Call it what you like – tae, cha, chai or ‘peely wally’ as they say in Scotland, tea is still a favourite beverage in many parts of world. Take the UK for example, Brits drink 60.2 billion cups of tea a year, a statistic that earns them the title of the biggest consumers of tea in the world. At a deeper level of tea analysis, it’s safe to say that good, old-fashioned builders’ tea is a favourite but do you know where your cuppa comes from? It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that China is the largest producer of tea in the world, providing a whopping 35% of all the tea consumed anywhere. India follows in second place, providing an impressive 20+% of our tea. Third in the world rankings is Kenya, which brings more than 9% of tea to the world. The last two in the top 5 are Sri Lanka and Turkey, with the former outperforming by a nose.
One of the interesting tea facts about Turkey is that nearly all its crop is grown in a small area near the city of Rize. Growing conditions in this region are perfect. Its wet climate and proximity to the Black Sea are optimum for producing black tea, also known as Turkish tea. While Turkish coffee is renowned the world over, Turkish tea culture is also strong – perhaps mirroring its flavour. When coffee was becoming more difficult to come by after World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk encouraged the consumption of tea. As tea was produced in Turkey, it was a cheaper and more plentiful alternative to coffee, which was overpriced and scarce.
These days, the preparation of Çay, as it is known locally, is surrounded by a ritual. Offering it to guests is part of Turkish hospitality and you can see groups of Turks enjoying this beverage in shops, their homes and in kıraathane – informal gathering of Turkish men. The tea itself is prepared by traditional means. It is brewed in a samovar (self boiler), which creates a concentrated brew, diluted with water when served. Çay is served in small glasses without milk, to which cubes of beet sugar are added. As a typical tea glass does not have a handle, it’s really important to grasp it at the rim to prevent burned fingertips.
Sri Lankan Tea
Like Turkey, tea was somewhat of a late arrival to Sri Lanka. It all started with a Scottish man named James Taylor, who, in 1867, founded his tea plantation in the city of Kandy. Taylor started with just 19 acres, which he quickly expanded. Soon, he started exporting Ceylon tea back to Britain and beyond. The first shipment of Ceylon tea, a consignment of some 10kg arrived in London in 1873. Even today, the British Royal family are said to enjoy Ceylon tea.
The remarkable thing about Sri Lanka’s tea industry is that from such humble beginnings, the industry currently accounts for 2% of GDP and contributes $700 million to the Sri Lankan economy annually. As with Turkey, tea production takes place in an area of cool temperatures and high rainfall in the island’s central highlands.
While Sri Lankan and Turkish teas are both black and loose-leaf, there are a few differences between them. Turkish drinkers drink their cuppas black, whereas tea in Sri Lanka is served with milk, which is a little more familiar to British tea-drinking conventions. Turkish tea and the ritual surrounding it is a far more exotic affair and for those of us who are used to drinking tea with milk, its taste is a little harsh. Speaking of tea, time to put the kettle on…
Have you been to Sri Lanka or Turkey and tried a nice cup of tea if so discuss below what is your favourite.