Russian Tea

Michael K., I hope you can help me with a little dilemma. I’m trying to figure out what kind of tea I had in Russia. Before going there, Lipton was all I knew of tea, and I wasn’t very impressed by it. In Russia, I was shocked by how good the tea tasted! I couldn’t believe that I actually looked forward to having it at every meal. I thought it may have been that my taste had matured, or that it was just in contrast to the strange food (I was going through Big-mac withdrawal), but when I returned to the US, Lipton’s still tasted like crap. I’ve asked a lot of tea drinkers about it, and no, it was not a smokey flavored tea. It wasn’t anything special or expensive either, I remember it just being the regular old box of tea sold at the grocery store. I’ve gone crazy trying tons of different black teas trying to replicate the Russian tea, but nothing measures up. I thought I might have just been exagerating the tea’s goodness in memory, but a friend who had lived in Russia for several years also shares my love of it. Also, I brought a box of tea home as a souvenier for my mom; she found it unusually tastey too.

So, I’m still drinking tea–I enjoy Teavana’s Ceylon Vithanakade and Twinings Orange Pekoe–but if you have any idea what that magical Russian tea was, I’d love to know.

Praise the Lord, I saw the light line!

(by johnsapp for everyone)

26 comments Add yours
  1. Ahh, another favorite subject of mine – tea.   Although a certain type of Chinese smoked tea is called ‘Russian Caravan’ in some circles, nobody’s ever heard of it here, unless they frequent specialty tea shops like I do..  The name originates from the way the first teas were delivered to Russia.  Europe received their teas by clippers, ships specifically designed to travel from the colonies round the bottom end of Africa and back up to Europe as quickly as possible, before the tea lost its freshness.  (Incidentally black tea was basically designed for the same reason, it keeps fresh longer.  Black tea was not normally taken in the East.) Anyway, Russia was closer by caravan.  With the caravan taking many night stops by camp-fires, the tea would saturate with smoke, hence the name ‘Russian Caravan’ tea.   As for the tea you were drinking; let me guess, it was probably 10-20 years ago, right?  It would have appeared in the shops with a blue elephant on a yellow background. (Incidentally again, the yellow on both the Russian tea and on the horrid Lipton stuff you are forced to drink, came from a method of labeling tea quality.  When the tea arrived in European ports on the above mentioned clippers, it would have been color coded: a yellow ribbon or yellow paint on the box or bag would indicate that the tea was of ‘medium’ quality.)  Anyway the tea was called ‘Indiyskiy Chai’, which means, of course, ‘Indian Tea’!   So what you’re looking for, to reproduce that nostalgic flavor, is cheap loose Indian tea.  Not the expensive ‘first harvest’ SFTGFOP (Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) Darjeeling or Assam.  Look for a blend.   My own every-day staple is Twinning Earl Grey tea bags.  I can’t find any other Earl Grey that would match, even Twinnings’ own loose version.  Strange…

  2. Ah ha!  That elephant rings a bell.  Now that I think about it, I remember taking a picture of all the souveniers I brought back for people…I'm going to see if I can dig it up as soon as i get home.  Thanks!   ____________________ Praise the Lord, I found a clue!

  3. Oh, my God!! I looked for the picture, but I think I threw out all my albums when, after reading Walden, I was trying to lessen my amount of personal belonings. Damn that Thoreau! But at least I have an empty shelf in my closet now…

    Praise the Lord, I'm OCD now!

  4. Dear Mr. Sapp,   A business proposition:   Do you have any unneeded copies of shorthand books?  Are you restless from the knowledge that you own two copies of Alice in Wonderland in Gregg Shorthand?  Are your cabinets and shelves overflowing with Anniversary Dictionaries and Expert Speed Studies?   Well, we have a solution that will not only solve your problem, but will make your daily tea drinking experience a joy and an occasion looked forward to by all your family and friends!   Just mail (or scan and convert to PDF files and e-mail) one copy of each of the three books mentioned or more, and you will receive by post not one, but half a dozen (!) boxes of the world famous ‘blue elephant’ tea!   Although the original tea is no longer produced, a leading Russian tea company has recreated the formula and is now selling it under a new brand.  The translation of the brand name is “That very tea”, meaning, of course, that very tea YOU were asking about!  It’s even packed in a yellow box with a blue elephant on it!   Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Contact WordSigner today, and receive half a dozen boxes of THAT VERY TEA!

  5. Ha ha, "that very tea." [notice placement of quotation marks] Price is no object!

    Sorry, wordsigner, I only have my Simplified manual and dictionary. I'm borrowing a DJS textbook. Remember that whole "few belongings" thing?

    Praise the Lord, I saw the light line!

