|A teacher from Gezruli in the 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.***The GRETA project | “Green Economy: Sustainable Mountain Tourism and Organic Agriculture” is co-financed 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 revenues in two such important sectors of Georgian economy as mountain tourism and organic agriculture. The project covers the regions of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti as well as Upper Imereti; entrepreneurs from the municipalities of Mestia, Lentekhi, Tsageri, Oni, Ambrolauri, Sachkhere, Chiatura and Tkibuli are involved in the project. Find out more at www.gretaproject.ge