Tea in Strange Places (and the Olympics) – Sochi

Like so many others I have to admit that I’d never heard of the Russian city known as Sochi until I found out that it would be hosting the Winter Olympics in 2014. Sochi is located in the far western region of the country, on the Black Sea. It’s notable for tea lovers because it has been a tea producing region for nearly a century now. It has a balmy climate that makes it a very popular vacation destination, but the nearby mountains are suited for those winter sports that will be taking place there next year.

Samovars from Yahoo! Images
Samovars from Yahoo! Images

Russians in general are actually a rather avid bunch of tea lovers. They are ranked 23rd among the world’s tea drinkers, with just over two and a half pounds consumed per person every year. They’ve also done a great deal to popularize the use of the samovar, an old-school tea-making gadget, of sorts. But Russia has a few neighbors where tea is actually produced in relatively modest quantities. An independent nation now and no longer a part of the Soviet Union, one of the best known of these is Georgia, which is located in the same general vicinity as Sochi.

If you do a web search for Sochi and tea, you’ll see a number of results for Sochi tea plants, which are said to have the distinction of coming from the northernmost tea-growing region in the world. They’ve been planning for the Olympics there for a while now and much of the press about the games also mentions the tea industry. As far back as 2009, one Russian press outlet noted the rise of tea production there, while also making mention of the games still five years hence.

A few years later, in 2011, The Voice of Russia reported that production was increasing in Sochi and production methods were improving, with the upcoming year expected to turn out about one thousand tons of tea in the region. They concluded, “There will be enough local tea for all athletes and guests of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.”

Look for more about tea growing in Sochi and in the rest of Russia in this article from one of the tea and coffee trade magazines. Here’s a brief article from Sochi Magazine, no less, in which the writer takes a tea-centric trip to nearby Solokhaul, where tea was supposed to have first been grown in this region. Last of all, take a look at this short video about the local tea industry in Sochi.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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