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Turkish tea, called çay,(pronounced Chai) is black tea which is consumed without milk, is produced on the eastern Black Sea coast, which has a mild climate with high precipitation and fertile soil. Turkish tea is typically prepared using two stacked kettles (çaydanlık) specially designed for tea preparation. Water is brought to a boil in the larger lower kettle and then some of the water is used to fill the smaller kettle on top and steep several spoons of loose tea leaves, producing a very strong tea. When served, the remaining water is used to dilute the tea on an individual basis, giving each consumer the choice between strong (Turkish: koyu; literally "dark") or weak (Turkish: açık; literally "light"). Tea is drunk from small glasses to enjoy it hot in addition to showing its colour, with cubes of (Turkish: kesme şeker) beet sugar.
In 2004 Turkey produced 205,500 tonnes of tea (6.4% of the world's total tea production), which made it one of the largest tea markets in the world, with 120,000 tons being consumed in Turkey, and the rest being exported. Furthermore, in 2004, Turkey had the highest per capita tea consumption in the world, at 2.5 kg per person—followed by the United Kingdom (2.1 kg per person). Tea is grown mostly in Rize province on the Black Sea coast.
Tea is an important part of Turkish culture, and is the most commonly consumed hot drink, despite the country's long history of coffee consumption. Offering tea to guests is part of Turkish hospitality. Tea is most often consumed in households, shops and mostly kıraathane, which is social congregation of Turkish men. Despite its popularity, tea became the widely consumed beverage of choice in Turkey only in the 20th century. It was initially encouraged as an alternative to coffee, which had become expensive and at times unavailable in the aftermath of World War I. Upon the loss of southeastern territories after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, coffee became an expensive import. At the urging of the founder of the republic, Atatürk, Turkish people turned more to tea as it was easily sustainable by domestic sources. Turkish tea is traditionally offered in small tulip-shaped glasses which are usually held by the rim, in order to save the drinker's fingertips from being burned, as the tea is served boiling hot.
Turkish herbal teas
In Turkey, herbal teas are not considered true teas, but are used as herbal medication. They are mostly popular with tourists with apple (elma çayı), rose hip (kuşburnu çayı), and linden flower (ıhlamur çayı) being the most popular flavors. Sage tea (ada çayı, literally meaning "island tea") is most popular in the Mediterranean coastal region. In Turkey, herbal teas for most ailments can be found in local herbal shops. Dried herbal leaves, petals, shoots, etc. are sold in loose-leaf according to each customer's need and taste.