Russian Tea Drinking Tradition

by Elena Popec 7. September 2011 09:32

Russian tea drinking tradition, along with some other Russian customs, has long been a hallmark of the country. Nevertheless, to describe the attributes of Russian tea drinking: samovar (meaning "self-boiler" in Russian), loose leaf black tea, pancakes, jam, cubed sugar, sliced lemon, cups in cup holders, porcelain set… Unfortunately, very few people drink tea in accordance with this attributes, because almost no one these days uses a samovar.

This old Russian tea drinking tradition becomes history, but still lives and breathes in Russia and around the world where Russian emigrants make their homes. Russian literature often invokes the samovar to symbolize Russian hospitality. Gathering around the table by a samovar with family and friends evokes a sense of cosines and comfort, which is an important element in our busy lives. Let me just try to formulate some of the characteristics of tea drinking, which can be classified as specifically Russian.

A real Russian tea party requires a porcelain tea set; a classical Russian tea set is "Cobalt net" of the Imperial Lomonosov’s Porcelain Manufactory. These sets are often sold in duty free shops at the international airports of Russia and in numerous souvenir shops. Contrary to popular opinion, tea glasses even in the most exclusive holders are not the most accurate representation of the Russian tea drinking tradition. Since the 18th century, people who understood the sense in life and in tea-drinking, tried to get the porcelain set.

A very specific feature of Russian tea-drinking is samovar, a vessel with boiling water. In Russian tradition, tea leaves brewed in the porcelain pot, which is placed on the top of the samovar keeping the brew hot. In most major tea drinking cultures, Chinese, Japanese and English, tea leaves steep, a brew is poured in a cup and drunk. In Russia, a brew is diluted with hot water directly in a cup, that’s why besides the standard tea set, tea party in Russia involves a samovar with boiling water.

Another important part of Russian tea-drinking tradition is a simple and obvious lemon, cut in thin slices, not wedges, since circles look beautiful on a plate and in a cup. In fact, the whole world believes that tea with lemon is a Russian invention, often called "Russian tea". 

However, the most important feature of a Russian tea party is tea itself. Of course, it should be black tea. Historically, it was Chinese tea, such as Keemun or a blend based on it "Russian Caravan" or “Russian Samovar”. Chinese tea was drunk in Russia for three centuries, and only in the 20th century adjusted traditionally established tea preferences. Nowadays, most Russians prefer a rich aroma and strong taste of Ceylon tea over subtle taste of Chinese teas. Often, both teas are served at the party, Chinese in respect to century’s old tradition and Ceylon in respect to modern tea taste.

When at the table served with samovar full of boiling water, porcelain tea set, two teapots (with Chinese and Ceylon tea), a plate with a stack of pancakes, a few fresh baked pies (with apples, cherries, cheese, cabbage and all sorts of fillings…), several kinds of jam (strawberry, cherry, blueberry, lingoberry, cloudberry, raspberry…), honey, condensed sweet milk, sliced lemon and cubed sugar, one will understand what is a true Russian made happiness. Laughing

The Origins Of British Tea Traditions

by Elena Popec 6. April 2010 21:21

 

Loose Leaf Tea

The origin of tea traditions of England is obliged to one of the most beautiful women in the middle of XVII century. In 1662 Charles II married princess Catherine of Braganza from Portugal. The Portuguese had been the first Europeans that encountered tea, controlled the trade routes from Asia and drank this wonderful beverage. Chest with tea leaves, among other treasures was in bride’s dowry. According to tradition, the new queen’s passion for tea was appreciated in court, and soon became the most popular drink in the chambers of Buckingham Palace. Inventive British replaced the eastern bowls for cups and saucers and used tea spoons for sugar that also entered into vogue in the XVII century.

The British aristocracy recognized only the tea from the youngest and most succulent of the upper leaves, which are called "Orange Pekoe". "Orange" comes from the Dutch word meaning "gold, royal, belonging to the Dutch royal House of Orange-Nassau," and "Pekoe" - from the Chinese word "leaf". Because The Dutch East India Company played a central role in introducing tea to Europe, perhaps, they could have marketed the tea as "Orange" to propose a royal warrant. However, in modern classification of common tea leaf grades "Orange Pekoe" stands for "royal leaf".

The real revolution in the tea business actually began in 1837 with the ascension to the throne of the young Queen Victoria. China was unable to meet the increased demand in Europe and began to supply the market with product of insufficient quality. At the time, relations between Great Britain and China had escalated. In response to the British sanctions, China has imposed an embargo on trade with Britain. But the decisive Queen Victoria signed a decree of establishing the state tea company in the British colony - the North Indian province of Assam. Mayor of the Royal Guard, Robert Bruce and his brother Charles crossed breeded seeds smuggled out of China with local tea trees. Thus was launched a completely new variety with bright color and a strong astringent taste. In memory of those events, one of the types of English tea from Assam is named "Victorian".

By the middle of the XIX century, Britain became the largest tea supplier, capable of providing not only the needs of the empire, but also neighboring countries. The Assam black tea from the Indian colony of Great Britain, Russians merchants carried by caravans and sold in the capital's shops, "colonial goods" under the name "Indian tea". Taste of Assam for Russians still is the most familiar and traditional.

In XX century, the British voluntarily renounced the former "tea" colonies and focused the effort on improving the quality of tea blends. This act has reflected on a nation-wide British love for tea. Continuing the Victorian tradition, modern tea masters - tea testers - offer demanding connoisseurs of tea a wide variety of traditional and exotic flavors. English tea has long gone beyond the United Kingdom, and in many countries today, tea lovers enjoy impeccable taste, intelligence and respect for people.

