An intriguing artisan product from the Caucasian Mountains in Georgia
Three enterprising young people, two British, one American, met in the Caucasus in far-off Georgia. Tim, the American had been living there for sometime and it was he who introduced Amy and Tom to the local botanical teas.
The culture of these teas had started centuries before when merchants travelling along the Silk Road inspired locals to start fermenting leaves of the shrubs and plants which grew wild on the Caucasus Mountains.
In fact these sub tropical hillsides turned out to be ideal for the cultivation of the more conventional tea plant and by the 20th century the area became the fourth largest producer of tea in the world, supplying it to the Soviet Union.
The cultivation of botanical teas had continued alongside the bigger industry and when the latter collapsed after the fall of the USSR, leaving abandoned factories and tea gardens, the artisanal tea makers made use of their skills and, using leaves from blackberry, mulberry, quince, blueberry and other trees and shrubs, they gradually began to revive the traditional tea culture.
The leaves are collected, withered, rolled and fermented to bring out the flavour and, at just the right moment, they are roasted in a rotating oven before being dried and finished. By using the same technology as is used for black tea production they taste like full-bodied teas rather than fruit teas yet are completely caffeine free.
Tim knew one of the oldest tea growing families, having studied with the daughter Nina in the States. Lika, her mother is a member of the association of Georgian Organic Tea Producers and had many contacts. Meanwhile Tom and Amy had met up with Tim (Amy having cycled to Georgia from Ledbury in England!) and the idea of marketing these teas was formulated. They then met growers, visited tea plantations and tasted dozens of samples teas.
Tom and Amy lived in a beautiful old traditional wooden house in Balda, the only foreigners ever to have settled in the village. The house was cold, mod cons were few and far between and cows and horses made their way into their garden but there was something wonderfully healing about the gentle self-sufficient pace of life. Nela-Nela is Georgian for ‘slowly slowly,’ which they thought an apt name to adopt for their company hoping that an echo of this calm would be experienced by consumers taking time to savour and enjoy the flavours of these teas.
All teas are sourced direct from small-scale artisanal tea makers. Nela Nela is fact the only supplier of fermented botanical teas of this sort. All the attractive packaging is plastic free, recyclable and compostable. Best of all they taste good and are reasonably priced
- Rolled wild blueberry
- Fermented mulberry leaf
- Rolled wild blackberry leaf