Georgian Cultured Lady is a unique delightful black tea from the Republic of Georgia (formerly part of the Soviet Union).. The flavor is extremely smooth with a distinct honey sweetness. It is hand-harvested (Orthodox style) with many complete bud sets, and is pesticide-free and organic.
The first attempt at tea cultivation in Georgia occurred after Prince Miha of the aristocratic Eristavi clan traveled across China in the 1820s. He was taken by the various infusions of tea and reasoned that his home region had a climate similarly conducive to its production. In order to circumvent laws against the export of Chinese tea plants and seeds, Eristavi smuggled seeds out of the country inside of bamboo. The earliest plantations were established in the 1830s, but the resulting product was not popularized for several decades.
In a roundabout way, the Crimean War had perhaps the biggest hand in developing a Georgian tea industry. In 1854, an English military ship was wrecked off the Black Sea port of Poti, and its crew was taken hostage by the local garrison. One of the hostages, a Scottish officer named Jacob McNamara, married into the Georgian gentry and remained in the country. A true Scotsman, he missed the availability of tea and proposed increased production on the Eristavi estate in Ozurgeti and Chakvi. By 1864, “Caucasian tea” was presented at an international exhibition in St. Petersburg.
Later in the 19th century, Konstantin Popov, a wealthy merchant in charge of almost the entire Russian imperial tea trade, became interested in the idea of growing tea along the Black Sea coast. He bought vast plots in Chakvi, not far from Batumi, and dreamt of establishing massive plantations with internationally-competitive exports.
In 1892, he traveled to China in order to study large-scale tea production. Popov hired a team of experienced workers from a factory in Guangdong, including an ambitious director named Lao Junzhou. After a three-year term, all of the specialists returned home except for Lao, who was determined to see the project achieve its full potential.
Popov and Lao had yet to perfect the conditions and methods for quality tea, and low-quality tea was derisively referred to as “Lao-class.” Undaunted, Lao visited home and returned to Georgia with his family, and was also accompanied by several other Chinese tea-growing families , who brought new tea seedlings and seeds.
After several years of hard work and further research, Lao’s tea was awarded a gold medal at the 1900 Paris World Expo. Lao became the manager of a new factory in 1901, and was awarded an order in 1911, becoming the first person of Chinese origin to receive formal recognition from the Tsar. In 1924, the Soviet government awarded him the Red Banner Order of Labor, recognizing him as the founder of tea culture in Adjara and developer of a valuable economic resource.
In 1926, Lao returned permanently to China with his family, while tea continued to be a major industry throughout the Soviet period.
Tea growers lament that Georgian tea went into decline under Khrushchev, when the factories were worked mercilessly to meet planned production figures. The resulting low-quality tea was often sold for about 60 cents a pound. This unusual product is almost entirely exported to Mongolia, where it is known as “Stalin tea” for its trademark sickle-and-hammer stamp, and is customarily brewed with milk and drunk with salt and butter, i.e., Butter Tea.
Today, Georgian tea production is on the rise in terms of both quality and quantity, with emphasis on its pesticide-free, organic growing process.
Georgian Cultured Lady is available from The Tea Smith for $61,20 per pound at http://www.theteasmith.com/product/BLKWG05016.html/