 

History Of Tea

by Steven Popec 8. February 2010 20:56

There is no place on Earth where you cannot find a love to tea and its history. This drink is second by popularity only after water. Homeland of Tea is South-West China and adjacent areas of Upper Burma and North Vietnam.
 
Interestingly, the word tea has come to East Europe through the Turkic languages from North Chinese “cha”, while the source of the name in Western Europe was the South Chinese “te”. There is no way to establish the exact time of appearance of the drink in different regions.
 
The first mention of tea dates back to ancient times. How wild tea was discovered, tell legends of China, India and Japan. One of them, there was tea in the time of creation of Heaven and Earth, it is associated with the name of Sovereign Sun Yan Di. On the other Southern Chinese emperor Chen Nung (III millennium BC) once tried the drink, which accidentally turned out to be tea leaves, accidentally fell into boiling water. The drink was so fragrant and delicious that the Emperor ordered to collect and preserve these leaves and issued a decree on the application of his nationwide.

Historical monuments confirm that tea was known in China in the Three Kingdoms period (220 - 280 years). The growing of tea as a culture plant refers to the year 350. Hindus believe that the tea bush was accidentally discovered by Prince Badhidharma while traveling to Southern China. According to Japanese legend, a tea bush grew in the place where prince Daruma’s eyelids fell after he cut them off, in order not to fall asleep during meditation. From this bush Daruma’s followers gathered leaves and made refreshing drink.
 
In 1763 a Swedish navigator brought the famous naturalist Charles Linneyu from China living tea bush. Scientist, being confident in the uniqueness of this plant, gave tea its name classification thea sineusis – Chinese tea. In the XIX century in the Indian province of Assam, Burma and Laos were discovered tea trees. Botanist had to admit that the tea has a different kind, which was given the title of thea assamica - Assamese tea.

Chinese philosophers said that tea is better than wine, because it can strengthen and invigorates the human soul.  It does not cause intoxication, it is better than water because tea does not transmit infection.
 
At first, tea was used only by rulers and clerics as curative drink, that eliminates fatigue, strengthens force and vision, or in the composition of ointments. The use tea as a drink in its homeland began in the 5th century. The value of tea was very high - emperors awarded their dignitary in the promotion. In the 6th century, tea was a favorite beverage of nobility, by in the 10th century, tea had become the national drink of China and, consequently, the subject of trade.
In Europe, tea was brought in the 16th – 18th centuries, by Portuguese and Dutch. Rooted in the Netherlands, the use of the drink has become a tradition of afternoon tea drinking, and spread across the Atlantic to New Amsterdam.

In 1664 merchants of the English East India Company brought as a gift to the King, two pounds of tea. The gift was accepted, the drink was appreciated, and a triumphal procession of tea began. At first as a luxury item available to the rich and the nobility, but much later - as the traditional drink of broad segments of society. Tea became available to citizens only in the late XVIII century, after reducing the tax on tea, but for most was still too expensive.
 
In 1793, Lord McCartney transported the seeds of Chinese tea to India in the Botanical Garden to explore and cultivate. India, whereas was the former colony of the British Empire, actively developing the production of tea. In 1860 it was sold for around 2 tons. The question of the rate of transport has arisen.
By boundless sea bear tea clipper - high-speed sailboats with valuable cargo. Tea race become a tradition with promise of winning trophy. Known as the case when three-clippers - "Ariel", "Taping", and "Serika" - were all synchronous distance 25,744 km in length and finished along the harbor.
 
In Java, Sumatra, Vietnam tea begin to grow in the first half of the 19th century, in the second half - in Africa and South America, in the early twentieth century - in northern Italy and southern Switzerland. At present, breeding of tea has developed in Australia.
 
The official history of tea in Russia started in 1638, when the Mongol ruler of the Altyn-Khan sent a gift of 72kg of a strange dry leaf to the king, Mikhail Fedorovich. The first acquaintance with tea happened much earlier in 1269 because of the Russian Diocese being located in Beijing.  Russian people visited China for a variety of reasons, Therefore they had exposed to way of life there and had been well aware of tea. Russian traders dealing with Chinese merchants were introduced to tea ceremonies by direct route from Beijing to Moscow. Tea came much later - in 1665, brought by ambassador Perfiliev. In the 1679 Russia develops the agreement with China regarding the permanent supply of tea. Until the end of 18th century, tea was sold mainly in Moscow. From Moscow, the fashion for tea began to spread throughout Russia.

In 1874, imported from Paris, the tea bush was planted in Nikitsky Botanical Garden in Crimea. However, the tea bush did not survived there. Then cuttings were brought to Georgia, where they acclimatized, well developed, and subsequently gave the seeds. Since then, Georgian tea was a delight not only in Georgia and Russia, but also in many other countries. In 1900, small estates have been cultivated in Azerbaijan. In 1936 in the Krasnodar region of Russia, they cultivated three teas, “Georgian”, “Azeri” and “Krasnodarsky”.

To date, the cultivation and production of tea, engaged in Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Malawi, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Japan, Australia. In doing so, they had been recognized by the major producers - China, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Kenya. Lastly, in Europe (United Kingdom, Hungary, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, France) the widespread of tea packing companies developed as proprietary blenders of tea and tisanes.

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