Georgian tea producer prepares for international market
A teacher from Gezruli in upper Imereti region, Koba Shekiladze has always loved his village and wanted to do something to make jobs for locals. In 2016, he began to fulfil his wish by taking over 22 hectares of a tea plantation and cultivating flavourful organic teas, founding the Velvet Tea Cooperative. Today more than 25 locals work at his tea plantation.
Called “Te-amo,” which means “I love you” in Spanish, the name is meant to demonstrate the company’s caring approach to its products. The tea is cultivated, processed and packaged with love in the ecologically clean environment Imereti highlands, 690 metres above sea level. By mixing old and new, Shekiladze gets the best product possible: tea leaves are picked by hand and later processed with modern equipment. From the picking of delicate leaves to drying and packaging, at each stage, the rules and requirements of organic production and certification are strictly adhered to. Finished tea products not only have a rich taste and an excellent aroma, but Velvet Tea is marked on the map of the EU Tea Route.
Even more has become possible since Velvet Tea got the support of the EU, Sweden and Austria through the GRETA project and was able to buy the necessary equipment, including a green tea withering machine, a black tea sorting machine, dryer, roller and packing machines, and more.
“I have not got such support from anybody else in my life, not even my father,” says Shekiladze. “GRETA project made it possible to bolster production while maintaining high quality.”
Teamo tea is already sold in Georgia, but its founder has high hopes for international markets. Organic certified tea has a high price and not everybody in Georgia can afford it. Moreover, Shekiladze’s dreams go beyond tea. He says the area has a great potential for agrotourism. People could come to his plantation, spend the night, cultivate and prepare their tea. It could be a whole other experience that currently does not exist in Georgia.
GRETA | Green Economy: Sustainable Mountain Tourism and Organic Agriculture in Georgia’ is supported by the European Union, Austria and Sweden, and is implemented in Georgia by the Austrian Development Agency. The project aims to facilitate the improvement of the business environment and increase opportunities for generating additional income for the Georgian economy in two important sectors, mountain tourism and organic agriculture. The project is implemented in close cooperation with the local government and involves the regions of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, Racha-Lechkhumi-Kvemo Svaneti and upper Imereti, where the entrepreneurs are involved from the municipalities of Mestia, Lentekhi, Tsageri, Oni, Ambrolauri, Sachkhere, Chiatura and Tkibuli.
This material has been produced with the assistance of the European Union, Sweden and Austria in the frame of the GRETA project and with the collaboration of the EU4Business umbrella programme. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the GRETA project and EU4Business umbrella programme and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union, Sweden and Austria.