Tea and Georgia - what have you taught me?
Looking out of the window in Estonia, it’s -5 C° and snow, no signs of spring anywhere to be seen. But there’s actually not so much time left until we fly back to Georgia to start with season number 2 as tea farmers. I guess it’s high time to wrap up the previous season into my own thoughts as well.
So, at the beginning of 2018, I had just left my job in Estonia, preparing to become a tea farmer in Georgia. Even now it sounds a bit crazy when writing it down :) Did the year go as I visioned? Of course not! But it didn’t also go worse or better, it just went differently. Because, if you have never lived in that specific country and you are doing something for the first time of your life, then you don’t really have anything to base your expectations on.
So, tea and Georgia. What have you taught me?
You know that you can’t rush agriculture, right? (at least not in organic farming) Well, we also knew that and in the beginning, it seemed normal that things were moving very slowly, after all, we had tried to wake up something that had been sleeping for the last 30 years. So, most of our energy went to fighting with the weeds, so tea would have a chance to grow at all. There was always this hope in the air confirming that we need to clean a little bit more and it needs to rain just a little bit more and then the tea would take control of the fields. By the middle of July, there were alarm bells taking over my head because not much had changed on the fields. The fact that you can’t rush a plant to grow faster and the whole agriculture is a long term process did not seem like relevant facts while looking at those empty fields. At that point, you could find some small tea plants only if you looked really-really hard and I was pretty sure that we’re not going to get any tea this year from our fields.
We tried to keep our optimism and luckily there were so many other things to do that we didn’t really have time to sit around and be worried about it and already in August the wait finally paid off! It started to change almost overnight. Once the tea gained the strength, it was growing fast - beautiful tea bushes started to form rows and in some places the field started to look like a real plantation.
And that feeling when it finally happened!
One of the reasons why we started with this project was to enjoy what we do, every day. The idea was good, but doing something for the first time in your life and building a new company isn’t really a walk in the park, so we forgot about the original idea quite quickly. I don’t mean that we didn’t like what we did, but we still got frustrated and stressed about stuff not going our way and we forgot to enjoy the moment. And that’s where Georgians stepped in, with their positive and happy-go-lucky attitude. Although life is pretty hard in the villages of Georgia, it’s amazing how cheerful and welcoming people are. Life in Georgia reminded us to enjoy the little things in life and cherish the moment. And although sometimes we found ourselves in a middle of chaos, then in the end, things fell into place anyway, whether you stressed about it or took it with humour. And the latter version was much more enjoyable :) Georgian nature with its amazing landscapes is one other thing that keeps a smile on your face, so can’t wait to go back and just stare at the beauty of the mountains around us:)
Ability to adapt.
There were many smaller lessons in everyday life as well. Like starting to drive in Georgia for example. When I first came to Georgia, I was convinced that I will never ever drive a car myself in that traffic (not sure what plan I had then to move around?), because it just seemed like a huge chaos with little rules and every attempt to enter the roundabout is like Russian roulette. I still think it’s crazy, but there’s wasn’t any other option, so I adapted. Now I don’t have a problem to drive with the biggest car of Kutaisi (a safe choice, because everybody gives you way) or with a car that has the steering wheel on the wrong side. You cope, that’s just the way it is.
I learned that the cow/dog/cat/goat/duck/pig in the middle of the highway has not run away from somewhere and has not been hit by a car (yet?), he’s just having an afternoon nap there because he likes it and there’s not a single thing that could make him move, you just need to find your way around.
Or working in the plantation with a 40 C° heat. Also not an easy one, if you have sat in an air-conditioned office so far and the only time you have felt 40 C° is on a beach during a vacation. But with some lessons you learn again. This year I learnt that it’s better to start working at 7 am so you could work a few hours in a normal temperature, that you shouldn’t put on plant based eco-friendly sunscreen, because the bugs will eat you alive (ouch!) and that you should actually drink mineral water instead of tap water in that heat, because otherwise your body would be out of magnesium quickly and that’s something I don’t recommend :D
Love for tea.
I didn’t start this journey because I loved tea so much, but I have started to love tea because of this journey. Each day has taught me so much more about this amazing plant. I learned something new and exciting each day while getting to know our fields – starting from what kind of soil, other plants and bugs tea likes and finishing with the proper height to cut them. Also, the production is not less interesting. It’s quite amazing how the result changes just because the weather was different on the day of plucking or how much a small tweak in the process could affect the characteristics of tea. And tasting the results afterwards. It’s quite funny when you discover that there are not enough words in your vocabulary to describe the smell and taste of tea. So, you learn the terminology, but most importantly learn to distinguish the different tastes. I think a year ago I didn’t know how exciting tea and everything connected to it could actually be. I wasn’t just able to imagine it then.
There’s so much still to learn, but the love for tea has been ignited and the excitement is growing day by day knowing how much new things we will learn this year.
Although the year was filled with moments of the unknown, the biggest anticipation started in October, when we finally started to send out the teas we made this year. By now we have almost sold out all the teas we made during our first season. Of course, the amounts were quite humble, but still, it means a lot to us that so many people have already trusted us. And I have to say that we have been really surprised about the feedback. Of course, we hoped that people would like our teas, but we also admitted to ourselves it was our very first year, so there could’ve easily been a hit from the reality saying that you really don’t know how to make tea. But we have got such great feedback and people seem to like it and we are so grateful for that. It means that all the challenges and hardships on the way have been worth the wile. And our tea masters Tomas and Hannes have proven that nothing is impossible :)
PS! We are soon planning the production for 2019. We will not take all of last year’s teas to production and plan to decrease the amount of different sorts. So, let us know which one was your favourite one and what would you like to see in the 2019 season production.
Check out also how we wrapped up the season a couple of months ago: