Photobucket is holding all my photos from 2007-2015 hostage. I’m working on updating my blog posts very slowly.
During the 19th century, samovars gained increasing popularity in major cities, such as St. Petersburg and Moscow, and became inseparably bound to the Russian way of life.
Classics of Russian literature, like Pushkin, Gogol and Chekhov, regularly mention samovars in their works. Chekhov even coined an idiom: “to take one’s own samovar to Tula”. This phrase is still understood and occasionally used by Russians, with a meaning similar to the English “to carry coals to Newcastle”.
“To carry Coals to Newcastle, that is to do what was done before; or to busy one’s self in a needless imployment.”
Railroad companies in Russia recognized the practicality and popularity of samovars, and fitted long-distance sleeping cars with them. Luxurious cars of the Trans-Siberian railroad were first to adopt this custom. Gradually, the samovar in a railroad car was replaced by the boiler of potable water, known as титан (titan) in the Soviet Union
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia:
A samovar (Russian: самовар, literally “self-brewer”) is a heated metal container traditionally used to brew tea in and around Russia, as well as in other Slavic nations, Iran and Turkey.
A traditional samovar consists of a large metal container with a faucet near the bottom and a metal pipe running vertically through the middle. The pipe is filled with solid fuel to heat the water in the surrounding container. A small smokestack is put on the top to ensure draft. After the fire is off a teapot could be placed on top to be kept heated with the passing hot air. The teapot is used to brew the заварка (zavarka), a strong concentrate of tea. The tea is served by diluting this concentrate with кипяток (kipyatok = boiled water) from the main container, obtaining a lighter or darker brew function of drinkers’ tastes.
“To have a sit by samovar” means to have a leisurely talk while drinking tea from samovar, and it is a Russian expression reflecting the popular attitude towards its use.
In older times it was an economic continuous source of hot water. Various slow-burning items could be used for fuel, such as charcoal or dry pinecones. When necessary, the fire in the samovar pipe was quickly rekindled with the help of bellows manufactured specifically for this use.
In modern times, the samovar is mostly associated with Russian exotica and nostalgia. During the Olympic games of 1980, an incredible amount of samovars were sold to visitors from abroad, thus affecting the samovar: it gained international recognition and became a symbol of Russia.
I don’t ever remember using tea-cups in our Russian gatherings for tea. Typically a glass was used served with a bowl under it. Many of the children and older folk would pour their tea into the bowl and drink it out of the bowl. There were fancier glass holders called podstakahnyik that I’ve posted a couple of pictures of here. Literally translated it means under the glass. Any Russians out there can correct me if I got that wrong. Russia has two national drinks, tea (chai) and vodka.
Tea is “Chai” in russian, (not the now popular Chai drink you find at Starbuck’s). Chai is just plain old steeped tea with boiled water added to your desired strength. In our Russian culture it is an important part of a meal. We usually have it at the end of a meal. Many times we’ll have it in the middle of the day too. It’s has been associated with rest, comfort and refreshment. It’s just common for us to say at the end of the meal, “Chai?” or “Who wants Chai?”
When I have my “russian” crowd over these are what I serve chai in. I have 12 of them and they are perfect to see the strength you want your tea to be. Some add lemon, some add cream, some have it black. I’ll have to share in a later post the varenya that my mom and other russian ladies make to add to tea. It’s a fruit based syrupy liquid to sweeten and flavor your tea instead of sugar.
For more Litera Tea posts click over to Gracious Hospitality.