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RUSSIA'S TEA STORY

It is said in Russia that if guests arrive unexpectedly, they can always count on being served tea. This speaks of the popularity of the drink in the country, where a teapot takes pride of place in every home and habitation. Russians like their tea to be strong and sweet so as to beat the chill of their icy winters. A samovar is essential to the brewing process and is used to heat water and keep tea warm for hours at a time. of these are forged in the city of Tula in the centre of the country, where samovars have been made since the early part of the 18th century.

A small teapot sits on top of the samovar and is known as the tschainik. This is used to make a syrupy concentrate with a large quantity of whole-leaf or broken-leaf tea and a relatively small amount of water. A little of this is then poured into the bottom of a glass, which is filled with hot water from the samovar to make a proper brew. The usual proportions for this are one part concentrate to three parts water, depending on the desired strength. It is then sweetened with a fruit preserve which is sometimes eaten from a spoon, with the tea being sucked through it and into the mouth.

Russia has its own tea ceremonies which include the serving of "Moscow loops". sweet pastry treats - and blinis served with sour cream and jam. As well as classic Russian Caravan Tea, the country's inhabitants also like Ceylon and Assam. Their preference is always for strong black tea rather than the more delicately flavoured green and Oolong teas favoured other parts of the world.