NEW DELHI: A company in India’s main tea-producing region has launched a new “strong” blend called “Zelenskyy” to honor the Ukrainian president who has been standing defiant in the face of Russia’s onslaught on his country.
Russia began a multipronged invasion of Ukrainian territory and major cities, including the capital, Kyiv, on Feb. 24. Airstrikes on civilians have since intensified, forcing 3.6 million people to flee to neighboring European countries in just four weeks.
Volodymyr Zelensky (his surname is variously spelled with one or two Ys), who says he has been designated by the attackers as “the target number one,” remains in Kyiv, leading Ukraine’s defense. He refused a US offer to move to a more secure location away from the capital last month, saying “the fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”
The words became some of the most-cited lines of the Russian invasion, winning Zelensky international admiration.
One of those inspired by the Ukrainian president was Ranjit Baruah, an entrepreneur in India’s northeastern state of Assam, the largest tea growing region in the world, whose Aromica Tea last week introduced the blend named after Zelensky.
“I’ve been really impressed by the way Zelensky rejected the US offer where he said he does not want a free ride but needs ammunition. It shows his character. He didn’t run away from his country,” Baruah told Arab News. “Fighting against the mighty Russian forces is showing his strength.”
On the package, the producer describes the tea as “really strong.”
“The character and strength this person has is in my tea. That is the tea. It is a strong Assam black tea,” Baruah said. “The tea is as strong in character as the Ukrainian president Zelensky is.”
The “Zelenskyy” blend is handcrafted orthodox tea that has gone through the CTC (crush, tear, curl) process — a new technique in which black tea leaves are run through a series of cylindrical rollers.
The CTC, Baruah said, “gives the punch, while the orthodox tea gives the flavor after drinking.”
With Russia being the biggest importer of Indian tea — most coming from Assam, which has over 100,000 plantations producing 630,000 tons a year — the company would not mind exporting it to the Russian market.
“I want this product to reach people (so) they can enjoy a good cup of Assam tea,” Baruah said. “If Russia does not have any problem with the name, I am willing to sell that tea to Russia.”
He believes in the centuries-old notion that a pause for tea can give peace a chance.
“Nobody wants a war. Many wars have ended in discussions over a cup of tea,” he said. “Make peace, not war, and have a cup of tea.”