Tea Week Two ~ Litera Tea

Photobucket is holding all my photos from 2007-2015 hostage. I’m working on updating my blog posts very slowly.

 Samovar

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.

30 thoughts on “Tea Week Two ~ Litera Tea

  1. I’ve enjoyed reading this most informative post. Thank you! A clear tea mug is an excellent idea for determining the strength of the tea. I’ll be interested to know what your mother’s recipe is for varenya.

  2. Thanks for stopping by my site.
    I enjoyed reading about the Russian customs and have had tea in those glass cups before. My friend had a samovar.
    ( Coincidentally, I am watching curling right now…Canada playing against Russia in the World Curling !!
    Millie

  3. Having chai at Kathy and Len’s and Baba’s are wonderful memories. It makes a stanger feel very welcome. Love It!

  4. You have WONDERFUL photos all over your site! So colorful, I loved them.
    Awww……”Samovars”……rarely do I hear people speak about them. I have a good friend that had one and taught me about them….then she lost it when her home burned, and much more sadly.
    She did give me this HUGE and I mean huge, Teapot and mug from Russia! I’ve hid it sort of because it’s soooo big and odd looking. I haven’t a clue what to do with it let along a good spot to put it. HA!
    Thanks for coming to visit me…..I’ve bookmarked your spot and will be coming back.
    Loved your header too…..Ireland possibly??
    We will talk again!
    Be blessed,
    Joyce

  5. I really enjoyed learning about Russian tea and the customs surrounding it. I am a devoted tea drinker and I had a Turkish friend who made the most delicious tea. I am guessing that it was a lot like Russian tea.

  6. How interesting. I never knew all the background of Samovar, and I love to learn the history of objects. This post was truly a labor of love. Thank you. We have a museum of Russian arts and crafts nearby, I must visit now. Blessings, Karen

  7. Now I shall treasure my samovar all the more!

    I posted a picture on last week’s ‘tea stories’…but now I have a more complete understanding of the place it had in the Russian homes. Mine has several official looking stamps engraved on the side…Russian print but the dates range from 1898 to 1906. Have you any idea what those would have been?

  8. oooh how interesting a post, my daughter bought me the Russian tea glasses many many years ago and I still love them, Mom always enjoyed her tea from a clear glass cup!!

  9. Hello Ellen, amazing story, thank you for sharing. Everything is so beautiful, I work with a woman from Russia so I can’t wait to share your blog with her. Thanks for sharing!

    Kathi 🙂

  10. Pingback: Litera Tea ~ Anne of Green Gables « The Happy Wonderer

  11. This is a wonderful post Ellen. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So informative, and warm, and beautifully illustrated too. Thank you so much for posting this. I am very much looking forward to the varenya post and I hope the recipe will be included. I just love tea and you are making this carnival sound so good that I have to go visit the other ladies to see if they can compete with this post. I really enjoyed this sit by samovar as I was actually sipping my tea when my blog reader revealed your post.
    Blessings.

  12. What an interesting and informative post! I always enjoy learning about samovar’s and you have filled in a few gaps in my knowledge base. Great post! One of my girlfriends has a samovar that looks much like the one you have posted first — black with designs in bright colors. It’s very pretty!

    When you have time, I would enjoy reading the syrup recipe that your mother would make to sweeten tea.

    Thanks for participating in the Gracious Hospital-i-Tea blog-a-thon!

    LaTeaDah

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