Soviet Georgia was once the largest supplier of tea to the U.S.S.R., achieving peak production of 143,000 metric tons in 1983. The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 had a devastating effect on production levels, when over half of the tea plants had to be uprooted. In 1992, only 55,000 tons were produced. The last official production figure available is that of 2004, when only 11,000 tons were produced. As of this writing, the last foreign company to have packing facilities in Georgia has closed its doors, with no plans to reopen. Russian imports of Georgian tea account for only 1-2% of total tea imports, and the future of Georgian tea is unclear, at best.
Throughout the history of tea, we find a recurring pattern of trade imbalances, supply shortages and surpluses, and political frictions that often result in war. For the first installment of this series on Reversals of Fortune in the Tea Industry, we go backwards in time to nine centuries before perestroika.
"Upton Tea Imports was founded in 1989 with the objective of providing the North American tea drinker with
the finest teas available. We purchase teas from reputable brokers and estates worldwide, dealing only with
sources who are capable of providing top quality teas. We sell directly to the consumer, thus ensuring the
freshest product and fairest pricing."