Borjomi mineral springs were discovered more than a thousand years ago as evidenced by seven stone bath tubs dating back to early 1st millennium A.D., which were excavated in early 20th century. It is likely that, in ancient times the water was used for bathing rather than drinking. However, the springs were later abandoned and their locations forgotten.
Interestingly, the springs were re-discovered and regained popularity thanks to the military. In 1829, the Kherson Grenadier Regiment was stationed in Borjomi. One day, the soldiers found a mineral water spring in the forest, on the right bank of Borjomka River. Interested in the spring, Colonel P. Popov ordered to clear it and organize delivery of bottled water to the camp. As he was suffering from stomach disorder, he was the first person to discover the healing properties of the water. The water impressed the Colonel so much that he ordered his soldiers to fence the spring with stones and build him a bath and a house nearby.
In 1837, the Georgian Grenadier Regiment succeeded the Kherson Regiment. Regiment doctor Amirov began studying the composition and properties of the water. He was also the one who sent the first samples of the water to St. Petersburg and Moscow.
By 1841, the water became so famous that the Viceroy of the Caucasus decided to bring his sick daughter to Borjomi for treatment. Her specific affliction was never recorded, but the water helped cure her. The Viceroy then decided to name the first spring “Yekaterininskiy” (also known as “Catherine’s Spring”) after his daughter and the second one, which had already been discovered by that time, “Yevgenievskiy” after himself. Borjomi Mineral Water Park was founded in Borjomi in 1850; construction of the first bottling plant began in 1854.
Meanwhile, healing springs grew increasingly famous throughout the Russian empire. Borjomi city grew, adding new palaces, parks, squares, and hotels. Built in 1894, the railway between Khashuri to Borjomi greatly improved communication and increased ease of travel. Before that, phaetons were used as a means of transport; these horse-drawn carriages took 8-9 hours to get from Tbilisi to Borjomi.
In 1890, the first “Borjomi” bottling plant opened at the Mineral Water Park. Every dark-green glass bottle was filled by hand, sealed with wax, wrapped in hay, and packed in wooden crates for ease of transport.
The first glass factory was opened in 1896. The factory produced bottles using manual glass blowing process until 1950.
In 1904, “Borjomi” water production became partially mechanized. While glass-blowing remained manual, machines were used for the bottling process. A newspaper advertisement reading “Borjomi” sold by the wagonload” dates back to the same year. The water bottling industry was flourishing; in 1854 Borjomi exported only 1,350 bottles, while in 1905, after establishment of full-scale production, exports reached 320,000 bottles and passed the 9 million bottle mark in 1913.
Sovietization of Georgia did not affect the popularity of “Borjomi”. Only the elites and the official status of the tourists changed; thus, Stalin succeeded Romanov as the new elite fan of the mineral water. Since then, “Borjomi” was present at all events run by the Kremlin.
The Khrushchev Thaw of the 1960s gave “Borjomi” another chance to gain recognition abroad. In 1961, 423,000 bottles of “Borjomi” were exported to 15 countries, including the USA, France and Austria. In the 1980s, “Borjomi” became the most popular water in the Soviet Union, as its sales skyrocketed to 400 million bottles.
In 1990-1995, production of “Borjomi” declined significantly due to economic difficulties of the post-Soviet transition period in Georgia. However, after “Georgian Glass & Mineral Water Co. N. V.” re-launched two bottling plants in 1995 production increased 40 times. Today, this unique gift of the Georgian nature is famous in at least 30 countries around the world.
History of Borjomi: