Not by the sea alone

Not by the sea alone

Expert Reports  
Шато Андре
Sochi is not only the sea and mountains but also mountain honey, fresh tea, homemade cheese, ripe tangerines, aromatic feijoas, amber-coloured persimmons, rainbow trout, aromatic wines and very much interesting and tasty for lovers of delicacies. Today, the agritourism is one of the strategic directions for the development of the resort city. Over the past decade, the number of unique sights in Sochi has doubled and reached 20. Our correspondent tells our readers about some of them.

Visiting the tea growers

Surprisingly, not many people know that the northernmost tea in the world grows in Sochi. The first attempts to grow tea in the resort city were made in the early 20th century. The villager Judas Koshman succeeded in growing tea when he brought a never-before-seen plant from Georgia to the mountain village of Solokh-Aul. The “Krasnodar tea” gained full strength in the Soviet times. After the war, the country’s leader Joseph Stalin, concerned about the country’s food security, ordered to create tea plantations in Sochi. Huge sums of money were invested in this business, about the same as for the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. “Krasnodar Tea” appeared on store shelves.

In 1979, the first agritouris attraction appeared in Sochi - the Russian ethnographic complex “Tea Houses”. To create this, near the village of Uch-Dere, the Arkhangelsk carpenter Ivan Donchakov and his sons built a wooden tower in a quiet forest in the style of a northern merchant’s mansion of the 19th century. In the “Tea Houses”, the guests from all over the world can enjoy a cup of very aromatic tea grown on the surrounding mountain plantations, as well as delicious honey from nearby apiaries, fig and feijoa jams, nuts from the neighbouring villages, and pies with a wide variety of fillings. From the very beginning, all tea parties at the “Tea Houses” were accompanied by the shows of the “Rus” (Russia) folk group, merry dances, lyrical songs and lively Russian ditties.

Today, the Sochi’s unusual tea tradition is continued by various companies of the resort city. The largest enterprise in the Kuban - “Matsesta Chai (tea)” with its full production cycle from harvesting tea leaves to producing their tea - is among them. The agritourism with year-round excursions to the tea plantations has become one of their key businesses. The number of tourists making the tours of the Matsesta tea farm is growing every year. The vacationers willingly come to the tea plantations to stay away from the noisy and hectic cities and to enjoy the nature, see living traditional arts and crafts, take beautiful photos against the backdrop of emerald-green trees and plants. The master classes in blending tea with flowers, berries and herbs add to the experience. During the tours, the guests also get to know how to brew tea.

“During the excursion, the tourists get an idea about the real work of our tea growers, they are told how tea is grown in the Russian subtropics and what tea leaves are harvested, they see the full production cycle and are allowed to take tea seeds with them. The excursion programme includes three guided tours of the plantation, our tea leaf processing factory, and the black and green tea tasting ceremony on the terrace. After a fascinating story, they have a more respectful attitude towards this wonderful drink, known from ancient times,” said Konstantin Turshu, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Matsesta Chai company.

The construction of some hospitality facilities and improvement of the infrastructure for the tourists are already planned for the next year. A cafe will be started next to the plantations, an infrastructure for active recreation will appear, including bicycles, scooters, sports equipment, trails, and etc.

From little goats to a balloon

One of the most famous agritourism destinations in Sochi is the “Exarho Farm”, an eco-complex located in the Matsesta mountains at an altitude of 450 metres above sea level, surrounded by the National Park. This is one of the most beautiful places in the resort city.

Most of the farm area is occupied by the facilities for domestic animals, where little goats, calves, lambs, rabbits, turkeys and chickens live. During the walking tours, all guests can watch cute pets, take pictures with them and even feed them with tasty things that are sold nearby. Those who like riding horses can ride a dashing horse in the mountains under the supervision of an instructor. In the evenings, the tourists can enjoy an air ballooning and admire the stunning view of the Sochi nature, or visit a farm restaurant and taste the food cooked at the farm.

 “We have about 200 goats and about 90 of them give milk, we use this milk to make fermented milk products and 12 types of cheese at our cheese dairy. We also have the greenhouses where organic vegetables, culinary plants and fresh herbs grow, an orchard with 1,500 fruit trees, and a large berry plantation, and we make jams and preserves,” said Inga Exarho, Head of the farm.

45 citrus fruits on one tree

The Federal “Subtropical Scientific Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences” is one of the oldest institutions in Sochi. Its main activity is the preservation, study and replenishment of the varieties of flower-decorative, subtropical and southern fruit crops. The Centre’s specialists regularly carry out research to obtain new varieties that are distinguished by high yields, resistance to various factors, good transportability and long shelf life. In recent years, the Centre’s employees have developed new varieties of apple, oriental persimmon, tangerine, papaw, hazelnut, tea, kiwi, feijoa and peach. The tourists can see many fruits in the unique “Tree of Friendship” Garden-Museum where the only tree in the world grows. 45 species of citrus fruits coexist on this tree.

The history of this amazing tree began in 1934, when the scientist Fyodor Zorin planted a wild lemon tree in the garden to obtain new, frost-resistant citrus varieties. He gradually engrafted Japanese tangerines, Spanish oranges, Chinese kumquats, Italian lemons, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits. Today, more than 630 inoculations have been made on the tree by the leaders of many countries, prominent public and political figures, cosmonauts, scientists and celebrities. In general, the Garden-Museum occupies two hectares, on which the Tree of Friendship is located, the Museum with memorable souvenirs given by the guests from all over the world, Zorin’s house where he worked and a beautiful park with bananas, bamboos, a rose garden, and gazebos. As it is written in the Museum’s guest book, “Those of you who haven’t seen the Tree of Friendship, haven’t seen the real Sochi.” Every visitor of this stunning place agrees with these words.

And churchkhela for dessert

Sochi also has its own vineyards. The visitors can see them in the “Estate of the Vinegrower”. The Estate located in the Adler District is a rural one with growing vineyards. The tourists are offered master classes in making churchkhela exclusively from organic products using old recipes - in addition to excursions and wine tasting ceremonies, picnics when national dishes are cooked in Patskha (a traditional kitchen in a separate building in the yard), and they see the historical monuments as well.