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Posted by Sashee Chandran

Over the weekend, the Tea Drops team was lucky to have been a part of the 10th Annual Tea Lovers Festival in Pasadena, California. At the event, Sashee hosted a lovely Teatime Around The World tea lab which gave attendees a chance to take an imaginary trip around the world while enjoying an assortment of multicultural tea and dessert pairings that spanned the globe. We are so delighted and honored that the lab sold out but we are still in love with learning about teatime traditions around the world so to kick off this week, we are sharing some of Russia's tea traditions!

Sharing tea and great company at the tea lab we hosted at the Tea Lovers Festival!

Social Tradition

Russia is enamored with tea. It's a morning go-to as much as it's an after-dinner beverage. Tea is more than much a drink, however. In Russia, it also has a longstanding place in the social traditions of the country. 

When serving guests, the go-to blends consist of anything from green tea, herbal selections, or black tea and most of the tea consumed in this country is loose-leaf from China and India. A popular choice is an oolong blend known as "Russian Caravan" or keemun. When preparing tea for oneself, most Russians choose exclusively black tea. When you're enjoying tea solo (or on the go), tea bags are utilized. However, since imported brands of bagged teas are exponentially more expensive and it's just the culture of tea-drinking to brew from leaves, loose-leaf in pots is the way to go when drinking Russian tea.

Preparation of Tea

Russian tea is prepared in pot using a high concentration of tea leaves. This practice harkens back to a time when everything, especially food supplies like tea leaves, were extremely hard to come by. One pot of tea needed to satisfy a number of people and the tea needed to be robust and strong. In fact, tea prepared in this way has its own name: “заварка," or zavarka, meaning "tea concentrate." Anywhere from a thin layer to an inch of concentrate is poured into a mug (this is known as American-style!) and the rest of the cup is filled with just-boiled water and is filled to the strength preference of the drinker. 

While customarily, Russians take their tea "black," sugar and milk are also common fixtures on the tea table for those who want to add extras to their cup. 

Tea is often prepared in beautiful Samovars, but nowadays, electric kettles are utilized, too. Traditional Russian tea drinkers will consume their tea from the saucer underneath a teacup. They simply pour their tea into the saucer and drink!

A Social + Fancy Treat Affair

Teatime is a social affair in Russia and so it must be accompanied with food. Food selections tend to be of the sweet variety--cookies, biscuits, and cakes--and are commonly brought over by the guests. "Fancy treats" are also stocked in the home to be brought out for guests' enjoyment, too! Meanwhile, heartier fare such as cheese, crackers, and bread can and are often shared amongst close friends. 

Indeed, in lieu of going out, Russians opt to pay personal visits to friends' homes for a cup of tea and exchanges can last anywhere from half an hour to several hours. Tea is quite the elixir of life in Russia and is the solution to many common hurdles such as sadness, stress, or other difficult life moments. Tea is usually always present at family events and is a beloved and comforting fixture at any social affair.

Below, I am sharing one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes that would accompany a cup of strong Russian tea perfectly. (Easy to make an absolutely delicious, they were and still are my favorite holiday cookie to make growing up because they resemble snowballs!)

Russian Tea Cakes

 

Makes: 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients: 

1 C softened butter (room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 C confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus more for rolling cookies
2 C flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 C finely chopped pecans or walnuts

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 325F. Cream butter in a stand mixer, adding vanilla and then gradually integrating the confectioners sugar. Use the beating setting until mixture is light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, pour in sifted flour and then sift again to integrate salt. Mix gradually with the butter concoction until it becomes dough. 

Roll dough into 1" balls and place 2" apart on an engrossed baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes until the edges are lightly golden brown and then roll the hot cookies in remaining confectioners sugar. Enjoy!

Recipe Source: Food Network

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