In these difficult times for Georgia, we’ve received this particularly moving message from one of our producer friends: “Every kilo of Georgian tea sold, especially in Europe, contributes to both our dignity and our survival.” Of course, we’re doing what we can for those with whom we work closely, and it’s in this spirit that I’m sharing his message with you. If you’ve never tasted tea from Georgia before, there are some delicious ones. White tea from Guria, for example. The harvest was very small. It’s a white tea produced in the same way as the well-known Bai Mu Dan from China.
In Georgia, the soviets left behind residential buildings that look as if they were built in the middle of nowhere. In the days when tea was an intensive industry, these buildings had a purpose. But today, with the rural exodus and many plantations disappearing under weeds, the same buildings evoke a bygone past.
In Georgia, tea grows mainly in the provinces of Guria and Imereti, where the prevailing westerly wind blows in moisture-laden clouds from the Black Sea all year round. These are mountainous, jungle-covered regions. The tea bushes weren’t tended for nearly 30 years, so between harvests, ferns and brambles must be uprooted in order to find them. This is a mammoth task for the small producers and their teams who, in the space of a fortnight, see their Camellia sinensis disappearing under the dense vegetation.
During the Soviet era, Georgia produced a lot of tea for the whole of the USSR. But when it gained independence and the troops withdrew, there was nothing left of the production facilities but deserted buildings.
In the space of a few years, its annual tea production of 152,000 tonnes fell to just 1,800 tonnes. But since 2016, tea cultivation has been revived by the Georgian government, which is encouraging small producers to start new farms, produce quality tea and hire employees, with the aim of helping to stem the rural exodus.