Russian tea is winning blend for Olympians

Tea production in Russia is on the rise in the south of the country, with unique blends cultivated from Chinese plants brought to the region more than a century ago.

Just a few kilometers from Sochi’s Black Sea coast, in the village of Izmailovka, you can see the Krasnodar tea being grown. Since the 19th century this area has been famous for developing its own distinctive blends.

The first tea plants were brought to the Sochi area from China. But it was only a few decades later that the local farmers had learned how to properly cultivate the plantations. Until recently they were still collecting the crops by hand.

The secrets of the trade are simple: to make a perfect blend you have to pick only the top three leaves.

Oleg Turshu from Matsesta Tea Company also claims no chemicals are used to protect the crops. The weather is also a key factor – the world’s mostly northerly tea has to be collected quickly, before it turns cold in the Caucasus mountains.

Farmers say they've spent a fortune on newly imported machines, but beleive it's money well spent.

Turshu says “of course the machines help us to work faster and to preserve the quality of the leaves that we pick. And that, in turn, helps us use our resources more efficiently.”

This company is one of 6 major tea growers in the Sochi area. With less than 5 years until the city hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics, all are competing to promote their products. Many now offer guided tours of their plantations and factories. Free tasting in a cozy kitchen is always on the menu.

Matsesta Tea Company’s promoter Ekaterina Nechiporenko says “Our tea blends are unique because of their rich aroma and colour – traits typical of this location. We try to preserve the best qualities of the product, and we’re always glad to see guests from Russia and abroad.”

So it seems guaranteed the thousands of athletes and sports fans who will converge on Sochi for the winter games, will be assured of a warm welcome, not just from locals, but also in the form of a delicious cup of tea.