.
“This place is special,” said Kenan Çiftçi, the owner of a tea farm and cafe in the village vertiginously. “Normally, tea can be grown only in equatorial areas. But the microclimate of that area, the amount of sun and rain, means that tea can grow.”
It is here and around Rize – a fertile region bordering the Black Sea known for its cool, rainy climate and spectacular scenery – that most of the world’s tea is grown. A lot of tea drinkers. .
Most of Turkey’s tea comes from Rize-grown plants.
Ruslan Kalnitsky/Adobe Stock
It is made in a samovar-style vessel called a Çaydanlık, a very strong black tea that is usually served from small tulip-shaped glasses on formal occasions. At the same time, the traditional method of making Turkish tea – using a “double-double” system of two pots stacked on top of each other – can take a long time to prepare eat, and so too with frequent delay. the pace of Turkish life.
From the bucolic landscapes of the Black Sea to the Kurdish tea plantations of eastern Turkey and the ultra-hip restaurants of Istanbul, tea is used for everything from welcoming guests to arresting to friends; start the day to rest after eating; or laughing at a game of backgammon.
“Making tea on a large scale here is a new trend,” added Karaman. “But it grew and spread quickly and embedded in the culture.
Turkey will produce 275,000 tons of tea in 2021.
The company, working with small farmers, produces green and white teas, often using local ingredients such as yayla flowers from the nearby Kaçkar Mountains, to facilitate the taste and, some locals say, providing medicinal benefits.
“Turkish tea is based on the ancient practices of the people,” says founder Emre Ercin. “No change. It’s always the same taste. We want to change this.”
There is a desire to turn over a new leaf: In 2021, Lazika processed about seven tons of hand-picked tea, but the production has increased significantly this year and is set to produce 25 tonnes.
The company also opened a cafe in Istanbul to sell its products, with more planned. “Our customers have a new taste. It just takes a little effort,” Ercin said. “Their eyes are being opened.”
“I try to make the best tea by making fresh tea leaves, picked by hand without harming the tea plant with great care and precision , while maintaining the quality of the product,” he said.
A scientist at ÇAYKUR, Turkey’s national tea company.
Together with his partner Yasemin Yazıcı, they are currently picking high-quality white tea leaves by hand and training themselves and making hand-made green tea, black tea and Japanese-style matcha. .
“I have a great love for tea making,” says Turan. “We started with the knowledge that our young people have the right to know, develop and develop the history of Turkish tea.”
In the laboratories of Çaykur, scientists are constantly testing new white clothes in technology and new techniques to improve the taste and stability of the product, looking at everything from the pH level to can be silver. For some blends, a “2.5 leaf” process is used to take only the bud and two young leaves of the tea tree – which some believe results in the best flavor.
“We are always trying to create new levels of quality,” said Muhammet Çomoğlu, who works for the 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 grows and grows in new directions, so does its ability to bring people together. In Turkey’s national drink, a 30-meter-high building in the shape of a large Turkish tea cup has been opened – with a bazaar, observation deck and, in the future, a museum – was opened in the city of Rize. years old.
“Living without tea is not life,” said Hasan Önder, the manager of the store. “We need to celebrate this important part of Turkish life, between ourselves and sharing the sweet story with the guests.”