The Russian Tea Tradition
Russia is largely known for two drinks, one being Vodka and the other is tea. Vodka originated in Russia but tea doesn’t belong here. According to the history of Russian tea culture it was in the 16th century that chiefs of Russia visited China and they tried a local drink called “cha-i”. Then in the first half of the 17th century an ambassador from China gifted the Tzar of Russia 64 kgs of tea.
In the latter half of the 18th century the trade between Russia and China was established. Formerly tea was only served as a royal drink in royal meetings in Russia. Later, the tea trade was widely established between China and Russia through the caravans by road. The road is still largely known as the “Great Tea Road”. That was a brief history of how tea reached Russia and later became a predominant drink of Russia.
Russians started drinking this hot tea all through the day as a source of warmth, nourishment and taste. The tea traditions in Russia are very varied from the European and Asian tea traditions. Meanwhile, the tea-time culture of Russians has influences from both the Asian and European cultures.
In all other parts of the world tea is made by infusing tea leaves in boiling water till the decoction reaches the desired strength. But, Russian tea is a little different. It is made by infusing more tea leaves in less water. As a result a very concentrated concoction is prepared which is called Zavarka. Zavarka is boiled for a minimum of five minutes to a maximum of whole day. It is diluted with boiling water while serving tea.
Russians rejoice combining different flavours of tea. For instance, they mix black tea with herbal tea. Russians have introduced to the world the varied flavours of tea. Most of the Russian teas are flavoured with lemons. The other common flavouring includes pouring tea on lemon slices with clove pierced in the center and infusing cloves in the tea. To sweeten the tea Russians use honey, sugar or jam.
An interesting thing in the Russian tea culture is the equipment in which the tea is made. The equipment is called Samovar. It was designed similar to the equipment which is used by the Mongols. Samovar consists of a big urn with a vertical pipe in the middle. The urn consists of water and the pipe holds charcoal or burning wood. The heat from the pipe keeps the water boiling and warm for the rest of the day. The tea pot is placed above the samovar to keep it hot.
Russians are the people who introduced to the world that different types of teas can be mixed into a concoction. They taught tea lovers across the world that herbs and spices can be added in teas. Russians were the first people to invent the revolutionary Green Tea.
Russians are also the flag-bearers in introducing honey and jam as sweeteners in tea instead of sugar. Though tea was never originated in Russia, they brought a revolution in tea culture and tea flavours over the globe.