The Artisanal Journey from Wheat to Happiness | Natia Macharashvili

Previously, I never imagined residing far from Tbilisi, yet life has been filled with unforeseen choices. The key lies in finding balance, and it took me several years to identify what would bring me happiness. Ultimately, it was the journey of bread that captivated me, beginning with the journey of wine.

Photo Credits to Sopho Papiashvili

My spouse, Shota is from the Tusheti region. He was employed at a wine bar while I worked for an airline company when, in 2014, he resolved to establish his own venture. Given his background, it was only natural that the business would involve wine. Along with a friend, we purchased a vineyard in Zemo Alvani, located in the Akhmeta municipality, and started constructing a wine cellar. We shipped our inaugural wine to Germany, and it wasn’t long before the concept and opportunity to host tastings at our Lagazi Wine Cellar. Tastings led to the introduction of dinners, gradually integrating me into the operation. For years, we have provided our guests with local Tushetian cuisine as well as traditional Georgian fare. As our cellar specializes in natural wine, we prioritize Tushetian dishes to complement the selection.

Our journey with wine eventually led us to wheat. By 2016, my knowledge of wheat was minimal; I was aware only that Shota planted and sold the crop. This period coincided with our collaboration with an international organization, which brought Italian students to Zemo Alvani annually. Prior to the next gastronomic tour, Shota informed me that the students wished to visit our vineyard and bake red wheat bread using natural yeast. As mentioned earlier, my understanding of wheat and, consequently, bread was limited. In fact, I had never attempted baking bread. I must admit, the proposal was somewhat daunting, and ultimately, my mother-in-law took on the task. The Italian students arrived as planned, toured our field, and engaged in extensive discussions about Georgian culture and wheat. These conversations sparked my curiosity and inspired me to delve deeper, eventually uncovering that our homeland is not only renowned for wine but also for wheat.

Photo Credits to Sopho Papiashvili

Taking a leap of faith, we began milling our own wheat and baking bread using natural yeast, giving birth to the bakery Lagazi Baker. In 2019, I left my job, confident that I had discovered my true path, which was far from an office setting and centered around bread. As a result of our dedicated efforts, we now operate a tasting room, a wine cellar, and a standalone bakery in Zemo Alvani, at my spouse’s parental home. Consequently, we offer our guests wine tastings, Tushetian cuisine, and bread-making workshops.

Lagazi Baker represents an artisanal line rather than mass production. Working with natural yeast is challenging and necessitates meticulous care, yet I find the process immensely gratifying. Currently, our product range encompasses red wheat bread, shavfkha, dika, and rye bread. We aspire to expand our offerings and are confident in our ability to do so.

It is my ardent desire for every Georgian to recognize the incredible wealth we possess in the form of wheat. One of my primary motivations in starting to bake bread was to acquaint our fellow citizens with this remarkable resource. Lagazi Baker’s products are now available in stores across Akhmeta, and we also participate in festivals while considering expansion into the capital. We are hopeful that by autumn, we will establish a small bakery in Tbilisi, offering a variety of freshly baked breads and buns every morning.

Photo Credits to Sopho Papiashvili

The idea of establishing a bakery in Tbilisi emerged following the Christmas market, where we participated within the “Clusters4Development” project, supported by the European Union and the German government. They funded a participation for us, and one of our customers inquired about where to purchase our bread again. Upon learning that it was only available in Akhmeta at the time, the customer expressed disappointment, prompting us to consider expanding into the capital. The assistance of international donors has been invaluable in this regard, as they not only suport us with equipment but also help raise awareness and promote our products. For instance, our products were showcased at the ITB exhibition in Berlin, thanks to the support from the European Union and the German government. This exposure is crucial for our business’s future success, as such events provide an ideal platform for forging new partnerships. Unable to transport bread directly, we baked red wheat, charcoal, and brown crackers. Additionally, we prepared dried fruits, an idea inspired by our bread-making process.

The Article is prepared within the women empowerment campaign #ProudHer. The Campaign is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and funded by the European Union and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.