This month’s ‘Around the World in Tea’, we journey to Iran in time for celebrations for Nowruz; the Persian New Year, marking the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Iranian calendar.
In Persian culture tea is so widely consumed that it is generally the first thing offered to a guest. Tea is the drink of choice in Iran; it is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner and throughout the day. Tea found its way to Iran from India in the 18th century and soon became its national drink. Seeds from India were planted and cultivated in northern Iran, today millions of people work in the tea industry. Iran has one of the highest per capita rates of tea consumption in the world; historically every street had a Chaikhaneh (Tea House). Chaikhanehs still play an important role in Iranian society today.
Iranian tea comes in an assortment of subtle flavours, it is defined by its deep reddish brown colour, and tea consumers can choose to dilute this with water depending on their preference of strength. Tea is served strong in Chaikhanehs, the stronger the cup of tea, the higher content of tannin and caffeine, so a good cup of Persian tea is much like a strong cup of coffee! Most Iranians prefer to have sugar with their tea due to its strength, the traditional way to do this is to place a sugar cube between your teeth, sipping the tea, and the sugar should melt. Particularly in the colder parts of Iran, Iranians tend to find this a more convenient way to drink multiple cups.
The taking of tea is a ritual, most meetings and formal occasions will commence with the offering of tea, and most meals will finish with it. Traditionally, tea is served from a samovar, this is a heating vessel originally imported from Russia. Samovar quite literally means ‘self-boiler’.
Here’s a recipe for you all to experience tea the Persian way:
Sadia’s Persian Tea
Loose leaf black tea
Handful of rose petals
Sugar cubes to taste
- Fill the samovar with fresh cold water and bring to a boil. Warm up your teapot by rinsing it with some of the boiled hot water.
- Place 2 tablespoons of loose leaf tea in your teapot with a handful of the rose petals.
- Pour water into the pot over the tea and rose petals, fill it nearly to the rim and put the lid back on.
- Place the pot on the samovar; allow it to brew for 10-15 minutes.
- Rinse your glass teacups with hot water, warming the cups.
- Fill ¾ of each teacup with the tea, if you prefer your tea dark and strong, increase this amount.
- Adjust the strength of the tea in the teacups by adding some of the boiled water from the samovar.
- To add some extra flavour you can add the following ingredients to the teapot: 2-3 cardomom pods opened and/or 2 small sticks of cinnamon.
And all of this just in time for Nowruz and the special Persian inspired tea party that were hosting later this month….