Rize tea or Çay is a form of black tea. Produced in Rize Province on the eastern Black Sea coast of Turkey which has a mild climate with high precipitation and fertile soil, it is crystal clear and mahogany in color. It is drunk everywhere in Turkey, anytime. It is served in Turkish cafés by a çaycý (tea-waiter), in small, gold-rimmed, narrow-waisted glasses. It can be taken strong (”koyu” dark) or weak (”açýk” light), and is accompanied by two or three lumps of beetroot sugar.
When the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1923, the Turks lost Mocha in Yemen, and coffee became an expensive import. They turned to tea. To a certain extent tea replaces alcohol as the social drink in Muslim countries.
The 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.
Turkish 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.