How Do You Make Russian Tea?

Variations of the Russian Tea Recipe Explored

by Connie Bednar

There are so many variations and differences between Russian tea recipes, I wondered, just what is the traditional tea recipe? How did so many different versions evolve?

I did find some very interesting facts about Russians and their love of this drink. I was surprised to learn that tea was not introduced into Russia until the seventeenth century. This is late compared to the rest of the world.

The process of making it is quite different from other cultures. A concentrate (known as zavarka) is prepared in a small pot. Then, each individual pours some of this zavarka into their tea cup.

Here was a fact that I was surprised to discover. It is not uncommon to drink two or three different kinds of tea at one time. Russians mix herbal teas and black or green teas (in the form of zavarka) together, and then dilute this mixture with hot water. Adding hot water allows one to make tea according to taste. Adding sugar, lemon, honey or even spoonfuls of fruit jam are the finishing touches to the tea.

If you have not experienced a traditional Russian ceremony, or tea from a samovar, you are missing out on the essence of tradition, hospitality and comfort to the Russian people. It is an unforgettable experience.

First of all, it is always time for tea. The expression “to have a sit by samovar” means to have leisurely conversation while drinking next to the samovar.  If you have not seen a samovar, please take the time to investigate this beautiful piece of functional artistic equipment. It is a heated metal container, many have an attachment on the tops of their lids to hold and heat a teapot filled with tea concentrate or zavarka.

The traditional recipe uses black tea that became known as Russian Caravan tea. This was a black tea that was transported from China to Russia. The trip took 18 months by camel caravan. During the trip, the tea acquired a smoky flavour from the caravan campfires.

Today either black or green tea is used, and maybe mixed Keemun tea (also known as Chinese tea sweetness). Keemun is generally a fruity tea, but can be bitter and have a smoky flavour after fermentation.

The layering of teas occurs in the Russian tea pots. There are three parts.  As we have already established the bottom and largest teapot holds hot water for diluting the tea. The middle tea pot contains the tea concentrate. The smallest tea pot on the top usually has a herbal tea in it.

There is a whimsical beauty to the composition of the complete teapot structure. It reminds me a lot of the Russian Orthodox Church pattern of onion-head rooves. If you ever have the opportunity to see some of these beautifully made teapots, they will certainly put a smile on your face. Many are decorated with scenes and figurines of people and animals from everyday life.

How do you make Russian tea? I now have a better understanding for all the subtle flavours that are included in a recipe. The next time I use my Russian tea recipe, I am going to make some Russian tea cakes and pretend to have a sit by the samovar with a few friends.

About the Author:  Connie Bednar has been a tea enthusiast all her life. She enjoys sharing information about loose leaf tea and herbals so she started her web site Learn more about interesting teas here on  her web site. Take the time to sign up for "Tea Note Speaker" her  newsletter while you are there and take advantage of her complimentary  tea e-course.