All About Turkey

Turkish Tea

While both Chinese and Indians claim that they first discovered the use and drink of Tea thousands of years ago, Turks evolved their own way of making and drinking the black tea (Çay in Turkish or Camellia Sinensis in Latin), which became a way of life for our culture. Wherever you go in Turkey, tea or coffee will be offered as a sign of friendship and hospitality, anywhere and any time, before or after any meal.

Tea plantations and harvestThe production of tea in Turkey mainly started in the early years of the Republic along the eastern Black Sea Region. Many of the tea plantations are centered around the town of Rize, and from the Georgian border to Trabzon, Arakli, Rize, Karadere and Fatsa (near Ordu), reaching in some places 30 kilometers inland and reaching the height of around 1000 m. In 1947 the first tea factory was built in Rize and in 1965 the production of dried tea reached to the level of domestic consumption. The tasks of buying, processing and selling tea was conducted by the Tekel (Monopoly of State) General Directorate until then, in 1971 was transferred to the Tea Corporation, and in 1984 the Monopoly on tea was lifted and this facility was also provided to the private sector.

Tulip shaped tea glassTurkish tea is full-flavored and too strong to be served in large cups thus it's always offered in little tulip-shaped glasses which you have to hold by the rim to save your fingertips from burning because it's served boiling hot. You can add sugar in it but no milk, and you can have it either lighter (weaker) or darker (stronger) depending on your taste because Turkish tea is made by pouring some very strong tea into the glass, then cutting it with water to the desired strength. Serious tea-drinker Turks usually go to a coffee & tea house where they serve it with a samovar (Semaver in Turkish) so they can refill their glasses themselves as much as they want.

A few years ago apple tea (Elma cayi in Turkish) was introduced to the local market, especially for tourists. Of course this has nothing to do with traditional Turkish Black Tea; it's sweet, caffeine-free, slightly tart, with a mild apple flavor. But interestingly the list of ingredients doesn't mention anything regarding apple; only sugar, citric acid, citrate, food essence and vitamin C.

How to make good Turkish tea

  1. Tea must be stored in closed packages in such a way that it is not affected by humidity and external odors.
  2. For best results, lime-free water, a tea-kettle and a porcelain teapot are recommended.
  3. After rinsing the clean teapot with lukewarm water, put in one teaspoon of tea per person, whilst the water is boiled in the tea-kettle.
  4. Boiling water from the tea-kettle is poured into the teapot.
  5. The flame under the tea-kettle is turned down and the teapot is placed onto the tea-kettle so that it boils with the steam underneath.
  6. The tea must brew for 10-15 minutes.
  7. The tea is then ready for pouring into the small tea glasses, usually 1/3 or 1/4 full depending how dark or how light you prefer your tea. The tea glass is then topped-up with hot water from the tea-kettle. The pot of tea should then be drunk within 30 minutes.

Production Stages

Production of Turkish tea is carried out in a campaign of 6 months between May and October which offers the best climate. It's produced with no chemicals and no chemical additives.

  • Withering is the process by which the 70 - 80 % water content is reduced to 50 - 55 % in special baths.
  • Rolling is the operation in which the cell extract of the withered tea leaf is spread over the rolled leaf surface, of fresh tea leaves is cut, ground and rolled in various tea manufacturing machinery, and the oxidation process begins.
  • Fermentation is the event whereby the black tea acquires the desired color, acridity, brightness, odor, and aroma by changing the biological structure of the chemical compounds existing in the cell extract of the rolled fresh tea leaf as a result of the effect of oxidizing enzymes.
  • Drying is the process by which the humidity level of tea leaves rolled and fermented in the drying furnaces is reduced to 3-4% by stopping the oxidation, so that the tea is rendered storable and packagable.
  • Sorting is the process by which the dry teas coming out of the furnace are sorted according to thinness, thickness and quality by screening them through the standard mesh wires.

In the total production of tea in the World

  • India is the first with 28.3 %
  • China is the second with 23.6 %
  • Kenya is the third with 9.6 %
  • Sri Lanka is the fourth with 9.1 %
  • Turkey is the fifth with 6 %
  • Other countries with 23.4 %

In the total consumption of tea in the world

  • India is the first with 23 %
  • China is the second with 16 %
  • Russia & UK are the 3rd & 4th with 6 %
  • Japan & Turkey are the 5th & 6th with 5 %

In the per capita consumption of tea in the world

  • Ireland is the first with 3 kg per person / per year
  • UK is the second with 2,5 kg
  • Kuwait is the third with 2,2 kg
  • Turkey is the fourth with 2,1 kg

Note: these numbers are given according to figures of 1997-1998

All About Turkey © Burak Sansal 1996–2014, a certified professional tour guide in Turkey. Contact Burak at buraksan@superonline.com for all kinds of regular and/or private travel services throughout the country.