If I told you that Russians love their tea as much as they do their Vodka, if not more, you’d probably scoff at me. But tea is so deeply ingrained in their tradition that it’s commonly taken for granted.
When I decided to find out more about tea time traditions in Russia as part of a series that brings you tea from the world, I made a beeline for Olga, who has come all the way from Russia for an internship at Teabox. Her excitement at getting an opportunity to talk about her country and her culture was quite evident.
Tea in Russia is not as simple as drinking a cup in the morning, and another in the afternoon. The day starts and ends with tea. With numerous cups being drunk in between. Talking to Olga reminded me of how Indians drink tea, without ceremony or any pomp and show. It is so etched into our lives that we make a cup every few hours without even thinking about it. But tea in India is not always a social occasion, while in Russia, you are more likely to be invited for a cup of tea rather than for a meal.
Tea in Russia is usually accompanied by a variety of sweet cakes, sandwiches, cookies and jams. And more often than not, the tea time experience can last anywhere between thirty minutes to several hours.
While growing up, Olga remembers a large pot containing hot water called Samovar. This pot would be placed in the center of the table while families gathered around catching up on the day, enjoying a cup of tea, most likely sweetened with honey or sugar. Often, birthday parties would end with uncles and aunts settling down for one last cup of tea, after the big celebration, before they went on their way.
Russians love their tea black. The ritual usually starts with a tea concentrate called Zavarka – a high concentration of tea to water. A little bit of Zavarka is topped with hot water from the Samovar to lighten the flavor. It’s not uncommon to see bowls of jam accompanying the tea, spooning them into the mouth between sips.
We were keen to sample some Russian cake to go with Assam Black Tea. Olga was kind enough to give us a recipe which we’re sharing with you today. Needless to say we enjoyed it with our favorite raspberry jam and cookies.
- 3 Large eggs at room temperature
- Sugar - 150 grams
- A pinch of salt
- Sour cream - 250 grams
- Whole wheat flour - 275 grams
- Baking soda - 1 teaspoon
- Cocoa powder - 1 tablespoon
- Sour cream (cold) - 800 grams
- Icing sugar - 220 grams
- Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees C. Line and grease two round 8 inch baking tins and set aside.
- Whisk together eggs, sugar and salt until light and airy.
- Add sour cream and whisk till combined. Continue whisking while slowly adding the flour and baking soda.
- Divide the batter into two parts. Add cocoa to one half of the batter and whisk till combined.
- Pour the batters into baking tins and bake at 190 C for 15 minutes.
- Once baked, transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool. Once cool, slice them in half so that you have four layers.
- Whisk together sour cream and sugar for 2-3 minutes till light and fluffy.
- To assemble the cake, place the first layer and spread cream on the top side.
- Place the second layer of the cake on top and repeat till you have cream between each layer of the cake.
- Finish the cake by covering it with cream.
- Refrigerate for at least 12 hours to allow the cake to soak the cream.
- Top with nuts, fresh fruit and chocolate shavings just before serving.