I am writing this blog post while sitting on the balcony of our home here in Georgia. It is about 30 degrees Celsius outside, the sun is out and I can feel a nice warm breeze on my face. There’s a view both to the Kutaisi city and to the snowy hilltops and I find myself thinking “WHAT? Is this for real?” It is even more surreal when I am standing in the middle of the tea fields, mountains in the background.
But let’s rewind a bit… It must have been around the fall of 2017 when Kristiina first told me about the idea of growing tea in Georgia. Thinking of that exact moment, it still makes me laugh because most likely my face impression must have been priceless – I did not see that coming. The idea seemed very special and cool from the beginning though. At that point, I and Mario had just found out that we will be becoming parents. I was rooting for the whole Renegade gang from a distance and was concentrating mainly on the fact that soon there would be three of us in our family.
By the time Kendrick (that’s our son) had his second mini-birthday (he was two months in May 2018) I decided to buy a tea bush as part of the Renegade Tea Estate Indiegogo campaign, so we would definitely have a reason to visit Georgia every once in a while to see how that bush was doing. All that time I was trying to keep my eye on the Renegades and getting that tea bush could be my modest input in their, now our doings.
3 CUPS OF TEA AND HE WAS SOLD
The crucial part of this whole story was when Hannes and Kristiina came to visit our family in November 2018. They had just finished their tea season and happily greeted us with their 2018 tea collection and then it happened… They told us about their first season, we had three cups of tea and that was it – Mario was sold there and then. In fact, we were not really even invited to Georgia, but well, we let that slide. All of it felt so new and interesting that Mario did not catch any sleep that night. The next day I was already taking pictures of Kendrick to apply for a passport and in two days we had the plane tickets booked for a quick visit to Georgia in December. Our first trip to Georgia was an adventure on its own and we could probably write a book about that, but all in all, this trip gave us one certainty – tea farming, here we come!
You would probably think that we thought about this decision for a while...but no, we didn’t.. Thinking back, we probably did not do thinking much at all. Moving to another country with a one-year-old did bring up some doubt in my mind, but becoming a parent does not necessarily mean that you would have to give up your own dreams and opportunities. Mario and I had previously discussed that if there was ever a chance to work and live abroad as a family, we would give it a go.
When thinking about the Renegade team – I have not had any doubts about them even for a moment. I have known them for years, some more, some less, but they have partially been a second family to me - so again – what is left to decide then
Mario has been going back and forth between Estonia and Georgia since the beginning of the year. We moved the whole family here on 21st April, so we’ve now been here about a month and by now we can say we’re adapted to our new home. We have almost got used to the harmonic chaos of traffic here and the very, very very child-loving people who keep tickling Kendricks’ toes every chance they get.
HMMM… WHAT IS TEA?
Talking about tea, neither of us knew much about it. I thought there would be bushes on a field somewhere and green tea would come from a green tea bush, black from a black tea bush and so on. My favourite tea is not even tea, using the right terms it is peppermint infusion. I used to never choose black or green tea to drink just because I always thought it was bitter.
Today I already have started gaining some knowledge of tea. I know that all tea comes from one bush called Camellia Sinensis and the type of tea that comes out is based on the way the leaves are processed. In fact, if you are a total rookie in terms of tea check previous blog posts and you will get much smarter. Also, I know that tea does not have to be bitter and it can be nice and mild. Actually, I know a bit more, but in reality it is a bit of an art in itself and I have plenty of room to grow. Mario has always been a “tea person” and the more time passes, the funnier our tea drinking keeps getting, because sometimes minutes would pass watching the tea leaves in the cup, thinking and analyzing the taste and smells.
TOO LITTLE APPRECIATION
I cannot call myself a full-fledged farmer just yet as most of my energy is consumed by keeping up with Kendrick, since he started taking his first steps in Georgia I need to chase him around quite a lot. Luckily, naps tend to pass well in the plantation and I can use the naptime to pluck tea for example. My first tea plucking (bud and 1 leaf for white tea) led to 150g of tea leaves within an hour and 45 minutes. I am definitely not amongst the fastest tea pluckers in Georgia, but this experience led me to think about the fact that we generally do not appreciate how some products end up on our tables because, for example, those 150g of tea leaves make 30-35g of actually produced tea.
Joining the Renegade team is definitely one of the craziest things we have ever done, but I feel that we have been a little bit crazy all along and “comfort zone” is not a good term for us anyway. I am proud that we can be part of the tea growing history in Georgia and this team, so – bring it on Georgia and tea farming!