Five nuns and one novice live in St. Nino’s Monastery, which opened in Samtskhe-Javakheti (1992), lead by Mother Elisabed. They produce a European style of Georgian cheese, honey, chocolate and other products. The nuns also work on enamel and make mosaics.
The nuns call their first 10 years of living in Phoka Monastery - “existence”. In 1998, the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia during his journey in the region of Javakheti bought a house near a church, which was built in the 11th century.
In 1992, the leader of the monastery, Mother Elisabed went to Phoka, with two novices and started living in the house of the Catholicos-Patriarch, with an Armenian family, who lived there illegally. They shared the space, which was separated by just a curtain.
The monastery started to broaden its space from 2001. Different types of products began to be produced. The leading field of the monastery is cheese-making.
The nuns produce 16 different types of cheese with European technology. They first started by producing Georgian cheese. However, the harsh winter and closed roads, made selling cheese very difficult, and it often became spoilt. The nuns were especially interested in Blue cheese culture, which was brought to the region by the Catholic missionaries in the 18th century. The older the cheese is, more precious it becomes. Mother Rakil and Mother Shushanik visited one of the monasteries in France to learn this particular cheese-making technology. When they returned, they started experimenting and researching, and after 5 years, they started producing different kinds of cheese in the little factory.
The nuns started producing artisan jams from local fruit in the monastery. Now they produce approximately 40 types of jams. They also have honey in the monastery. Mother Sidonia takes care of the bees.
The nuns produce a few types of chocolate in the monastery. One can buy chocolate in a little shop in the monastery yard.
A church built in the 11th century was renovated in 2000 and is now fully functional. The church is decorated with enamel and mosaic, handmade by the nuns. The nuns started working on enamel in Poka from 2002.
A school was opened in the monastery, in order to have a closer relationship with the locals. Approximately 60 students learn Georgian and English without any fees. A lot of students choose to get higher education in the Georgian language after graduating from the school.