With a secret tea garden tucked away on mountain near the Black Sea, one of Turkey’s leading tea companies is looking to offer an escape from the urban jungle and forge a path into the field of "tea tourism."
A weekend getaway to the Black Sea province of Rize provides the serenity a harried city dweller needs. As the light breeze blows through your hair, your lungs, unaccustomed to the fresh air, practically burn from oxygen overdose.
You can become one with nature in the town of Ayder, located at an altitude of 1,350 meters, 19 kilometers southeast of Çamlıhemşin in the Rize district. The chance to breathe in its air, to watch its river flow downstream along narrow roads, to walk to the Ayder Plateau and to taste the region’s cuisine is not an offer one should pass up easily.
All these experiences should be on the list of "500 things to do before you die." And the herbal-tea company Doğadan, which has recently entered the black-tea market, has now put another great offer on the table Ğ a visit to their secret tea garden to pick tea leaves.
Doğadan Marketing Director Veli Vardarlı says the company was inspired by the panoramic view of Rize and grabbed by the enthusiasm and energy floating around during tea-leaf harvesting season, "We thought, why not share all this beauty in front of our eyes with our customers?" Vardarlı said. That’s how their "tea tourism" was born.
"We have chosen ’There is the smell of tea in the air’ as our slogan, which seemed quite right for our project," said Cem Pasinli, general manager of Doğadan. Tea is the second-most-consumed liquid in Turkey, and almost an addiction for Turks. "We wanted to inform them more about this drink they love," Pasinli added. The first tours will be launched July 18 and 19, then offered again July 25 and 26.
Participants will have the chance to taste traditional foods in restaurants that are in harmony with nature, including the most gorgeously cooked trout at Kalegon restaurant on the Ayder Plateau in Çamlıhemşin. Those who are not usually keen on this type of fish and generally find it to be on the dry side will be in for a great surprise. As your last meal in Rize, you will get to taste haricot beans that will change your mind forever about this vegetable at the Çayeli branch of the famous Hüsrev restaurant. Of course, there will be freshly brewed tea everywhere you go, even on the plateau, presented in Doğadan’s trademark green tea glasses.
The most unique aspect of this tour, compared to others in the area, is that it provides the chance to experience collecting tea leaves at the Doğadan Secret Garden in Haremtepe village, and then see the treatment these leaves go through before becoming an indispensable part of the Turkish breakfast table.
That part of the process is shown at the Doğadan factory in the Gündoğdu district of Rize. This tour package, which includes everything from food to hotel, costs 640 Turkish Liras for person.
There are, however, two downfalls to this great getaway. One is the first glimpse you catch of the city of Trabzon right before landing. Unfortunately, like many other coastal cities in Turkey, this region has been savagely violated by construction.
The best view of the Black Sea,
Clusters of tall buildings side-by-side along the entire coast are "breathtaking" on a whole different level. Half-complete shanty houses with broken windows and red bricks sticking out of their surfaces have the best view of the Black Sea, where, if you look carefully, several groups of dolphins can be seen jumping in and out of the water.
This view continues until you leave the coastal road behind and begin climbing up the gigantic mountains. Here you can begin to feast your eyes on all different shades of green, tiny purple flowers and acres upon acres of tea fields.
The 45-minute uphill walk to the Ayder Plateau will probably leave many complaining. But the high oxygen levels will allow your brain to breath, probably for the first time in years, and you will get lost in the light splashing sound of Uçurtma Deresi, the Kite River. The tea waiting for you with a side of homemade cookies and marmalades will be enough to get you up and going for the walk back.
On the ride, those who fear heights and sharp cliffs should hold on tight to their seats and try not to look down. Although it is a lovely scene, nature at its utmost beauty, it can also be quite frightening, especially after you realize the tight roads are not single-lane. When the minibus has to move back a few times to make way for other vehicles coming down the mountains, you may wish you had asked your doctor for some pills to calm you down. But once you get past that fear and reach your destination, where you will sip freshly brewed tea and nibble on Rize’s special sesame-studded simit bread, you will wish you never had to leave.