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25 April 2024

Cup of Life: Tbilisi's Last Chaikhana

In what could be the last of its kind in the city, one teahouse close to the historic sulphur baths in the Georgian capital continues to embody the multi-cultural nature of the surrounding neighbourhood. It welcomes a diverse clientele to play backgammon, share news and memories, and, of course, drink tea.

tbilisi chaikhana

Text and Photo by Onnik James Krikorian 

Tucked away in the middle of Mirza Fatal Akhundov Street, just a few minutes walk from the local sulphur baths, stands what residents say is the last surviving chaikhana in the city. True, there are more modern teahouses, but they cater to a more upwardly mobile clientele rather than an actual community. Georgian tea is also relatively weak and, some say, tasteless in comparison to the dark, thick brew made by those who perhaps know how to best—Tbilisi’s ethnic Azerbaijani population and possibly even ethnic Armenians, too. Until recently, another chaikhana was run by an ethnic Armenian from Ganja.

Many tea houses have sadly disappeared over the past two decades, making the chaikhana on Akhundov all the more important. Known as Sabir’s because of its late former owner, it is now undergoing a facelift. If it was difficult to find in the past, a newly painted street entrance clearly highlights the stairs to the cellar below. Its new owner, Huseyin Allahverdiyev, has yet to come up with a new name, but as a former patron of Sabir’s, it is sure to continue the tradition.