By some accounts, tea is the second most popular drink in the whole entire world – after prune juice (did I say that? – it’s after water, actually). Tea is consumed by all kinds of people in all kinds of ways. And yet most of us probably still tend to think of it a sedate and proper beverage favored by cultured types and ladies of a certain age who often sport hair of a certain color (bluish).
Which is true, at least to some extent, but it does nothing to explain the likes of an extreme variety of tea known as Russian prison tea. Which is not an actual type of tea, mind you. Apparently any type of tea can be used to make Russian prison tea but most accounts suggest that black tea in teabags is a fairly common choice.
Russians drink their share of tea, of course, and even went so far as to develop a gadget known as the samovar to aid in this process. As for Russian prison tea, which is apparently known as chifir in those parts, the key feature of this brew is that it has to be strong – to say the least.
Accounts vary and, given the nature of this blend, there probably is no hard and fast recipe for Russian prison tea. But there are cases in which chifir is supposedly steeped using as much as 10 times the amount of tea us non-incarcerated types would normally use to make a cup.
Which has gotta make for some lively tea drinking experiences in the Russian big houses. According to one novel, Vodka For Breakfast, a so-called “quirky, existential thriller” by the Russian writer David Gurevich, an inmate of a Russian prison who had indulged in a bit too much of this treat, “stripped naked outside the barracks in the forty below weather and did cartwheels until the guards finally ‘calmed him down'”.
I shouldn’t even need to say it, but don’t try this at home, kids.