Friday, December 2, 2016

Russian Teatime

I love my coffee--ask anyone--but I do enjoy tea also. In Greece, it was chamomile or the mountain tea that we sipped on to help soothe a sore throat. In Australia, we had strong black tea with sugar and milk. I still remember the tea ladies who rolled carts of tea up and down the halls of the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet where I worked; they came mid-morning and mid-afternoon and they always remembered exactly how you liked your tea.  

I brew my tea by the cup and by the teapot. The few pots I have left (having given many away) all have a connection to other people, which is a lovely thought, given that most tea-drinking or -sipping is a social event. I have so many tea memories, which is the same as saying that I have so many socializing-with-loved-ones tea memories!

Today I'm focusing on Russian tea and the traditional tools required for an authentic Russian teatime.

Family portrait by T.Myagkov

Well, it doesn't look like a photo of a rollicking good time, but everyone in this photo looks calm, don't you agree? While it's all assumption on my part, I'd have to say that they're all a tad tired from waiting around for the proper preparation of tea using a samovar. Apparently, it was quite a ritual, requiring fuel to heat the water in the samovar and (once that was done) to heat the teapot containing tea concentrate. And, of course, as we all know (not), the teapot was heated by placing it at the very top of the samovar. From there you could begin serving tea: concentrate poured into your cup, diluted to your preference with hot water from the samovar, sweetened with sugar (or jam!) and you're done; lemon or cream if you wish.

Typically, in the Russian tea tradition, honey-spice cookies  and cakes are served with the tea. Because tea is served throughout the day, more savory food bites are also served: bagel-like cookies and blinis with an assortment of fillings.


Interior of the Russian Tea Room
Russian Tea Room in New York. Opulent, yes?

I have the Russian Tea Room on my list of places that I'd like to visit and enjoy one day soon.  In the meantime, earlier this year, I did enjoy a lovely dinner at Russian Tea Time, a landmark restaurant on Adams Street in Chicago. Following my dinner of the classic Ukrainian dish of Stuffed Cabbage Golubtsi, served with buckwheat and a carrot salad, I enjoyed an aromatic cup of hot tea. Yes, it was served in a glass cup nestled in an ornate metal holder--the real deal. See for yourselves.



If you're a tea fan, you may enjoy reading a more comprehensive article on tea rituals around the world. Scroll down for Russian tea service--they mention Chicago's Russian Tea Time restaurant.

Oh, how do I take my tea? Strong, hot, sweet and with a generous splash of half and half. That's the way it was served to me on our picnics to the Botanical Gardens in Sydney (Australia), straight out of a Thermos with sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper. But, I digress--that is another story for another blog post.