WHY GEORGIAN TEA?
Georgian tea is often overlooked, yet Georgia is actually one of the most suitable places on Earth to grow high-quality, organic tea. This small country went from being the world's fourth largest tea producer to virtually unheard of in the space of three decades.
We took on an abandoned tea farm here in 2018 so we've learned a few things about Georgian tea in the meantime. The past and present of the industry is both beautiful and hard, but what exactly is Georgian tea like and why have you probably never heard of it before?
GEORGIAN TEA IS ORGANIC
Georgia's tea fields are spread throughout subtropical western Georgia. The winters here are cold, which naturally kills off pests and diseases so tea bushes can thrive organically. In most tea growing regions, tea is treated with harmful chemicals to keep the tea bushes healthy, but in Georgia, the cold and snow do that for us.
GEORGIAN TEA HAS A UNIQUE FLAVOUR, WHEN DONE RIGHT
During the Soviet Union, Georgian tea was mass-produced and low quality, which can still often be the case. However, it has huge potential. When made with craftsmanship, Georgian tea has a complex, unique flavour that is slightly sweet. Its flavour comes from its terroir and climate (the cold winters help).
<< Photo of the tea bushes on our farm covered in snow
SO WHY HAVE YOU PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF GEORGIAN TEA BEFORE?
Probably because you didn't live in the Soviet Union. Georgian tea actually has a centuries-long history, and just 30 years ago, it was one of the biggest tea industries in the world. But, almost 100% of the tea was very low-quality and mass produced for the countries in the Soviet Union.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Georgian tea industry went down with it. The 1000s of tonnes of low-quality tea couldn't survive the free market, civil war and economic decline. Factories closed, tea machines were stolen and sold for scrap metal and weeds and brambles grew over thousands of hectares of tea bushes.
Within 5 years, Georgia's production collapsed to less than 10% of the previous volumes. This sorry state of affairs has lasted for the past 25 years.
Read more about the collapse of Georgian tea industry from here. Photo below shows the ruins of a tea factory in Guria, one of Georgia's main tea growing regions. It's a common sight to see cows grazing on overgrown tea fields.
WHERE IS GEORGIAN TEA TODAY?
Sadly, many of the tea fields still lie abandoned or are ripped up and replaced with hazlenut trees, which is considered a more valuable crop. However, a small community of tea makers across Western Georgia are reviving tea fields and making artisinal tea here.
Tea farming in Georgia is no easy mission. We spent countless hours clearing weeds from the tea fields and renovating the crumbled old factory so we can produce tea for you here. However, Georgian tea has a long road ahead to become well-known for what it is – organic, high-quality tea grown on the edge of Europe.
We hope to help to spread the word on Georgian tea to bring jobs back to the rural regions and see tea made from the abandoned fields again. So far, we've built a community of 2000 families around the world who drink Georgian tea from our farm. And counting...