Cultivating a passion for tea
How former office workers have taken over abandoned plantations and are working to revive the European tea industry
Growing tea was a spur of the moment decision. It wasn’t growing on a small scale either – we’re talking abandoned plantations and reviving an entire tea industry.
A friend asked me to join her and a few others on their mission and I said yes, simply because it sounded exciting. At the time I wasn’t a big fan of tea, organic gardening, or Georgia – the country, not the state. Somehow it was exactly what I had to do. That’s how I found myself part of the Renegade Tea Estate.
Reviving the European Tea Industry
We’re currently rehabilitating two abandoned tea plantations in Western Georgia. They’re about 86 acres (35 hectares) and have been abandoned for years. Amazingly, the tea plants are still there although they’re overgrown with bracken. Our first step has been to clear the plantations so that the plants could once again see the light of day. Slowly but surely the plants are regaining strength and are becoming productive again.
Collapse of the USSR and the tea industry
Most people think of tea as a Chinese or Indian industry but until 1991 Georgia was a key producer too. Sadly, with the collapse of countries comes the collapse of business and farming. Within five years of the fall of the Soviet Union, the Georgian tea industry was no more. Only lonely villages remain of a thriving and bustling community. Jobs were lost and young people moved away.
I suppose everyone wants to help make the world a better place. We’ve been working with our own hands to revive the tea plantations but it’s not just about us. It’s also about helping local people to regain their livelihoods and dignity. It’s given hope to the people who work for us – an optimism for the future that can’t be put into words.
Growing tea organically
The plantations have been left fallow for thirty years with no fertilizers, pesticides or nearby industry. Just clean mountain air and free range livestock. Nature has healed the land and we’ve decided to carry on with a natural land management program. I support it wholeheartedly but it’s a real learning experience.
First off, we’re learning that organic farming means a lot of weeding. All of us “Renegades” come from corporate backgrounds and have close to no experience in farming. We learn new things every day whether it’s clearing weeds, building fences, tending cattle, or picking tea. We help the locals with jobs and they help us in return with their knowledge and skills. I don’t know what we’d do without them.
You could be a Renegade too
Our mission is to create the most human and honest tea company in the world. No customer service center, no middlemen, no corporate shenanigans. We want to establish a personal connection from us and our farms direct to the people who drink our tea. The way I see it, we’re not really just growing tea either. We’re helping to re-grow a community. Our dream is that everyone who joins the Renegade community views it as their tea estate too.
We are now looking for other Renegades who would like to support our slightly crazy plan by pre-ordering our first organic tea, or even by being a patron to a small tea estate of your own.
We really appreciate if you can give a small extra push to our plan to revive the Georgian tea fields by sharing our message or supporting us via Indiegogo