An online contact / friend, Alexander Zhiryakov, mentioned an upcoming tea conference event in Georgia, which reminded me that I’ve not ever mentioned trying tea from that country in a T Ching post. What I have tried was nice. Some versions from Moychay a number of years back were kind of mid-range for being novel or pleasant, but still okay and unique in style. More recent versions from Nika Sioridze of Greengold were very unique, and better than still-being-developed styles should be – really exceptional. A couple of reviews are here and here.

That was because Greengold was working with an old reclaimed Soviet plantation, so the growing plants part was already covered; they had been thriving there under natural growing conditions for a while. That just left processing, which went surprisingly well – related to them doing some networking and drawing on other resources and experience to replace processing development guesswork with experienced input. All that will be part of this tour and conference event, since they will visit Greengold.

Three people stand in a tea field in George, the one on the left holding a microphone toward Nika Sioridze, the one in the middle

Nika Sioridze (center) with tea plants

The friend mentioning the event, Alexander Zhiryakov, was the main founder of Laos Tea. I met him in a Moscow tea tasting some years back related to that role and theme. He’s not the sole organizer of the event, but he is involved with the process.

This doesn’t really directly relate to Alexander working on different initiatives to set up tea-testing-based quality standards, overlapping with a broader evaluation theme. A group of friends and I talked with him and another Russian friend in that informal online meetup series last year, described in very limited detail here.

Four people seated around a table in Laos and smiling, drinking cups of tea

Alexander is on the right

It seemed like an interesting event for combining a few main themes, the first of which is local tea background, drilled down to reviewing growing plants and processing demonstrations including limited hands-on experience of tea making, and of course trying teas. Next is a second part related to tea judging tea versions, then auctioning some category winning versions and favorites. Finally there was a related social outing afterwards, with a local gathering and hiking outing theme. It sounded great.

More specific details about that event (with meals and tea tastings along with event steps not mentioned in this summary):

Dates: 15 – 17 July 2022 
Place: Ozurgeti, Georgia (capital of Guria provice, the main tea region).
Travel related:  The nearest international airport is Batumi, 48km away from Ozugreti, with the Tbilisi and Kutaisi airports as alternatives.   

Day 1:  visit mountain tea garden (Greengold), learn about tea plucking and processing, how green and black tea are produced.

Day 2:  Travel to Anaseuly Tea Institute and Experimental factory, learn about Soviet tea science in 1950’s, and modern leaf compound analysis, with later sessions about tea tasting process and experimental processing techniques.

Day 3:  Tea fest opening in the Park of Culture, Ozurgeti, competition, awards, and beginning of tea auction portion.

Afterparty (separate):  in Bakhmaro, mountainous resort south-east of Ozurgeti, at 2000 m elevation, tea tastings and hikes. 

More information and related contact details will be posted in a website notice, by the time this T Ching article is posted.

It seems that similar to other tea areas, local competition between producers tends to prevent these kinds of events being arranged. Tea competitions or conferences are common enough, just not this scope which overlaps some with guided tea tours – the parts about visiting producers and hands-on sessions related to making teas.  It would work in places like Wuyishan, Assam, or Darjeeling, but tea tourism is already established enough in many areas.  People already visit for vacations or to connect with producers, either related to a tour guided theme or else on their own.

Covid must have made it difficult to develop any new event ventures of most kinds over the last couple of years, unless those related to an online context. It’s nice to hear about a novel travel-related theme, with great timing for shifting focus off other Russian news. Potential disruption related to a “special military operation” being conducted by that neighboring country must bring up concerns about travel disruption, but from what I’ve seen of other recent tourism videos in Georgia there are great travel options there, and the country isn’t experiencing any problems related to those events.

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