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Russia's tea trade goes cold

Monday, February 22, 2016 - 01:35

The Black Sea resort of Sochi is best known for hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. But it's also the home of Russia's only tea blend and as Hayley Platt reports the tough economic climate is hurting the industry.

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You could be forgiven for thinking this was Sri Lanka. It's actually Russia where they've been growing tea for over 100 years. But The Matsesta Tea plantation - the last of its kind in the region - is under threat. It's just outside Sochi. And the company's chief engineer said it simply can't compete on wages with those paid in tourism. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) CHIEF ENGINEER OF "MATSESTA TEA" COMPANY, VLADIMIR VORONIN, SAYING: "The land used to be well tended, not a single bush was overgrown with weeds. Today tea plantations are in bad shape because there aren't enough people that want to work on them." Russian tea or Krasnodar tea as its known locally - grew rapidly until the end of the 19th century. Tea plantations spread and the industry thrived. That changed when competition from China and India was found to be cheaper. Those still in business face hefty fines of up to $5,000 if they don't look after the land. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) CHIEF ENGINEER OF "MATSESTA TEA" COMPANY, VLADIMIR VORONIN, SAYING: "If we are punished financially, then we'll be destroyed and never recover, we're not able to pay such fines and the tea industry here in southern Russia will be destroyed." Matsesta is trying to diversify and tap into the tourist market on its doorstep. They run tours of their tea factory. And visitors can even pick their own leaves if they wish. But it may take more than that to ensure the survival of this particular Russian brew. Russian authorities estimate nearly half of the 1500 hectares of tea plantations left have been abandoned - more is likely to suffer the same fate.

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Russia's tea trade goes cold

Monday, February 22, 2016 - 01:35