The Republic of Georgia is a small country between Turkey and Russia with a long and complex history. While the country is known for many things, it is not commonly known that they used to be one of the largest tea producers in the world.
History of Georgian Tea
Tea was first planted in the 1840s as an experiment, and the plant did well in the Mediterranean climate. A small quantity of specialty tea was produced, but the political instability in the region changed production. As Georgia became a part of the Soviet Union, the production of tea increased. Both Lenin and Stalin were tea drinkers, and in order to provide enough tea for the large country, they focused on the high output of tea from Georgia, cutting quality significantly. Georgian tea farms supplied the Soviet Union with low-quality tea for many years, but the collapse of the Soviet Union decimated the industry. With open borders, cheaper teas from India were imported, and the low-quality Georgian tea suddenly had no market. Most of the country’s tea farms were abandoned or torn out.
The New Georgian Tea
A few years ago, a group of men and women from Estonia and Lithuania decided to quit their corporate jobs and get back to the earth. Without any previous knowledge of tea growing and processing, they formed Renegade Tea Estate, reclaiming abandoned tea farms in Georgia. Battling 20 years of weeds and having to win over the locals was not an easy task. Through persistence and hard work, they have succeeded in not only reclaiming these long-abandoned plants but in harvesting and processing the leaf into a wide range of wonderful teas (a much harder accomplishment than it sounds!).
The farms they reclaimed are unique, particularly because the bushes are so old and well established. The flavor difference between teas from young bushes and old is significant. Old tea plants are thought to produce teas with a much more complex flavor. Older, established bushes also tend not to require the use of herbicides (they are big enough to shade out the weeds around them) and pesticides (once established, tea bushes in temperate areas are not at high risk for pest infestation).
We are very excited to begin carrying their teas! As Renegade ramps up their production, their batches will grow in size, but for the moment, they are very limited so order yours soon!