Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Sultan's Ambrosia: Caykur Turkish Tea

          Everyone by now has heard of teas coming from India, Japan , China and even in Mars! But who knew of Turkish tea? Hard to believe enough, but turkey has been producing tea since the early twentieth century. Now  nearly a century later, this tea has still not gained a preeminence in grand world market today! A pity indeed..much to the dismay of enthusiastic Turkish friends and myself who believe their teas are nothing the world has seen! They may be right after all, its grown without pesticides, it has a large varieties  including organically grown tea, Earl Grey blends, etc, and best of all its homegrown in Turkey! Specifically in the Rize region of Turkey along the Black Sea coast.

                                                 Pristine and rich tea estates in Rize, Turkey

      I personally got a 500 gram bag from a store in Los Angeles called "India Sweets and Spices" for a drop dead price of 5.75 dollars! Its has an overwhelming generous portions than other brands that sell by the bag or tiny canisters that can costs up to 7 dollars max, and once bought, it gives a person a sense of challenge  to finish all the tea and demonstrates the extreme devotion of tea in Turkey. Not surprisingly, its the world's largest consumer of tea despite its size!

       The tea itself was not all the bad nor it was nothing special but CTC (or Curl Tear Cut) tea leaves that dominate in the tea market today. It has very distinct smell to it close to mint or piney scent in the leaves, but more in the smell of fresh cut leaves. The textures of tea is pretty much ordinary by standards, tiny particles of cut up leaves, each containing flavors and unique character that has yet to tease my palate. Fanning and dust is a slight problem but not too abundant to my surprise.

                                                          Leaves before the brew....

                                                                   .....and after.

          Its a gem to be honest despite some mixed opinions that say its average or otherwise a bad brew...guess they have not brewed it properly? Brewing the tea gives of a dark amber color with very little dust or particulates, brewed in the longest of duration would yield a mysterious dark brown murky color in each cup. I admit though it was quite hard to brew it in the traditional sense with boiling water and a kettle, the flavors at first were mute and dull. But given 15 minutes time as suggested by instructions on the bag, it will reward a patience drinker with a flavor to awaken a hibernating bear, the ruggedness of mountains, but smooth as silk! A strong brew of the tea which is basically straight off the pot, brewed at more than 15 mintues time yields a sharp and strong flavor that tends to stick at the end of the palate. An after taste of leafy but faintly chemically taste lingered for bit, it may throw off some drinkers at first leading some to say that the tea is quite awful! Its just a strong version hardly diluted by hot water, and uses very little to no sugar to moderate a strong taste. The second method involves dilution and having a third of tea in a cup with lots of sugar. If its in the best interests of nay sayers of the tea, their best bet in drinking Turkish tea in this fashion! I can contend, its taste are all a bit balanced, does not go off to be strong, its only astringent when swallowed, and sharp tastes are tamed  to a manageable level making this brew perfect for late in afternoon or early evening consumption.

            Versatility: 75; Its probably the best all round black tea that can be blended with other teas that has a softer taste to complement its sharp taste. The tea is great when served hot and makes good iced tea that adds a good kick to it, have a sprig of mint or tarragon and its just pure pleasure to sip in a hot day. The only problem with the tea is its limited to moderate bodied teas  to blended with as it can quickly overcome lighter and mellower teas with sharp tasting and strong body. It can be brewed western style, (tea kettle) though the Turkish method or samovar will do fine as long its brewed 15 to 20 minutes for maximum flavor.
            Taste: 70; overall a pretty average tea with some flair being a bit exotic to most brands that sell this type of tea. If it were to be compared to Lipton black tea, Caykur's Turkish teas can easily overtake the competetions bitter, highly astringent, and tannic teas! The tea has a strong body and sharp taste, when its in a lighter brew it can be very welcoming and pleasing to anyone so long as they have ample water and sugar to dilute or used to strong teas. Though its not a connoiseur's tea in many respects being CTC tea and the fact that it comes out too strong, its uniqueness among teas and the accompanying culture would outweigh any of its limitations.

            Palate: Strong bodied tea when brewed to the maximum time of 20 minutes, undiluted, and rarely sweetened.  A much sharper taste, leafy, chemically, maybe minty taste is more pronaunced to the content of strong tea drinkers. Can be a  medium bodied  tea brewed at 15 minutes, diluted, heavily or moderately sweetened. It has a mellower sharp taste, with much more minty flavor to be greatly discernable but a bit mute. The teas leave an aftertaste at the end of the palate that is much more chemically with like a leafy essence lingering on .

             Drinker friendly: 6-7; the can be can be of getting use to when one decided to drink it strong bodied. But, drinking it diluted, with a fair amount of sugar can be a great intro experience into Turkish tea
and enjoy the uniques flavors and customs involving its preparation. This tea can be brewed in many ways, of course the samovar method remains the best, but if anyone out there that wants something new for a all round tea, that delivers quantity, quality, and fair prices, by all means consider Caykur teas if they are around .
                                                                  Final Word
        I have to say I'm quite pleased into buying Turkish tea for the first time and  it was not a disappointment
but a promising tea that offers a whole lot of potential! Imagine having loose leaf Turkish tea, varieties of tea types not only add the amount of profits but helps the Turkish tea industry to improve its worth to the world over. Its safe to say, a samovar, stacked kettles, and giled tulip glasses along with fine Turkish tea will be "coming soon to a market near you", but not for a while. In the mean time, Caykur has been announcing at some point in the foreseeable future that production will have peaked and importation in profitable market quantities to various  customers on a consistent sustained basis. What is Turkey waiting for? There are plenty of thirsty folks in the world wanting to drink some of that fine Rize tea! Who in hell would not?!

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