Today the Caucasian tea sector is only a shadow of its former importance during the Soviet era, when it accounted for over 95% of Soviet tea consumption. Since then, the sector has suffered from structural under-funding and serious damage from the 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 With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Caucasian tea lost its domestic market, which was superseded by cheap tea production in other regions.
To support the revival of the tea traditions in the region, CBDN promoted the launch of the “Caucasus Tea” initiative, which engaged local producers and associations.
On July 11-13 2008, the first ever Caucasian Tea Producers’ Congress took place in Baku; this event brought together many of the main actors from the tea sector in the former Soviet Union.
One of the main aims of the Congress was to evaluate the status of the tea sector in the Caucasus and develop ways to promote tea sector development and collaboration in the region. The participants agreed that while there is no going back to Soviet style production and supply-chain models, the key for tea sector development lies in cooperation. As a result of the proceedings, the participants agreed to establish The Caucasian Tea Producers’ Association – an advocacy platform open for all parties interested in tea sector development and cooperation in the region.
The event received extensive and positive media coverage as it was the first time that the main actors from the sector had come together on this level and in such format since the early 1990s.
CBDN’s work on promoting tea sector cooperation in the Caucasus continued with the organisation of Caucasus Tea Festival on 25 October 2008 in Tbilisi. The event marked the launch of a new joint tea brand – Caucasus Tea. CBDN partners and tea producers treated the hundreds of guests to their teas in order to promote the newly created brand. It proved to be a huge success, popular with all guests.
On October 23-24, 2009 with the support from GTZ (The Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit) and CPP (UK Conflict Prevention Pool) CBDN organized the second Caucasian Tea Producers’ Congress to advance further regional cooperation in the tea sector and promote the Caucasus Tea brand. The Congress, this time in Tbilisi, brought together around 60 producers and experts from the private sectors, state committees, tea associations, etc. Tea experts from Sri Lanka were invited to participate in the proceedings and share their expertise. Additionally, there was a British tea sector expert specialising in specialty-teas and niche marketing; something that many consider to be the future of the Caucasian tea sector. The Congress was followed by the second Caucasus Tea Festival that had producers from all corners of the region showcasing Caucasus Tea, along with their own produce, to hundreds of visitors.
On October 23 2010, CBDN, together with the Caucasian Tea Producers’ Association, organized the third Caucasus Tea Festival, which attracted special attention for its regional format.
Caucasus Tea was presented together with many other assortments of premium teas brands. In 2011, the Caucasus Tea Festival was held again in Tbilisi, and was the platform for the showcasing of the brand new Caucasus Honey. The pilot products were received positively all-round as a new model of cooperation between beekeepers in the region. As one visitor raved: “I am happy to try tea produced by local efforts of tea makers across the entire region. I think it is very important to have this kind of initiative, where people of the Caucasus work together and this kind of event where people can enjoy tea, wine, cheese and honey, not thinking about where they were produced.”
As a result of the positive feedback, in 2012 and 2013 the two products were presented together at CBDN’s Tea and Honey Festival in Tbilisi. Both festivals saw a large gathering of local and international guests who were excited and intrigued by the regional format of the products.
In 2014, CBDN created pilot editions of a new range of herbal teas. These are to be distributed in beautiful, handmade souvenir pouches and are a blend of the finest leaves from all across the South Caucasus. All natural and nutritious herbs, these teas have been described as “the secret to Caucasus longevity”!
In October 2014 CBDN held the now traditional Tea and Honey Festival in Tbilisi. The event was attended by the Mayor of Tbilisi David Narmania and the Czech Ambassador to Georgia Tomas Pernicky, among other local and international guests.