A top a terrifyingly steep mountain in northeastern Turkey, the village of Haremtepe resembles an island surrounded by a vast ocean of green: verdant, bushy rows of tea plantations continue as far as the misty skies fleetingly allow to be seen.
Dozens of local tea pickers, almost entirely hidden among the hillside’s deep green vegetation, quickly and efficiently pluck the glistening leaves and deposit them into large fabric sacks slung over their shoulders before the next deluge begins.
“This place is special,” says Kenan Çiftçi, the owner of a tea plantation and cafe in the vertiginously placed 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 thrive.”
Here and all across Rize – a fertile province bordering the Black Sea that is known for its humid climate, monsoon-like rains and breathtaking vistas – is where the majority of tea is cultivated in what is the world’s biggest nation of tea-drinkers…