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Image de Igor Miske

A Cultural Phenomenon

Russia, land of tea? If tea is the 2nd beverage consumed in the world after water, it enjoys a special status in Russia as in the United Kingdom, due to its very ancient origins. It has established itself over the centuries as a veritable institution. 


The Samovar

The British have the kettle (kettle), the Russians the samovar (literally "which boils itself"). This metal container is sometimes decorated with porcelain or lacquer. The samovar became the symbol of the Russian art of entertaining and of the tea ceremony from the 18th century. The system is complex: the water, heated by a copper tube, “sings”, “rustles” then “snores”…a unique atmosphere! A teapot  filled with infused and very concentrated tea (called zavarka) is placed on top of the samovar to be kept at the right temperature. A tap allows you to pour a little hot water into your cup at will in order to dilute the concentrated tea from the teapot. A scaled-down version of the one-person samovar was nicknamed "the egoist"! 


Many samovars perished during the 2nd World War, melted down and transformed into munitions. If the embers have given way to electricity, the samovar retains its special status: it is the soul of the hearth and the guardian of conversations. Often he eased the tensions and the conflicts disappeared after a few hours spent in the kitchen or the living room. At the time of the dry period of the 80s (“suchoi zakon”), the equivalent of American prohibition, tea was the drink that brought us all together, especially for weddings or parties. Like the Russians, savor the moment! 


The expression “Sit by the Samovar” suggests a pleasant conversation over tea. 

Other Accessories and Accompaniments

The ritual cannot do without the podstakannik — the tea coaster — straight and stable in its metal handle seat. Made of metal, it is used in taverns by men while women drink it from porcelain cups at home. In the 19th century, podstakanniki became more decorative. In Soviet times, they were often adorned with symbols of the USSR, such as the sickle and the hammer. Today, they are used in particular in elegant places, during train journeys, in order to prevent tea from being spilled. Hercule Poirot, passenger of the Orient Express, understood it well! As for the tea services, precious and decorated, they take us on a journey to Slavic tales, with their stylized fruits, the ornaments of Orthodox churches or whimsical animals.

In Russia, accompaniments, especially pastries, have been honored since the days of the tea merchants. Spicy shortbread, prianikis (gingerbread) or barankis (small Russian brezels) accompany the tea. My mother also had chocolate confectionery, fruit jellies, fresh fruit (plums, apples, oranges, etc.) or my grandmother's liquid jam (currants, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries picked from the dacha garden, etc.) for sweeten / flavor the tea. A real meal! 

The taste of Russian tea

We no longer present the famous tea with a Russian taste: a very strong and full-bodied black tea from China. A tea so powerful that you let sugar melt in your mouth while drinking it. According to legend, this full-bodied tea, a legacy of caravans arriving from China, was sweetened with honey or jams. Embellished with citrus zest or pieces of dried fruit, “Russian tea” as we know it in Europe has been, since the 20th century, a Darjeeling or Ceylon tea (less full-bodied), flavored with bergamot like Earl Gray teas. Its amber color is enough to make the noblest cognacs pale. Its famous perfume is timeless. Good tasting !

tableau de personnes buvant du thé

"I remember my grandmother pouring her tea from the cup into the saucer in small doses to cool this hot drink."Katya

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