Discover Georgia
How to Toast in Tbilisi: Georgian Food Is Nothing Without Supra
01 May, 2018
Georgian” supra” or so called tradition of feasting is not a novelty for foreigners who have visited Georgia or who have Georgian acquaintances and friends. Famous for their hospitality, Georgian people love celebrating various occasions by laying supra, Georgian feast table. This habit has fascinated many foreign guests who enjoyed sampling variety of Georgian dishes along with famous Georgian wines, while joining toasts proposed at the table or even listening to the songs performed at the supra.

An English language
travel guide fodors. com decided to devote an article to the famous tradition of supra and explain in detail its features to those who have not heard about it yet or don’t know what it is all about. According to the publication, in Georgia “toasts are so important that someone will be designated as a toastmaster (Tamada in Georgian), and toasts can range from short and funny to long and emotional." So, if you are visiting the beautiful country of Georgia, then you should be ready to join it with your own toast.
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Traditional Georgian feast (Supra)

Moreover, it is especially important to find some beautiful and meaningful words for your toast. According to the author of the article, “big, burly men wipe away tears after an especially poignant toast, or children expound on something surprisingly serious. In some cases, the toast goes around the table, and if you’re not prepared with something to say, you’re jokingly chastised until you find the words.”

In the region where wine was invented, it’s no wonder toasting is a serious tradition. The tradition is called supra, a large table full of unique Georgian wine and extremely delicious traditional dishes.
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Georgian feast

The travel publication introduces its readers the legend Georgians tell about wine: “The myth starts with a question: Why did Georgians inherit all this beautiful land? And the answer goes: Back when God was creating the world, He told people to meet him certain time and then divided out the land to those in attendance.

Everything in Georgia happens on Georgian time (read: slowly), so the Georgians came late. God said, “I already gave away all the land.” To which the Georgians replied, “We’re sorry we were late. We were at a table drinking to you.” God, pleased with this toast in his honor, replied, “If that’s the case, then I will give you the best piece of land, the one I was reserving for myself.” And that region was Georgia.”
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Bronze statue of sitting Tamada (toastmaster) with wine horn on Sioni’s Street in old Tbilisi

The article also stresses the fact that while neighboring countries have similar traditions, often toasting with local liquors or other spirits, Georgia is the only one that is centered around wine only. And it is absolutely natural, as wine is considered to be the national drink and the subject of being proud for the local population.

The exact definition of Supra

As the author of the article explains, “supra technically means tablecloth, but a broader translation is “having a feast,” and a simpler one is “toast.” Or, as Brockett says, “It’s Georgian Thanksgiving, except that it happens every day for every reason.”
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Wine horns for sale

Supra can be held for weddings, for friends who haven’t seen each other for ages, or even to celebrate new appliances. It’s a tradition of saying thanks to things communally and giving people an opportunity to be grateful in a public way.

Every supra is led by a toastmaster, (Tamada in Georgian). In formal settings, this person must be a professional toastmaster.

In home settings, anyone can be nominated as the toastmaster, as long as they know the proper toasts. You cannot nominate yourself.

“There is a list of toasts that must be said, ranging from three to 20, depending on the occasion. No matter what, the first three toasts will be given to God, to the reason the feast is happening, and to God again. The remaining 17 each cover specific topics.
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Old Tbilisi

A professional toastmaster knows all 20 toasts, and a good toastmaster will take these specific toasts and give them a wider lens,” fodors. com informs its readers.
However, you do not have to drink all the 20 toasts while having fun at Georgian supra. But if you are a foreign visitor of the country, then you should get ready for the fact that your host will definitely encourage that you do. It is a part of world-famous Georgian hospitality, because the host wants to please one’s guests as much as possible.
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Art of tasting in Tbilisi

“Needless to say, a toastmaster should be interesting enough to keep people’s attention 20 times in a row on a night where they’ve been drinking heavily,” notes the author of the article.

How to Participate in Supra on Your Trip to Georgia

For experiencing real charm of Georgian supra, the website offers traditional restaurants in Tbilisi, such as Barbarestan, Tsiskvili, Georgian House Restaurant, and Old Vake. Here locals gather to dine and drink wine, so you will definitely have the opportunity to see supra in action during your meal.

Yet to understand what a real Georgian supra is like, it is recommended to visit a local family where this tradition is observed at best.
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Tiblisi, Georgia, early 19th century

At the end of the article, the author describes Georgian feast and its traditional characteristics in quite funny manner: “if you make Georgian friends, you will most likely be invited to a supra at their home at some point during your stay. These can be long events, so be prepared. You will eat a lot, drink a lot, and be encouraged (or forced, depending on how you look at it), to stay even after you say you must go home.”

Related stories:

National Geographic: Red, White, or Orange, Wine Is a Required Taste in Tbilisi

How to survive a Georgian feast – BBC

A Chef Brings Georgian Supra to London – The Wall Street Journal

“In Georgia only drink your wine during a toast” – 10 Surprising food etiquette rules around the world

CNN: Heavy drinking in Tbilisi, Georgia
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