THE STORY OF GEORGIAN TEA
As recently as 30 years ago, western Georgia was one of the main tea producing regions in the world. At its peak, the tea industry employed more than 150,000 people and green, lush plantations covered tens of thousands of hectares.
Today, Georgian tea has become a thing of the past as the industry collapsed almost completely in just five short years in the early 1990s. Huge factories closed and whole regions lost their employment as Georgia dealt with the aftershocks that the fall of the Soviet Union sent through the region. Not only did the tea industry lose its main export market but the whole country struggled to handle the heavy economic crisis and separatist conflicts.
Abandoned plantations were slowly taken over by weeds and, over the years, many of them were eventually uprooted and replaced with other cultures. However, almost 30 years later, hundreds of plantations are still there – overgrown with ferns, blackberries and small trees – and are still waiting for someone to give them a second lease of life.
Read more about the history of Georgian tea here.
The sudden and almost complete demise of the huge industry seemed almost unbelievable at first. Seeing the abandoned plantations everywhere when driving around in western Georgia was convincing enough for us. It was initially just the surprise and our curiosity that motivated us to dig deeper, but we ended up by understanding that Georgian tea deserves to be revived as it will bring value to two essential communities — tea lovers around the world and the local people in Georgia:
"At its peak, the tea industry employed more than 150,000 people and green, lush plantations covered tens of thousands of hectares."
- Georgia has excellent conditions to produce the highest quality organic teas due to its climate of warm summers and chilly winters with occasional snow. Due to the cool winters, there is no need to use any pesticides or other chemicals to keep the bushes safe from pests or illnesses.
- The northern region of western Georgia was heavily focused on tea production and has never fully recovered from its decline. The damage cannot be undone but restarting even a small part of the industry would help to bring life back to many smaller towns and villages in the region.
We realized, that we want to contribute and take part in this process. In 2018 we rehabilitated two plantations and both of them give harvest already, a third one is cleaned in 2019 with the hopes of getting the first harvest in 2020. Read more about our plantations here.
We really hope that the life and optimism will once again return to the foothills of the Caucasus. The Georgian tea plantations being one of the few European tea plantations deserve a chance to be revived again.