The origin of the word “Tatara” is unknown, but clay boards discovered during archaeological excavations in Georgia clearly show the dipping of churchkhela into this thickened grape juice, meaning we know the process began at least as early as the 2nd century CE. A special clay vessel used to store churchkhela by ancient Georgians was also found there.
Moreover, historians tell us that sabadage grapes, that is, grape varieties that are best suited for making badagi and hence, Tatara and churchkhela, held a special place among Georgian grape varieties. The grape varieties were grouped like so: for wine, grape juice, for chacha, for machari - sweet lightly fermented grape juice, and for badagi - the grape juice for Tatara and churchkhela. The following varieties were used directly for making churchkhela: Buera, Mkhargrdzeli, Kishuri, Tskhenisdzudzu, and more.
What Should You Know about Badagi, the Main Ingredient of Tatara?
Badagi is made from grape juice, which is called tkbili (sweet), so the process for making badagi is directly related to the year’s vintage. The most commonly used grape for badagi nowadays is Rkatsiteli, which is characterized by its high sweetness and is considered to be the best grape for making badagi.
So, immediately after the harvest is finished, the pressed grape juice, is filtered through a sieve, and poured into a cast-iron pot. It is then put over a fire and boiled, to get the tkbili, until half the liquid is gone, and it has taken on the dark and specific color of badagi. The froth needs to be removed from time to time during the boiling process.
The liquid is then left for one day in the pot to cool and purify. The purified badagi is carefully transferred to a clean vessel and covered well.
Badagi lasts for years without going bad, so it can be boiled as needed during the year.
If this process interests you, the Badagoba Festival held each October in Kakheti may well be of interest to you.
Tatara is the traditional dessert of Kakheti, brought to the table in times of joy. Dessert tatara is made in smaller amounts, and is less thick than the tatara used for churchkhela. In fact, while the process for making them is the same, the smaller amounts needed makes dessert tatara an easier project.
High-quality flour is considered a must for most desserts, but for Tataraoba, gray flour is used by Kakhetians, who believe it gives a different flavour and dries more slowly. Of course, when making dessert tatara, the highest quality flour available should be used.
To make tatara, badagi is poured into a pot and heated slightly. One cup (approximately 200 grams) of gray or white flour per litre of tkbili is added and stirred through until it dissolves. It is important to make sure that the pot is stirred constantly, so that the flour does not clump up or stick to the bottom of the pot. As the mixture boils, it slowly becomes sticky and thickens. When the smell of flour is completely gone, the boiling process is complete.
The finished product is then spread onto a plate, lightly sprinkled with finely chopped walnuts or hazelnuts, and left to set. Some even prefer to sprinkle in the nuts as the tatara is boiling, while others like to pour the finished product into different shapes.
Tatara makes a Kakhetian supra all the more exotic.
Tatara is known for its high-calorie content, as well as the nutrients it contains. These include powerful antioxidants, which help to improve the immune system, as well as treat conditions of the stomach, rickets, anemia, and diseases of the airways and circulatory system.
Tataraoba is one of the most joyful rituals in Kakheti, when delicious churchkhela is made. Being there for the process is truly enjoyable and a beautiful sight to see.