Tea was first introduced to Russia in 1638 when Russian Tsar Michael Fedorovich received tea as a diplomatic gift from Altyun-Khan, the ruler of Mongolia. Since then tea drinking has become a favorite drink in Russian culture, second only to vodka.
While it is not considered appropriate to drink tea with a meal, Russians frequently consume tea after meals and during mid-afternoon breaks. Drinking tea is considered a social activity and was historically was served during intimate conversations, business discussions, and even marriage arrangements. Tea is still considered a social activity to this day and people often visit each other’s’ homes for “cup of tea”.
Russian tea is almost exclusively black tea, although most do not add anything to their tea, alcohol is the most frequent addition. In Russian culture it is considered rude to serve tea without any food to go with it; sweets such as cookies, pies, biscuits and candy are often served with tea.
The most unique element of the tea culture in Russia is the dishware
Russians use when drinking tea:
Loose leaf tea is brewed in a brewing pot or a “samovar”, special tea-making dish influenced by a teapot brought from Holland by Tsar Peter the Great. Brewing pots are used to brew a small, strong, pot of tea which is then poured, in small portions, into an individual’s cup. He or she then dilutes the tea with hot water to bring the tea to his or her strength preference. Samovars are tall devices containing a two to three basins for hot water, and one or two types of tea. They are often decorated with paintings of Russian folk stories and are occasionally made in the shape of a person or animal. To keep the tea hot, many Russians have tea cozies called “baba na samovar” (woman on samovar) to go atop their samovar. Russians also drink tea from special glasses, “stakan s podstakanni kom” (glass with metal holder), introduced in the 17th century.
Rachel Eisenfeld is the owner of Elden Street Tea Shop. She is a fan of Pu'er (poo-air) teas, refreshing and subtle white teas, and any tea mixed with bourbon. Rachel has been to many tea houses on the East Coast, Ireland, and San Franscico. She enjoys learning about the chemical process of making tea and international tea culture. During good times and bad, tea warms the soul.