Rize’s Gift To The World Tea

TEA - ÇAY IN TURKISH - IS NO ORDINARY BEVERAGE. WITH A PAST GOING BACK THOUSANDS OF YEARS, IT IS SURROUNDED BY RITUALS IN MANY CULTURES, IS SOMETIMES DRUNK CEREMONIALLY AND IS CHARACTERIZED BY SPECIAL RULES AND SIGNIFICANCE FROM PRODUCTION RIGHT UP TO CONSUMPTION.

The oldest known references to the tea of the Far East are found in Chinese sources. Wars, migration and cultural interactions throughout history have ensured that tea drinking is known and loved over a wide geographical area. Turkey is a country fond of its tea.

TEA TAKES TO RIZE

The first tea plantations in the eastern Black Sea town of Rize were laid out on the region’s steep, scrubby coastal slopes in Ottoman times. It was in the 19th century, under Sultan Abdulhamid II, that initiatives for tea cultivation took off in a big way. Then, in 1924, at the instigation of the Rize MP’s of the period, tea growing in the province’s Borçka county was given a legal underpinning in the Law Governing the Cultivation of Hazelnuts, Oranges, Lemons, Tangerines and Tea. In the wake of that law, tea growing developed and spread in the 1930s. Tea seeds imported from Russia were distributed to Rize producers, and cultivation began to spread rapidly throughout the province when producers were recognized and protected by the 1938-founded Tea Agency. Tea aroused even more interest in the region following further legal regulations in the 1940’s and 50’s.

AND RIZE TAKES TO TEA

Not only did tea take to Rize, Rize producers also took to tea, which is grown easily there thanks to the region’s microclimates, and tea added its own verdant tones to the province’s already emerald green vegetation. Tea was also an important economic asset. Spreading quickly to cover the region’s slopes with its plantations, tea growing became a way of life for the locals as new generations of tea drinkers growing up in Turkey also became agents in the process.

BECOMING AN INTERNATIONAL BRAND

The entire wild plant cover also grows and spreads on the land where this tea is grown. Not contaminated by chemicals, the earth nourishes the tea with its natural richness, grows it and then offers it to man. With properties like this, Rize tea is on the way to becoming an international brand. Possessed of a long-standing culture from the growing and processing right up to the drinking, Turkish tea is gradually making itself known in world markets. Its organic nature and   unique natural aroma loom large among the properties that make it one of the finest teas in the world for quality and flavor. A rich and unique aroma specially created by the climate and soil texture of the natural environment in which it grows. In other words, Rize tea has no need for artificial flavoring and additives. International brand awareness of Rize tea is on the rise in parallel with the excellence of the product.

THE HOTTEST BEVERAGE

Consumed in all the world’s cultures, even inspiring political ‘Tea Parties’, tea is the indispensable beverage of congenial gatherings that bring people together in friendly conversation. Traditionally drunk in glasses in Turkey, tea has its own special ritual and way of drinking. Turkish tea glasses are narrow-waisted, widening and thickening toward the rim to keep the tea hot and facilitate drinking of the piping hot beverage without burning the drinker’s lips. Normally drunk ‘light’ at breakfast, tea makes a splendid trio with a crusty simit and cheese. A favorite with rich and poor alike, tea is also the first thing offered visitors on friendly as well as business calls.

FROM PLANTATION TO PACKAGE

It is the Black Sea’s industrious, hard-working women who usually gather the tea leaves on Rize’s tea plantations. Collected by hand in the past, tea leaves today are cut with shears and transferred directly to an attached bag. The problem of transporting the cut leaves was again solved by the sharp intelligence of the Rize natives. Transferred from the steep plantations to the center in mini-cable cars, the cut leaves are relayed from there to receiving areas. When the producer has turned over his harvest, collected his receipt and is returning home, the tea leaves are already on the way to the factories for processing.

FOR A GOOD GLASS OF TEA

Proper steeping is essential for a tasty glass of well-brewed tea. Rize tea experts recommend that the water first be boiled in a separate kettle before being added to the teapot. A small amount of water is first poured into the pot, followed by the tea, and left for 15 minutes without stirring. This process is an essential part of proper steeping.

BENEFITS OF TEA

Destroys harmful substances in the body and rids it of toxins.
 Has a balancing effect on stomach and digestive ailments.
Stimulates urinary tract function. The theobromine and theophylline it contains are used as diuretics in the pharmaceutical industry.
Is extremely effective in maintaining the balance of minerals in the human metabolism.

TEA’S crowned with jewels

A Rize native himself, businessman and civil servant Hasan Kemal Yardımcı is a collector who has devoted himself to Rize tea and culture. The collection amassed over long years by him and his wife Emel Hanım consists of tea-related objects from Russia, England, Europe, Iran and Ottoman Turkey. We talked briefly with him about Rize tea.

TEA IS EVERYTHING TO RIZE

How would you characterize the situation of Rize both before and after the introduction of tea?

Before the introduction of tea, Rize was a place of emigrants with more people leaving than coming in. The people of Rize made their living elsewhere. Life revolved around the sea, and people often sought work in Russia, or chose to work as civil servants. Jobs tended to be in shipbuilding and the construction sector. With the introduction of tea, Rize was revitalized and its destiny virtually turned around. The life of the people settled here was strengthened and enhanced. Tea is Rize’s everything, and it has brought its own culture as well.

So, why tea in Rize?

It’s not actually in Rize but in the area around it. It grows, for example, all the way to Artvin. There is a tea factory at Tirebolu. But in terms of growing season, volume and quality pick, Rize is an ideal region for tea.

What gives Rize tea its quality?

The main factor distinguishing Rize tea from other teas around the world is that it is organic. There is not a single non-natural additive in Rize tea. No artificial sweeteners, no aromas that alter the natural taste and change the color. When you drink it you get only the unique taste imparted by Rize’s incomparable natural environment.

Is Rize tea sufficiently known around the world?

It is known in Turkey but it needs to be recognized on a world scale. Most of the tea grown on the big plantations that supply world demand is produced using conventional farming techniques and intensive fertilization. Pesticides are widely used against parasites and other pests. And that’s only during the growing phase. When you also consider the non-natural substances added during processing, then Rize tea stands out for being completely natural. It’s up to all the agencies of our government and private sector to see that this product of ours is known and demanded on the international market.

What do you have in mind for tea in the future?

Tea is the national drink of Turkey, not just in Rize but all over the country. There is an important culture that goes with it. I sincerely believe in the importance of serving that culture on behalf of Rize and its people. I think that developing my collection into a tea museum will have an extremely positive effect on the way Rize tea is perceived.

INFO

The objects related to tea culture in the Emel-Hasan Kemal Yardımcı Collection are unique and worthy of being developed into a tea museum.