On top of a steep mountain in northeastern Turkey, the village of Haremtepe resembles an island surrounded by a vast ocean of greenery with verdant rows of tea plantations.
Dozens of tea pickers, almost completely hidden among the hillside’s deep green vegetation, quickly pluck the glistening leaves and deposit them in large cloth bags slung over their shoulders before the next deluge begins, CNN writes.
“This place is special”, says Kenan Çiftçi, owner of a tea plantation and cafe in the 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 flourish.”
Here and across Rize, a fertile province bordering the Black Sea known for its humid climate, rains and stunning scenery, is where most of the tea is grown in what is the world’s largest tea-consuming nation .
The British and Chinese, associated with tea history, may get more attention, but Turkey has by some estimates the highest per capita consumption in the world. Turkish average tea consumption is four kilograms of leaves per year, according to the International Tea Committee, the equivalent of its 85 million people who drink four cups a day.
Brewed in a teapot, black tea is usually drunk in small tulip-shaped cups. At the same time, the traditional technique for preparing Turkish tea, using a special “double-boil” system of two cauldrons placed on top of each other, can take a long time to prepare, and thus it goes hand in hand with the slow pace of Turkish life.
“Drinking tea is as much a social activity as it is a culinary pleasure,” says Hüseyin Karaman, rector of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University in Rize, who earlier this year opened a Tea Library that holds 938 books dedicated to the drink. “It is what holds together all the people in our society.”
From the bucolic grounds of the Black Sea to the tranquil Kurdish tea gardens of eastern Turkey and the cafes of Istanbul, tea is used for everything; from welcoming strangers to meeting friends.
However, while by some estimates Turkey produces up to 10% of the world’s tea (275,000 tons were processed last year), most of it is consumed domestically, and much of it is still the old variety of black tea grown in Rize. .
In honor of Turkey’s national drink, a 30-meter-tall building in the shape of a giant Turkish teacup, including a bazaar, viewing terrace and, in the future, a museum, opened in the city of Rize this year.
“Living without tea is no life at all,” says Hasan Önder, bazaar manager. “We need to celebrate this important part of Turkish life, both among ourselves and by sharing the delicious history with visitors.”