Tea time in Russia

Russian Club offers unique lecture for students and community

By Aubree Bailey
On September 28, 2017

Photo by Axel Marcenaro
Attendees of the Russian Tea presentation discuss which flavor to taste first. An assortment of caffeinated and de-caffeinated herbal teas were presented to all visitors.

ASU’s Russian Enrichment Program hosted on Sept. 21 a presentation on the history and popularity of tea in Russia.

Katya Severts, Ph.D., Russian professor at the University of Texas, spoke on how tea came to be popular in Russia.

"Historically, we Russians have been obsessed with tea," Severts said.

Tea first appeared in Russia in the 17th century. The Russian word for tea is ‘chai,’ often confused with the Indian drink, but it’s not.

Tea drinking varied through centuries and social classes, Severts highlighted the Russian nobility’s tea drinking.

"The nobility relied on the British tea drinking traditions," Severts said.

Men would drink from metal glass holders, while the ladies drank from porcelain cups.

"The middle class also followed on the lead of the nobility, perhaps on a smaller scale. Tea drinking was often accompanied by singing romances and playing the guitar," Severts said

Severts played a clip a Russian ballad that would be heard at a middle-class tea.

A clip of a Russian ballad was that would typically be sang at a tea held by the middle class.

Severts explained a few dishes and utensils used for Russian tea drinking.

"The samovar is a heated metal container for boiling water. Traditionally, it was heated with small coals and then they started getting electrical. Traditionally, some of ours were produced in Tula, a city of weaponry with a reputation of people who knew how to work metal," Severts said.

Severts also described modern tea drinking.

"Although we have different kinds of tea in Russia, black tea has always been the favorite, then and now."

Attendees then had the opportunity to try different Russian teas and pastries, as well as see several tea sets and table decorations that might appear at a Russian table. Severts even had a samovar, a famous metal container for boiling water, on display.

Rebekah Coffman, one of two vice presidents of the Russian Club, said she thought the event went well.

"I thought the lecture was very interesting. I’m so glad she was able to come." Coffman said.

Severts is a native Russian and currently a professor of Russian and 19th century literature at the University of Texas.

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