By William I. Lengeman III
If you’re in the market for a gadget to help you prepare tea there’s no shortage of choices these days. The most basic form of tea preparation consists simply of hot water, tea bags and a cup or mug. At the other end of the scale are assorted and sundry gadgets that use various levels of technology to create a topnotch cup of tea.
One of the most interesting of these tea-making gadgets and a comparatively low-tech option is the samovar. This tea maker is most often associated with Russia, but it has been and still is used in various other countries. Samovars vary widely from one model to the next, but the most basic models usually consist of a metal container used to heat and dispense water. The samovar may also hold concentrated tea. This is then diluted with hot water prior to being served.
Samovars come in assorted shapes and sizes, ranging from ornate to utilitarian. Some of them are rather modest devices, which are intended for use by one or two people. Others are much more substantial models suitable for serving a sizable crowd. Though they were once fueled by coal or charcoal, samovars are likely to be powered by electricity nowadays.
It’s hard to be sure exactly where and when the samovar originated, but it probably first came into use in Russia some time in the eighteenth century. From that time onward the device increased in popularity – along with tea – and became such an ingrained part of Russian life that it is mentioned by many of the great Russian novelists.
For more information about the samovar and Russian tea culture in general, refer to this article by tea historian James Norwood Pratt, in which he suggests that the gadget was derived from a device once used in Mongolia. For some additional perspective on samovars and Russian tea culture, look here. For a look at some antique Russian samovars, look here.
Check out William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks, for more interesting writing!