Tsintsadze’s company, Georgian Flavour, contributes not only to the rebirth of a traditional industry but also to the revival of the local economy; in addition to directly employing 15 people, the company buys fresh tea leaves from about 80 local tea growers.
Tiny Guria is as lovely as it is poor. Local citizens and authorities see the growing interest in tea culture as a life-changing opportunity for the region. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Georgia, the recently established Tea Route scenic trail brought over 2,000 visitors to the region in just one year.
Georgian Flavour was one of 29 small enterprises in Guria financed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through a small grants programme supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Austrian Development Cooperation and the Georgian Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure. Local entrepreneurs used the funds to launch new businesses and keep existing ones afloat as pandemic lockdowns severed revenue streams.
Mikheil Tsintsadze used the grant to build an outdoor tea tasting space in his yard, which allowed the entrepreneur to host guests — while simultaneously following pandemic safety regulations — and to provide other local producers with a thriving trade space.
Tsintsadze recently said, “the pandemic would have been much harsher for us if it weren’t for the assistance.” He added that the initiative prompted him to bring to life other business ideas of his. He will soon make high-quality dried fruits — persimmons, kiwis, apples, oranges and grapefruit — available in shops together with artisan teas. He hopes that as pandemic restrictions are slowly lifted, visitors will return to enjoying Georgian tastes and aromas.
In the early 1900s, brews from the Gurian hills won international awards for best tea and a gold medal at the Paris World Expo. Having been carefully cultivated in the lush backyards of Guria, the once-famous Georgian tea is returning to the world stage.