Tea’s cultural history
Published by Kapı Yayınları and written by Associate Professor Kemalettin Kuzucu, a lecturer at the Education Faculty of the University of Thrace in Edirne, the book is about how our society became addicted to drinking tea. What led Kuzucu to make such a study is the book “Tea’s Cultural History,” written by a German researcher named Stephan Reimertz in 1999. This study was also published in Turkish under the name “Çayın Kültür Tarihi.” Although Reimertz widely stated the cultural importance of tea around the world, from China to America, he didn’t mention the place of tea in Turkish history and culture. This drew Kuzu’s attention. “Except for two footnotes added by the translator, there weren’t any statements about the place of tea in Ottoman/Turkish history.
Then I decided to complete this study about the story of tea and the Turks,” says Kuzucu. As a member of a society that both produces and widely consumes tea, he thought the absence of such a study needed to be addressed. Kuzucu says he conducted a lot of research about tea in the Ottoman archives. Mentioning that tea originated in China, Kuzucu adds: “We might call our culture a ‘Turkish Tea Culture.’ If there exists an item that our people -- of all ages, genders and perspectives -- consume at any time of the day and is linked to specific rituals, there is no reason that we should not call this item a national item. Tea arrived in our country late, but it became our national drink.”
According to Kuzucu, Turkey ranks fifth in the world for tea production and first for tea consumption. This has meaning beyond the statistics. Saying that Turks prefer not to use tea bags, Kuzucu argues that a sense of love and respect underlies the way tea is prepared and served. To the writer, tea is a drink that replaced Turkish coffee -- which commits one to 40 years of friendship (a Turkish idiom about coffee) -- as tea is now the symbol of friendship, sincerity, trust and loyalty.
Tea was first planted in Bursa province in 1888
Kuzucu says that if the agricultural policy of Sultan Abdülhamid II is studied, it becomes clear that he launched radical reforms in agriculture and in the field of education. Abdülhamid II based his agricultural policy on planting products that hadn’t previously been cultivated in the country and on increasing the diversity of cultivated products and the amount of crops.
In Ottoman times, tea was first planted in Bursa province in 1888. Kuzucu says: “When that attempt in Bursa didn’t yield any positive results, they tried a couple more times in Bursa and other places. After drafting a ‘Guide for Tea Cultivation’ in 1895, the Ottoman state sent this guide to agricultural offices in the provinces. At the same time, tea cultivation was being carried out using primitive methods in Trabzon.”
In Kuzucu’s book, the place of tea in Turkish culture is thoroughly explored. Since the book focuses only on the Ottoman period, it occupies a unique niche. In the book, archive documents, as well as articles and article series, were used as first-hand sources. Additionally, the fact that scientific studies conducted in the Ottoman period were used in the book makes it an original work.