On 25 October 2008, shortly after the August War, CBDN brought together tea producers & produce from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey as well as Nagorny Karabakh and tea from Abkhazia and herbal tea from South Ossetia for the first International Caucasian Tea Festival in Tbilisi. The event also marked the launch of a new joint tea brand, “The Caucasian Tea” – a selection of teas and herbs from across the South Caucasus.
Today the Caucasian tea sector is only a shadow of its former importance during the Soviet era, when Georgian, Abkhazian and Azerbaijani teas alone covered over 95% of Soviet tea consumption. Since then the tea sector has suffered from structural underfunding and was heavily damaged by the many conflicts in the region, which undermined development and cooperation amongst tea producers. With the collapse of the Soviet Union Caucasian tea lost its domestic market, which was then taken over by cheaper teas.
However, the present poor state of the Caucasian tea sector does not reflect the widespread desire for local brewing and the special place it holds in people’s hearts. One participant of the Tea Festival expressed his frustration for not being able to find Caucasian tea on the market: “I would of course buy local tea if only I could find it – but there is none to be found in the markets”.Amongst other guests, the 1st International Caucasian Tea Festival was also attended by members of Georgia’s Parliamentary Agricultural Committee and Ministry of Agriculture. As a matter of fact, the Festival not only aimed at developing cooperation between tea producers in the region, but also at putting this issue on the agenda of policy makers.
CBDN partners and tea producers from Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan including Nagorny Karabakh treated the hundreds of guests with their teas, while at the same time promoting the newly created “Caucasian Tea” brand. Conscious that they cannot compete on quantity or price with other markets, local producers are concentrating on the quality of their teas. In fact, some of the elite teas and herbal teas presented at the Festival have been praised by international tea experts for their ecological purity and taste.