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There's quality in Turkish tea, but no real incentive for export trade.

While travelling on business through Turkey, one of the more pleasant aspects is the hospitality offered at each stop. Almost immediately after entering a premises, you are offered either tea, coffee, or Nescafe. Unless you are an aficionado of Turkish coffee (staining coffee grounds through your teeth), tea should be the preferred choice. Normally it is served in a small cut crystal glass with two small sugar cubes. Cay is definitely one of the finer teas in the world, but it is not widely known outside Turkey.

Turkey's tea seeds and plants came from Georgia, USSR, in 1928 and is of the sinensis variety, in the Chinese style with small leaves. It resembles the Indian and Sri Lankan growth with a 38-40% extraction. The tea producing areas did not stray very far from the Georgian origin as the main growing area lies around the city of Rize, only a few kilometers from the Georgian/Turkey border on the Southeast coast of the Black Sea.

The government monopoly--CAYKUR--maintains 45 plantations with an annual production of 120,000 tons. In addition, private producers grow an additional 60,000 tons of Black tea. Approximately 30 tons of green tea is produced annually for the Moroccan export market. All tea production is packed in facilities in Rize, Ankara, and Istanbul.

Annual consumption is between 130-140,000 tons, which equates to 2.5 kg per capita. By comparison, the U.K. populace consumes 2 -2.5 kg per capita. The excess production has been exported mainly to the former USSR in barter trade for items such as natural gas. Over 1990/91, the USSR took 30,000 tons, and Germany, France, and Holland, together imported around 500 tons.

According to trade sources, production is expected to remain static in the foreseeable future. Per capita consumption will probably remain the same and the population is expected to increase from the current 55 million to 60 million by 1995/96.

Current production is adequate to meet the expected demand in the near future. In addition, profits are made on domestic sales. For example, a packed kilo sells domestically for TL 20,000 or about $4.00. The same product in the export trade earns $2.10 per kilo. If tea is exported loose, than the price received drops to $2.00 Little incentive exists for exporting under these circumstances.

Currently, about 80,000 hectares are cultivated. More is available but there is no need for it until well into the future. The terrain surrounding the Black Seas is much too hilly for maching harvesting so everything is done by hand. The method is halfway between handplucking and the semi-automatic methods of the various tea gardens of Japan. For the last 10 years, the Turkish women have been using scissors in their unique plucking processing.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Lockwood, George
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Apr 1, 1992
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