Tea Giving: Day 7 (Russian Caravan)


“Ecstasy is a glassful of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth.”

It’s Day 2 of Hanukkah and Day 7 for our 25 Days of Tea Giving.

The tradition of tea and sugar is fascinating and one I wasn’t familiar with. Many Russian and Eastern European Jewish immigrants drank their tea by sipping it from glasses through a piece of sugar held between the teeth.  It’s even mentioned by Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment, as “sucking tea …through the sugar.”

Evidently many Russian Jews also practiced the Flaming Tea Ceremony during the “Festival of Lights” with each person dipping a cube of sugar into brandy and placing it on a teaspoon. Each person stands in line with their alcohol-soaked cube and its set on fire creating a glow. Holiday songs are sung and then one by one, each person drops their flaming cube of sugar into a glass of tea.

A bit more dangerous than just sucking tea through sugar but still a fascinating Eastern European Jewish Tradition.

The importance of the sugar cube with tea isn’t limited to holidays like Hanukkah either. Evidently its been addressed by religious authorities and according to the Orthodox Union’s Web site, it discusses what is or isn’t permitted to eat or drink before davening (prayer) on Sabbath morning and that putting a sugar cube in the mouth is actually permitted. I just read recently a story told by the late Joseph Murphy, a former chancellor of the City University of New York about drinking tea through a sugar cube:

“Wanting to emulate the older man, little Joseph, on his grandfather’s lap, asked for a piece of sugar. The grandfather invited him to share the piece held between his own teeth, and cautioned him to take no more than half. In this way, [Murphy said], he was taught a lesson in tea drinking, a lesson in kissing and a lesson in yoysher (fairness), all at the same time.”

Regardless of the tradition (The English and Afternoon tea; The Japanese Tea Ceremony; Chinese/Taiwanese Gong Fu style of drinking tea; The Flaming Sugar Tradition) tea drinking is a way to connect, share and communicate. It offers a time of reflection with oneself and others.

Russian Caravan Black Tea

That said, there couldn’t be better tea to feature today on Day 7 than Russian Caravan. I featured this in 2016 and because it’s still one of our more popular black tea blends, smokey tea lovers can enjoy 25% OFF today. Just used Code TEAGIVING7 at checkout on the website.

Happy Hanukkah!
Keep the fire extinguisher nearby and Happy Sipping!

~The Chief Leaf


Tea Giving: Day 7 (Russian Caravan)

25 Days of Tea: Day 20 (Russian Caravan)

img_lg_boheaDid you know that one of the the oldest written references to tea dates back to 59BC?  And that the oldest physical evidence/remains of tea date back to the Song Dynasty: AD960-AD1,127? There is a study that concluded that tea was consumed by the Han Dynasty as early as 2,100 BP (before present). Tea has been a loyal companion to human beings for a very, very long time.

We’ll fast-forward to “modern” times (18th Century) and the Ancient Tea and Horse Road, where caravans made their way from central China, through Tibet and eventually into Russia–bridging the East and West–sharing and trading goods. The greatest treasure/commodity taken along that route? TEA.

Photo credit: Ancient Origins

The humble beginnings of Russian Caravan begin with romantic stories of mile-long caravans of camels loaded with tea leaves. The journey sometimes took as long at 16 months to endure. According to China Highlights“The Ancient Tea Horse Road rivaled the Silk Road trade routes for importance, and as the longest ancient trade road in the world, at more than 10,000 kilometers in length, but was certainly toughest to travel. Few people in ancient times could finish the whole journey.”

Evidently, the Siberian route offered a “kinder” option for travel, preserving the integrity of the tea due to a drier, colder climate. As the caravans stopped along the frigid, snowy roads they would build campfires to to warm the weary bodies of themselves and their camel companions. With the tea close by the fire, the leaves took on the aroma and taste of the smoke bellowing from the burning wood. By the time they arrived at their Russian destination, the tea had transformed into a heavy, smokey, tobacco-like flavored brew. Though many came to associate this tea with the comfort of warmth from those glowing fires that saved them along the road, others (mainly purists) considered this tea to be “ruined.”  Little did those tea-snobs realize at the time that this route and those campfires were creating a new style of tea.

The proper “Russian” way to drink this tea is to use a samovar to create a strong brew – almost like a concentrate – and then pour into cups and adding water lesson the brew. This way creates one of the strongest brews you will ever experience. It’s no wonder the Russians add fruit (often jam) to their teas to lighten the load. If you are looking for a caffeine fueled day, try Russian Caravan made in a samovar. Some of you will take that as a challenge and want to give it a try, others will run away as fast as the wind blows on the Old Silk Road. Here are some tasting notes on this Imperial blend:

• Overview:   Famous for its distinct smokey flavor and history dating back to the 18th Century.
• Dry Leaf:    Medium, dark brown leaves
• Liquor (liquid):   Medium dark color
• Aroma:   Immediate aroma of smoke
• Flavor notes:    Smokey, but more mild then Lapsang Souchong. Notes of bergamot citrus and bits of chocolate/tobacco
• Brewing recommendation:     212˚F  for 1-2 minutes.
• Caffeine: Yes

If you are interested in giving todays pick a try, please visit the Pearl Fine Teas tea shop today and use code: 25TEAS20 at checkout to get 25% of Imperial Russian Caravan– today only!

Happy Sipping!
-The Chief Leaf


25 Days of Tea: Day 20 (Russian Caravan)