Tbilisi’s last chaikhana, or teahouse, is keeping tradition alive in Abanotubani, the city’s ancient bath district. Its owner, Sabir Abasov, resurrected the neighborhood hangout after the area was devastated by political unrest.
In a district that once housed five teahouses and various independently-owned shops, Sabir’s Chaikhana is an example of how resisting gentrification and large-scale renovation can pay off. Today, Abanotubani is filled with souvenir stores, restaurants, and cafes, which are known for attracting the younger Georgian crowd and tourists. But this teahouse holds history and longtime local patrons close.
Sabir’s Chaikhana has no sign, and as such has virtually been a “nameless” teahouse for over a decade. A stone’s throw from the much beloved Jumah Mosque, renowned for being a place of joint worship for Shia and Sunni Muslims, this tea version of a neighborhood pub is a popular hangout spot for people, men especially, who have lived in the district for years. It’s a place for those who remember when Tbilisi was filled with these types of community spaces.
Historically, Tbilisi’s proximity to the Silk Road meant that teas passed through this district from both the East and the West, making for an eclectic mix of flavors. Today, the teahouse exclusively serves a loose leaf Ceylon tea, along with sugar, lemon, and nothing else.