Tea time in Russia (Русский чай)
26 January, 2016
Tea time in Russia has a special importance. Tea has an incredible popularity everywhere in the world and each country has its own preferences and traditions but I’ll explain to you the Russian way with its famous Samosar (Самовар).
Since I started to socialize with Russians, Ukranians and Belarussians I realized that they cannot live without tea; just like in the old days families will get together and sit down at a table not to have lunch or dinner but to have tea. Even coffee that has been slowly but surely making inroads onto Russian tables still has not been able to replace tea. Russians will drink tea on any occasion and with no occasion.
Tea was brought to Russia in 1638 by the Russian ambassador Starikov as a gift from the Mongolian Khan. At the beginning the tsar and the boyars were not impressed with the astringent and bitter drink. When all the tea presented by the Khan had been drunk and the Moscow court began to forget its taste, diplomats reintroduced tea to Russia; the Russian ambassador Sapfary brought some tea from China; and in 1679 a contract was signed to supply Russia with dried tea while herbal teas, such as cranberry, currant, briar, and sweet lime were always easy to get.
In the 18th century, the tea had been fully accepted and became a national drink that evolved into a social ceremony.
People sorted out their family issues, business, engagements and so on, even the aristocracy started to believe that everything could be solved with a cup of tea.
The Russian tea party has a confortable atmosphere that suggests pleasure and a harmony of the body and spirit; having tea in Russia has been viewed as an excuse to sit down and have a long and relaxed conversation to reconcile differences or perhaps sort out some business issues. The main element of it is socializing several times a day.
Samovars are tea poetry; they come in all sorts of different shapes. It is always placed in the middle of the table, while water is boiling inside it and smoke is coming off the top of it, its sides reflect the people around the table and nature. Samovars are usually heated up using charcoal and sometimes even fir cones. When the water starts boiling a samovar would announce it with its own unique ‘song’ that would add to the cosiness and intimacy of the occasion. Usually large quantities of tea were brewed so it would be enough for a long unhurried conversation. One of the key functions of Russian tea is to help the guests get warm after coming in from the cold outside. And it goes without saying that there must be jam on the table. It’s a traditional Russian sweet delicacy, which must have whole berries and thick syrup.
Traditionally in Russia tea was drunk with sugar, sweets and food.