Once you have decided on the perfect Russian samovar, you may be wondering how does a samovar work. Several years ago, I was in the same spot as you and had purchased my first samovar.
I was immediately curious how to work it. Being a tea maker enthusiast for as long as I can remember, I came across this incredible item by chance and have been fascinated by it ever since. I began doing lots of research and have decided to share my findings and experience with others in hopes of helping those who have the same curiosity and interests.
I will say that most people use electric Russian samovars today instead of the traditional coal samovars, but I will explain how to use both in this article for your convenience.
After reading this article, you will officially know:
- The history of Russian samovars
- The anatomy of the Russian samovar
- How to work a traditional samovar
- How to work an electric samovar
- And what Russians typically serve for tea
The History of Russian Samovars
Before I jump into explaining and answering your question of “how does a samovar work,” let’s go over the interesting history of these objects. Russian samovars were first created in 1740. These products were one of the most popular items ever produced and manufactured in the city of Tula, Russia. As they are very complex products that consists of many different parts, villages around Russia would specialize in making one part each.
This was a beneficial process to making these beautiful, expensive, and unique items. Eventually, a large factory warehouse was opened by the Lisitsyn brothers to make these products at a more affordable and quicker rate.
The old samovars were heated with pinecones and twigs. Now, they are all mostly electric and have become known as so much more than tea makers. In fact, these tools are one of the most widely known Russian symbols around the globe. Since they are also a big part of the art world, you most likely have seen them in paintings, heard of them in songs, and may have even seen them in famous photographs.
Since these products have become a big part of the culture of Russia, it is no surprise when I come across them on social media posts. Check out this TikTok video by Piterville. In the background, you will catch a glimpse of a shiny samovar sitting on the table.
@pitervilleОбломовъ is @eronika_universe #piterville #димарепин #обломовъ #литературныйобраз♬ а я так старалась ырырыЪ – Полина Маленкова
Although these common household items are found in Russia, they are also prominent in other countries as well. Take a look at this Instagram video by Hintoftradition that shows the significance of these products to Kashmir, India.
Посмотреть эту публикацию в Instagram
I always enjoy learning facts about the country that the product that I am using comes from. If you are the same way, I suggest clicking here for some fun facts about the Russian culture.
A Russian Samovar’s Anatomy
The anatomy of a samovar typically consists of the body, hob, cover, dushnick, handles, crane, branch, neck, pallet, and feet. A traditional samovar has a metal container with a tap by the bottom as well as a metal pipe that runs directly through the middle.
Below, I will go into more detail on each of these parts that make up the structure of this Russian tea maker:
- The body: The body is the main part of the product. It holds the water once it is poured.
- The hob: The hob is where the brewer is inserted. The tea that is inside it is not boiling but instead heating.
- The cover: The cover is the top part of the bowl. Its job is to keep the container closed while water is inside.
- The dushnick: The dushnick is also called the steam valve. It is a hole in the top lid where steam can be released.
- The pipe: The pipe is commonly found on the traditional devices. It goes through the entire bowl and heats up the water.
- The handles: The handles make it easier for individuals to grab, pour, and hold the product.
- The crane: The crane is located near the bottom. It is used to catch any impurities, so they cannot enter the tea.
- The neck: The neck is between the body and base. It looks like a neck under the head, which is why it is referred to as the neck. In the upper portion of the neck, the blowers allow air to go inside the brazier.
- The branch: The branch is used to block and supply water. It is a lock-turning part of the device which has a tight grip and looks like a key. It prolongs the life of the item.
- The pallet: The pallet is also referred to as the base. It is between the neck and the legs. This part of the item is used to make sure the product can balance evenly, so that it does not overturn from too much weight. This means that the pallet is often thick.
- The feet: The feet also work to balance the samovar as well as keep it off the tabletop to prevent any fires or burning.
If you are intrigued by these products as much as I am, I recommend you checking out my other article. In this article, I provide my readers with a list of what I believe are the best electric samovars.
GlobalNewsAgencyuk has created an excellent YouTube video, showing how to brew Russian-style tea. Consider watching this video if you are curious to know how this neat device works.
Next, I will provide you with the steps to successfully work a samovar.
How Does a Samovar Work: A Step-by-Step Guide
After my experience and research on samovars, I am providing a step-by-step guide on how to use the traditional and electric versions of this product. Follow these steps below:
How to Use a Traditional Samovar
The traditional style requires a torch, bark, coal, paper, pinecones, and water. Natural materials work best as they make tea better tasting and smelling.
