This is Georgian bread being baked in one of the tone bakeries in Tbilisi’s old city, Sololaki, it’s actually right across the road from where we are currently living.
Each day, the women at this Tbilisi bakery make hundreds of loaves of shoti, a long, flat bread, using a tone, the Georgian version of the tandoor.
They make an average of 600 loaves a day, many more on holidays.
As they turn and press the heavy mix of flour, water, salt and yeast, it is almost up to their elbows. “Everything is done by hand,” Leaning over the oven, the women stick the strips of dough to the inside walls. It’s not a job for anyone with a bad back. To reach the lower levels, they bend almost double into the oven, wedging their feet against a metal guard on the floor so they don’t fall in.
The loaves are ready in minutes. With a long-handled hook in one hand and a kind of scraping tool in the other, they prise each piece loose and flip them onto a rack.
It’s a hard job,” they both agree, especially in summer when temperatures reach 40C. But they say they earn far more here than if they stayed in their home villages.
The same scene plays out across Georgia in thousands of other small, streetside bakeries tucked into basements, corners, front rooms and the spaces in between – the smell of the fresh shoti dangling temptingly in the air outside.
Two shoti loaves Cost 1.20 Georgian lari – about 35 cents (Euro)