Russian Tea Culture
Tea has been a prevalent part of Russian culture since first making its way up from China in the mid 17th century. As you can imagine, the original trade route between these two massive countries was long and treacherous. In fact, it took about 16 months for tea to make its way from China to Moscow! For this reason, tea was a luxury reserved for royalty and the very wealthy until the late 18th century, when the trade route and system had been refined.
Traditionally, tea in Russia is served as a strong brew, its strength indicating the hosts’ degree of hospitality. It’s customary to drink tea brewed separately in a teapot and then diluted with freshly boiled water. The traditional implement for boiling water for tea is the Russian samovar (pictured here), which has become a symbol of hospitality and comfort. Tea glasses rest in a podstakannik, or holder; the more expensive varieties of which are made from silver.
Tea is a family event, and is usually served after each meal with sugar (one to three teaspoonfuls per cup) and lemon (but without milk), and an assortment of jams, pastries and confections. Apparently, it is considered poor taste to leave the spoon inside the cup after stirring. Black tea is commonly used, with green tea gaining popularity as a healthy alternative. Teabags are not used in the traditional Russian tea ceremony; only loose, large-leaf black tea.