Bread is one of the main products in the Caucasus, including Georgia and Tone bread in particular suits very well Georgian traditional dishes. So, while visiting Georgia, take a chance to taste the newly baked round or long, soft and crispy scrumptious Georgian Tone bread.
Georgians are really in love with bread baked in Tone (Georgian baking pit) and during celebrations and home feasts they always prefer such bread over the sliced “colleagues” from factories. Tone bread is sold everywhere – in both multistoried city and in remote villages. While travelling in the regions, Tones can be found on the main routes and you can almost guarantee to find cheese sold somewhere nearby. Cheese and hot Tone bread is a mouthwatering combination when eaten as a kind of Georgian sandwich.
Like wine culture, Georgians also have a culture of Tone bread. Consequently, there are various little bakeries in the center and suburbs in which one can buy warm or hot bread for 70/80 Tetri. It is not necessary to cut the bread with a knife – to get a more authentic experience, just break a piece off and enjoy.
One side of the Tone bread is crispy, which pairs well with cheese, while the other is softer and goes well with barbeque and vegetables.
Round loaves are the most commonly seen versions being baked in Tbilisi’s Tone ovens these days, but one can come across the boat-shaped versions also. It is a very interesting process to observe how this bread is made and you can catch these “fleeting” moments and make memorable photos – how a right-handed and adroit baker doubles over to paste dough balls onto the wall of the glowing Tone oven.
Note: baking bread is a rather time-consuming process; the shelf-life of this kind of bread is not long, hence almost nobody buys Tone bread baked the day before.
The remarkable process of Tone bread baking is a true Georgian tradition and an inseparable part of touristic tours, especially in Kakheti, Kartli and Imereti regions. If desired, visitors can also participate in the process and knead the dough.
That unique aroma produced by Georgian bread is thanks to the firewood put in the oven, as well as the wheat flour. In cities, bread is most often baked using factory-produced flour and consequently the bread is softer than in the countryside, when dough is kneaded from flour ground in local mills. In comparison with bread made in cities, village bread is more nutritious and will not lose its special aroma if you keep it in a dry and dark place.
Historically, Georgia is regarded as one of the ancient hearths of bread-baking. Women also took part in building bakeries, as they were the main bakers in families and consequently, Tones needed to be suitable for them. At present, however, most bakers (especially in cities) are male.
Georgia is famous for its wheat culture, too, and the first samples of such were discovered in the V-IV millennia BC. Tones found in Urbnisi date back to the V century and Tbilisi’s oldest Tone was built in the XI century. 14 native types of wheat were registered at different times in Georgia. Like many other countries, every palace and monastery had its own individual mill and bread bakery in the Middle Ages.
Tone bread is made is special ovens (Tones) built using clay bricks. Tones are usually placed in the earth – wholly, partly or just the bottom, it depends on a region. In ancient times, Tones were often located indoors and served as a kind of warming system on cold days. In order to keep in the warmth, Tones were surrounded by twigs. Nowadays, however, we rarely come across such Tones in the cities, but in villages many people have their bakeries in their yards.
You can come across Tones almost everywhere today. Bread baked on firewood has a true Georgian taste, is good for your health and never goes soggy. Enjoy!