Are there tea farms in Ukraine?
Is tea part of Ukrainian culture?
These are questions I’ve been asking myself over the last week. Watching the news of the war in Ukraine, I considered the connection that we may have through tea. It might seem a bit odd, but I often think of tea stories during some of the difficult times in history. Tea has brought the world together with a shared culture even though this history has been very dark at times. And in this dark time, I wanted to explore my sense of connection with the people of Ukraine. I didn’t find much in my tea library, but an Internet search proved interesting.
I share it with you in this article, hoping that this will inspire a discussion. Please consider adding to the conversation in the chat. Or, if you have more information about tea in Ukraine, please contact us so that we can follow up, publishing additional articles to increase our awareness of and heart-felt support for the people.
Does tea grow in Ukraine? Yes!
There is one experimental farm and the project coordinator, Maksym Malyhin, has given a few interviews in English so that, even though we cannot reach him now, we can be aware of his work and also more about tea in Ukraine. In a podcast on the site, Tea, Mud, and Hope, he was interviewed by Monica Griesbaum on March 16, 2020.
Photo by Maksym Malyhin
We can hear the passion in his voice for the tea. In addition to the farm, Malyhin also helps coordinate the blog, TeaTips.info and tea information website TeaTips.ru (English translation tool available). But Maksym Malyhin is also a judge and an important part of the Tea Masters Cup in Ukraine and the administrator of a Facebook Group, Tea Across The World.
The Only Tea Farm in Ukraine – Mount Zhornina Tea Plantation
In 1949, the first experimental tea was planted on Mt. Zhornia in Transcarpathia. This project lasted until 1956 when much of the 70 hectares (172 acres) was nearly destroyed. Two hectares (5 acres) that had been planted in a shaded area of the project survived. The forest service managed this area until the 1990s. But then, lack of funds caused the abandonment of a managed project and resulted in the looting of the 50-year-old Camellia sinensis plants.
Amazingly, some 200 young shoots survived and are now the Mt. Zhornia Tea Plantation under the management of Malyhin. The tea that has been produced is a twisted-leaf oolong. Now, with this destruction of so much of Ukraine, perhaps one tiny consolation is that this small farm is tucked into a corner of the country that is so out of the line of fire, it may be spared. We can hold the thought that one day we will be able to celebrate with a cup of this rare tea. (I will add a visit to this farm to my must-do list.)
Origins of tea in Transcaucasia (near the Black Sea)
One of the reasons there is so little commercial farming for Camellia sinensis is the harsh climate. But attempts to do so began in the 1800s. According to William Ukers in “All About Tea,” the first experimental tea farms started in the 1800s from Chinese seeds.
Tea was first planted experimentally in the Botanical Gardens of Sukhum, a Black Sea port, in 1847, at the instance of the viceroy of the Caucasus, Vorontzoff. From that date until the ‘nineties’, Rusian agriculturists conducted further experimental cultivation on their own lands until successful tea production was demonstrated. Since 1983, when cultivation on a commercial scale was begun, it has become one of the most important sources of wealth in Transcaucasia.
And Ukers explains how there was limited commercial success growing along the eastern shore of the Black Sea.
Culture of Tea in Ukraine
It is usually reported that tea drinking habits in Ukraine are similar to those in Russia and other neighboring countries. On her I Prefer Tea blog, August 15, 2019, Olenka Martynyuk postedI Prever Tea, Olenka Martynyuk wrote:
“Despite tea-drinking being an integral part of the Ukrainian culture at home, tea options were modest on the menus of Kyiv cafés until recently. However, a real tea renaissance is underway. More tea options are being added and sommeliers are paying more attention to teas of fine quality. Dmytro Filimonov, a tea taster at Good Wine, is witness to the change and re-recognition. “It’s not a mere flash-in-the-pan of interest because we love tea here in Ukraine; it’s very common in every Ukrainian household.”
Fine Specialty Tea in Ukraine – Tea Masters Cup
But one marker for the growth of interest in specialty tea – not just the very intense black tea – is the fact that Ukrainians have been very much a part of developing this global competition for elegant tea service. This seems to indicate that there is a very developed interest in fine specialty teas.
Unique Tea Recipes
In stark contrast to the Russian style black, even smoky flavored teas are the Ukrainian herbal teas.
Popular Herbs and Flowers Blended for Tea in Ukraine
- Dried chamomile
- Dried mint leaves
- Dried rosebay willow herb leaves
- Dried dog-rose berries
- Dried elderberries
- Dried raspberries
- Dried linden flowers
- Dried calendula flowers
- Dried blackberry leaves
- Dried strawberry leaves
- Dried currant leaves
One of the most iconic Ukrainian beverages is made from a fruit and honey compote. Combinations of both dried and fresh fruit can be used. Hot water, honey, and fruit are allowed to infuse for six hours or overnight – but not boiled. The sweet, fruity tea is drained and then the fruit can be used in many different ways.
Tea Unites the World
In my musing as I wrote this article I remembered a wall-sized poster of a map on the wall of the office at G.S. Haley in California. Originally creeated by MacDonald Gill, in 1940 for the International Tea Market Expansion Board Ltd., it was produced to celebrate the origin and culture of tea. The banner across the vintage (and now out-of-date) map reads “Tea Revives The World”. But in my mind, I mistakenly recalled it saying “Tea Unites The World.” And for these times, I would like to think that there is something in the way we share tea that makes it more than just a beverage. That it can unite us.
So, with my limited graphic tools and the resources of Wikipedia and Canva, I created my variation on the original slogan.
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It’s so heartbreaking to witness the destructions.
The flag of blue and yellow is said to symbolize “blue sky above yellow field of wheat.”
And Ukraine’s beautiful national anthem – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHzHlSLhtmM