Thursday, October 14, 2010

Food: In Soviet Russia Tea Leaves Brew You...

Tea is the most popular beverage in the world after plain water. Not bad for a drink that Douglas Adams referred to as "dried leaves boiled in water" in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

When I think of tea my mind drifts to two completely different tea cultures. The English and the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Two very different ways of enjoying those dried leaves boiled in water. Considering how popular tea is it isn't surprising that there are many different tea cultures around the world.  Anywhere people live there seems to be a particular way of preparing and drinking tea.

One way I didn't know about is the Russian way of preparing and drinking tea. In case you think that the Russians just take their dried leaves and boil them in water you're in for a shock. According to the Russian Tea HOWTO version 2 by Daniel Nagy the tea should never be boiled:
Third rule: never cook the tea leaves. The first contact of the tea leaves with water should happen right after the boiling of the latter. Neither before, nor long after. If you cook the tea leaves, you will obtain a liquid almost, but not entirely, unlike tea, fit for leather tanning, rather than drinking.
Yes... not boiling tea is rule number three. The HOWTO goes on to explain the primary difference between Russian tea and other tea - zavarka or tea concentrate. One of the secrets to Russian tea is to prepare a concentrate and then dilute it with hot water. Daniel goes on to detail the steps of making the rather dangerous zavarka. Dangerous? I'll let him explain:
Never drink the zavarka undiluted. It has a strong narcotic effect, causing intense heartbeat, hallucinations and restlessness.
As you learn the steps to recreate Russian tea you will learn a bit of Russian, the difference between boiled and raw water, some history, and much about the drink that helps keep Russian hackers awake at their keyboards. Enjoy.


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