Language Changes and Norms
Tea Time in Moscow
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Samovar or How to Drink Tea in Russia

У самовара я и моя Маша. Чай будем пить вприкуску до утра” (The samovar, me and my Masha. Bitter tea we will drink with a piece of sugar until morning…). The expression “пить чай вприкуску” means to drink non-sweetened tea with a piece of sugar in one’s mouth.

Самовар кипит, просит чаю пить” (The boiling samovar is an invitation to drink tea).

Самовар кипит, уходить не велит” (The samovar is boiling, you can’t leave now).

Самовар – чаепитию батюшка” (The samovar is the father of a tea-drinking party, in the sense that it is the main thing on the table).

Why do we have so many proverbs and saying about samovars? The answer is quite simple: a samovar is a container for boiling water and it is just impossible to separate it from the art of drinking tea in Russia.

In the word “Самовар” (Samovar) you can recognise the pronoun “сам” – itself and the verb “варить” – to boil or to cook and literally means to boil by itself. In the Russian dictionary (Moscow, 1981) the definition is as follow: “Самовар – металлический прибор для кипячения воды с топкой внутри, наполняемый углями” (a samovar is a metal container to boil water with a firebox inside, filled with charcoal).

Samovars, such as we can find in Russia, don’t exist anywhere else in the world, even in China, where the tradition of drinking tea comes from. The fact is that in other countries, tea leaves are brewed directly into the boiling water, a bit like coffee, while in Russia we make a concentrate of tea that we pour into a cup adding then boiling water.

So the samovar is a must have instrument for making tea in our country. Tea was brought in Russia in the 18th century, and around the same time, the production of samovar in the city of Tula started. Hence the proverbs: “Не дело ездить в Тулу со своим самоваром” (there is no point going to Tula with your own samovar).

No one knows who invented it, but one sure thing is that the samovar has been part of life and destiny of Russian people, an attribute of good Russian hospitality, for more than two centuries.

На территории России чай растёт только на юге Краснодарского края (in Russia, tea only grows in the south part of the Krasnodar region). The production is small and certainly can’t be compare with the famous varieties of tea from China, India or Ceylon. But nevertheless, its reddish colour and sweet flavour is appreciated by many tea lovers.

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The proper way to brew tea in Russia is the following: rinse your teapot with boiling water, pour two teaspoons of tea leaves per cup in the teapot, add boiling water and half a spoon of sugar. Let your tea infuse for about 10 minutes in a warm place. Then pour some tea in your cup, add some boiling water from the samovar and just enjoy your tea!

Елена Буланова