  6. No, no, I want to read the shorthand version.  I've seen a scanned CDR of it on sale or for auction on e-bay for/from 9 USD.  I might give it a try (I've never purchased material things online before, so am weary of how this stuff will reach me etc.) Mind you, I still have not made the final decision whether to go Pitman or Gregg, so am not sure if I would want to invest – 9 bucks is not much, but when you add the shipping costs!.

  7. John, was the tea you had made from a concentrate? They dilute it with hot water from a samovar. The two-step process is called "zavarka" in Russian ; it always makes excellent tea, no matter what brand of tea you use.

  8. Zavarka, of course.  I took that for granted.  Take a small porcelein tea pot (to lazy to go spell-check 'porsilain').  Scold it with hot water (from the inside) to warm it up and then pour the water out.  Put in 3 to 5 heaping teaspoons of tea, add more hot water to about 2/3 or 3/4 full.  Put the lid on and cover the whole thing with a towel.  Let is stand for 3-5 minutes.  Then pour some of the 'zavarka' into a cup or glass, to about 1/5th, then the rest with plain hot water.  There you have it!

  9. Yes, its nice to think that everyone in Russia uses a bright shiny gold samovar, but my experience was that people just brought the water kettle from the stove to the table and used it to delete the strong tea.  They would ask "would you like it weak or strong?"  And always taken with sugar, never with cream.  I remember they would spoon sugar onto pieces of bread, then spoon tea over it to melt the sugar.  They called it "student cakes."  Now you know why I was going through Big-mac withdrawal…   Good bread, though. ______________ Praise the Lord, I saw the light line!

  10. (the following is rates M for Mature)   Speaking of trying to get a copy of Alice in Wonderland from e-bay: I tryed contacting the seller. e-bay wants me to register before I can do so So I fill in a registration form and e-bay says that as I'm using a internet address, I need to fill in my credit card details to 'confirm my identitiy' So I say what the hell and put in my Citibank Mastercard number, and the damned e-bay say that my credit card number 'might not be valid', jeez! So I change my email to my work one. e-bay says We've sent you a confirmation message go read it and follow the link, AND I'M AT HOME, how the hell can I follow the bloody link if it's in my work mailbox and I'm a hours ride away from there and it's a national holiday? This is why I hate buying on line.  The only thing I never had problems was with buying e-books on Amazon. BTW if I do finaly get an e-bay account and do somehow get in contact with that guy I STILL WILL NOT BE ABLE TO BY THE GODDAMN CDR because bloody PAYPAL does not accept payments from RUSSIA. Amazon accept ANYTHING from Russia, I even contacted them and they said they even ship to Russia.  So what's wrong with eBay and Paypal? Why does life have to be SO DAMN difficult?!

  11. You said before you are wary of purchasing online because of customs worries.  Is it just the online thing, or are your worried about any packages coming from the US?   ___________________ Praise the Lord, I saw the light line!

  12. Well, I've just made an order on Amazon for some no-shorthand books.  They have all these used shorthand books, but they don't ship themselves, so I'll save that for later.  I still have hopes that new PDF scans of interesting stuff will apear on Agenfly :O)   I bought 5 books totaling about USD50, but shipping to Russia is either USD28 the slow way, or USD36 the expiditing way.  Imagine if I buy ONE book from one of these used book sellers, I'de end up paying USD5 for the book and USD30 for the shipping!   The books should arrive end of March / early April.  Hopefully, all will be fine and I would open a whole new world of shopping for myself :O)   About e-bay, though.  Well, Paypal does not accept payment from Russia, so that is closed for me for the time being.

  13. ALERT!!! I finally found the photo in question.  A pleasant surprise, but no blue elephant, and the box isn't yellow.  It looks like dancing figure on a red box.  Still, "Indiski Chai" is really ringing a bell, but I can't make out the label from this photo.  Do you recognize it?      

  14. RE:ALICE IN WONDERLAND             Its not that rare. The $400 price tag on Ebay is unreal, considering the fact that several copies are being offered  on  (Gregg shorthand) and considerably lower prices.     DOC  

  15. If you are looking for the CD of Alice in Wonderland – it is a different auction site.  I had no problem buying it.  The site is:
      It listed for $10.99 + shipping.  It gets paid by PayPal.  I don't know what you do from Russia  — BidPay is a Western Union way to transfer/pay when you are from or in  another country.  The guy is really helpful.  You might want to e-mail him directly and see what he can do for you.  His e-mail address is:   [email protected]   I hope this helps you out.   Andrea

  16. So, there I was, getting in my dailiy reading of the Yellow Pages, when all of a sudden, I came across something you would never expect to find in a city like Jacksonville.  Lo and behold–it was a Russian supermarket!  I was so excited I rushed out the very next Saturday in search of my grail tea.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be more of a market than a supermarket; or a small store, rather. The only teas they had were flavored (and freaking expensive).  Here is a picture of the one I bought; it was nothing like the original.  Anyway, at least I got some kbac (also not like the original) and that oily, crumby sunflower snack.    

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