Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tea in Russia

Tea came in Russia in the mid-1600s when the Chinese ambassador to Moscow made a giftof several chests of tea to Tsar Aleksey Mikhaylovich.Important event for establishment of tea culture in Russia was the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689) which identified boundary line between China and Russia, making it possible for trade caravans to pass between two huge empires. The journyes to and from Moscow took more than16 months which made prices of tea very high. By the end of 1700s tea prices fell a bit. This enabled popularization of tea in Russian society.Russian tea customs were influcend by other cultures. For example, The samovar is an adaptation of the Tibetan hot pot. The samovar was also used as heater.Tea was, and still is, sipped from podstakanniki (under the glass); silver holders which hold the heat tempered tea glass. The podstakanniki are very similar to Turkish coffee cups.Typical Russian tea is a mixture of two or even three different teas. These different teas are prepared in separate pots. When mixed together in the cup, some extra hot water is added to dilute the mixture. The teapots are designed to sit one atop the other with the bottom pot holding the hot water.The next pot, typically, will be a very dark tea followed by a pot of herbal or mint flavored tea.The Samovar is Russian most popular teapot. By 1800 it became very important part of traditional Russian household. Samovar exists in different sizes from 3 upto 30 liters. The record holderis the one made in Tula in 1922 who can hold 250 litres of liquid. Materials which were and areused in making of Samovars are copper, bronze, iron and silver. As to the above mentioned high price of tea samovar were sybol of economic status.Tea was served by the lady of the house to her family and guests. Rich families had two samovars.One for every day situations and one for special occasions.Because of a special tube (which contains charcoal or wood) connected to the body of samovar enables boiling of water. A small teapot with concetrated, dark tea, called zavarka, is kept on top of samovar. Water from samovar is used to dilute this tea. Today electric samovars are produced. Many of them are decorated with nice pictures.

Russian samovar, photo by Yannick Trottier,
2005 Russian Samovars:
Tula Samovar

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