Category : Country : Turkey

As strong as a Turk

Tea leaves transport

In most regions of the world, tea leaves are transported by tractor after being harvested. In Turkey, you see men carrying absolutely enormous bags. They tumble them down the slopes, over the tea plants, until they reach the road.

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There’s a tea for everyone


There’s a tea for everyone. Our Turkish friends drink it boiling hot, at any time of day or night, generally out rather than at home. You start by pouring a little tea extract, which is particularly strong, into the glass. Then you dilute it with hot water from the samovar. And you pass the time talking about this and that, glass of tea in hand. Or you watch a football match in the local café, either holding your glass of tea or placing it on the table in front of you.

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In Turkey, one uses clippers to pluck tea

In general, good tea should be plucked by hand. The leaf bud and the first two leaves on each stem are plucked between the thumb and index finger, with a precise, rapid movement.

It is best to avoid the use of clippers, although they are commonly used in some regions of the world where tea is produced with less emphasis on quality. Although the farmers in the Rize region of Turkey are very friendly, hospitable people, it has to be said that their harvesting methods massacre the tea.

Here, I have dared to give them a helping hand and I’m a little ashamed, I must admit, to be caught red-handed using their tool.

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Tea on the shore of Black Sea

I’m writing from the Black Sea. I’m in Rize, on the Turkish coast, not far from the Georgian border. Here, the mountains falling into the sea are incredibly green and I wouldn’t surprise you if I told you that they are covered with tea.

Turkey discovered tea at the end of the Ottoman Empire precisely because of the loss of the Yemen region where famous coffee is produced. So they had to fall back on the camellia, grown in hilly and damp areas. That’s how the whole country began drinking tea, served very strongly and in nice tulip-shaped glasses here. Sometimes they resort to using samovars and diluting the tea, still very black, with very hot water.

Tea is king in Turkey. They drink it at anytime of the day or the night, sip it, put it back on the saucer, take it again straight away and chat while burning hands. But is it really good tea?

That’s exactly the aim of my trip: finding in these mountains someone who produces quality tea according to the rule book, only by plucking the best leaves and watching not to break them. From this point of view, I have to admit that my trip isn’t successful. I have met extremely nice people who’d do anything to show me their tea garden or tea factory. But not good tea. While going on with my searches, I leave you with this green and ochre-coloured harmony.

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The Sumela monastery

In case you had of Turkey an image of a very hot country, I’d like to tone it down a bit. If tea enjoys being on these mountains lining the Black Sea, it’s exactly because here when you climb up a little, it’s much cooler and there are plenty of clouds and rain. “It rains all the time in Rize and if it doesn’t rain it snows !” have I often heard.

The Sumela monastery –whose picture can only be taken by patient people- is precisely located in the area where tea is grown. You can notice that nature looks close to the one found in the Alps. And these threads of fog remind me of the Himalayan foothills. So now you surely understand why tea enjoys it here !

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The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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