The grand know-how of Georgian supra
17 August, 2015
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Regardless of size and type, a supra is always led by a tamada, or toastmaster, who introduces each toast during the feast. The tamada is elected by the banqueting guests or chosen by the host. A successful tamada must possess great rhetorical skill and be able to consume a large amount of alcohol without showing signs of drunkenness.

During the meal, the tamada will propose a toast, and then speak at some length about the topic. The guests raise their glasses, but do not drink. After the tamada has spoken, the toast continues, usually in a counter-clockwise direction (to the right).

The next guest who wishes to speak raises their glass, holds forth, and then drains their glass. If a guest does not wish to speak, they may drink from their glass after some words that particularly resonate for him or her. Eating is entirely appropriate during toasts, but talking is frowned upon. Once everyone who wishes to speak on the theme has done so, the tamada proposes a new toast, and the cycle begins again.

While some more of the more important toasts require drinking your glass to the bottom as a sign of respect (bolomde in Georgian), the traditions of the Georgian table space the drinking out over the course of the meal.

Here are the rules. You cannot drink until the tamada (toastmaster) has made his toast and drinks. Only then, and usually in order around the table, can other revelers repeat the toast and drink. Never propose a different toast unless you are given permission: that is an offense to the tamada.

If the toast is made to you as a visitor, to America or England, to the President or the Queen, or in any way bears directly upon your presence, you must wait to drink until everyone else has gone before you. Your toast in response should be one of thanks.

Occasionally you will hear the tamada say “Alaverdi” to someone. This means that one guest has been chosen to elaborate the tamada’s toast. All other present then drink to this same theme.

While it may appear curious to some Western folk, Georgians take their traditional toasting very seriously. There is a structure and balance to a Georgian toast.
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