These steps may seem complex and exhausting, but it is really interesting to watch someone brew tea the traditional way.
- Make sure you have all the materials that you may need.
- Fill up the tank with water. Spring or well water works best because Russian traditions call for natural water. This is believed to make better tasting tea. If you are serving a small group of people, only fill up the tank halfway.
- Make sure that the water is covering the widest part of the flame tube. If you do not do this step, you will run into a risk of overheating your product. This will decrease the life of your device. Also, check that you have fully closed the lid after filling up the tank with water.
- Put the tea leaves inside the pot.
- Place the coals on the grate of the hot pot. Begin adding the bark, cook a splinter, light and drop the flaming charcoal on top of the others. This will light the rest of the fuel on fire. Be sure to not completely fill the jug with torch and bark or the fire may diminish and go out.
- It will take about 20-30 minutes for the water to boil. All you can do is wait during this time.
- Continue to check the area where your device is standing to make sure that it is not too hot. If you do not do this often, it could become flammable. Safety is a big priority in this process!
- After your fire seems to be flaming well, start adding firewood.
- Insert a flue pipe to expand traction. Also, put the device on a smooth surface above the ground to help with traction.
- If your model has a chimney extension, put this on top to increase the rate of the boiling water.
- Once you start seeing steam, you will know that it is time to begin brewing your tea.
- If you use pinecones for your device, it is said that it will have a unique taste. Consider also using juniper branches or fragrant wood because pinecones cannot be used as the main fuel.
- Pour a small amount of boiling water into the teapot to begin creating the tea.
- Let the tea sit for a few minutes. Pour it into a cup and add boiling water on top of the tea to fill the cup.
- Put the teapot on top of the device to keep it warm overtime.
How to Use an Electric Samovar
While the traditional method may seem complicated, the electric style of this device is much easier and has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Once the electric product came about, a lot of people began purchasing them and cannot imagine making tea any other way.
- Fill up the kettle with water.
- Turn on the device and set it to its highest setting which is boiling. You will typically realize that the water has begun boiling in a matter of minutes.
- Scoop up six teaspoons of your preferred choice of tea leaves and put them in the teapot.
- Once you have noticed that the water is boiling, pour water into the teapot to about ¾ full.
- Put the teapot on top of the device, so it can start brewing for 4-6 minutes. The heat will brew the tea in the teapot.
- After the time has passed, check the tea in the teapot. The main way to tell if your tea is ready is to look for the tea leaves. If they have moved to the top of the surface and the tea looks dark in color, then your tea is ready.
- Pick out a cup and pour 30 percent of the tea from your teapot into it. Add water for the other 70 percent. This all depends on your personal preference though because some people like darker tea and some like lighter.
If you would like a more detailed look at how to use the electric version of this product, watch The Russian Shop’s YouTube video. It is a quick video with directions to follow.
I will now give you a couple ideas of what Russians tend to serve with their tea.
What Russians Traditionally Serve for Tea
Majority of Russian individuals find it to be rude if you serve tea without any food to go with it. Most people serve sweets, such as pies, candy, biscuits, or cookies. However, it is not uncommon for cheese, bread, sausage, and crackers to be served as well. The host may even be offended if you do not eat one of the treats that they provide with your tea. You should also keep in mind that Russians typically invite their friends and loved ones over for a cup of tea, while Americans usually invite their friends and family out to a restaurant. This is just the usual way to socialize in Russia.
The following are a few of the special sweets that Russians serve with their tea:
- Zefir is a soft and sweet confectionery that is created by whipping fruit and berry puree with egg whites and sugar. The typical fruit used for zefir is apple but some people prefer other types of fruits.
- Sushki is a traditional type of tea bread from Russia. It is crunchy, small, and slightly sweet. It is compared to a bagel.
- Tula Gingerbread are made with a fruit filling inside. They taste like a gingerbread pastry or cookie.
After you have decided to have some tea, you should try it in an authentic Russian style. Watch TeaPro’s YouTube video for some tips on this.
- How to melt a samovar on the wood
- Russian teatime traditions
- Types of Russian tea
- How Russians drink their tea
I hope that this article helped answer the common question of “how does a samovar work.” After purchasing one of these amazing objects, it is crucial to understand how to successfully get it running. Therefore, my plan is for you to feel confident enough with the steps I have provided to begin using it. Most importantly, I promise that once you start using your samovar, tea making will never be the same again!