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Image de Carli Jeen

Origin of Tea in Russia

At the origins

At the beginning of the 17th century, a Mongol prince offered a present to the Tsar of Russia: tea! This mysterious beverage ordered from Qing China soon became fashionable at the imperial court. At the end of the century, the doctor of Alexis I also affirmed that tea had great virtues in treating the sick.

Imperial rivalries

From the 18th century, the Russian and British Empires disputed the world monopoly of the tea trade. At the time, there were two points of access to the Celestial Empire: English trade took the sea route via Nanjing; the frontier crossing at Kiakhta, favored by Slavic merchants, leads to Russian lands. Tea transported by land comes from the best plantations and keeps better than that transported by sea, exposed to heat and humidity for months. True connoisseurs are ready to pay more for the products of Russian houses that develop a certain art of living.

A caravan scent

The history of tea in Russia then follows the romantic caravan routes, crisscrossing the steppes of Mongolia and the plains of Siberia via Irkutsk, the hub, before crossing the Urals to supply the aristocracy of the cities of the West. The journey sometimes takes more than a year! In the Moscow capital, it's a real craze, the inhabitants are nicknamed "water drinkers", while some Orthodox priests compare tea to a satanic drink! In the 19th century, bricks of tea were still exchanged for furs, in the fever of the Nižni Novgorod fair. The case is in the bag, History is on the way!

Indispensable drink

Tea became popular from the middle of the 19th century, when tea plantations appeared in Georgia and the price of tea became more affordable. It then takes a central place in Russian life, even in very remote villages of the Empire. It is consumed in large quantities: 10 to 12 cups per day to replace water! Thus, it is sometimes its rate* which fixes the price of other goods at fairs. It was also at this time that the samovar appeared. This often decorative vessel is the successor to the Mongolian kettles.

From consumer to producer

In 1913, these imports cost as much as the budget allocated to education! The Russian Revolution dealt a fatal blow to Chinese factories. The Soviet authorities decided to produce tea in Georgia, then in Azerbaijan and on the shores of the Black Sea. In 1941, almost half of the tea consumed was produced locally, the USSR became the world's third largest producer!

During the Cold War, Russia imported its tea from India, with which it had good relations. Fortunately, because the mechanization of the industry in Georgia in the 70s allowed an increase in volumes…at the expense of quality. Consumers are getting into the habit of “cutting” local teas with imported teas, which are more expensive but of better quality!

The qualitative revolution of the 21st century

If Russia is today the first importer of tea, it continues to cultivate fields of tea from Chinese camellias. The tea plants, now cared for, thrive in the Caucasus, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Crossing the border, they are found on human-sized farms in Georgia and Azerbaijan, most often converted to organic or sustainable agriculture. The gardens of Chakvi-Guria are a reference, while the memory of the tea trees of Krasnodar floats…


The past rate of tea is at the origin of an expression: "na tchai" which means
“tip” and who
can be literally translated as: “for tea” 

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