on importance of samovar in the tea-drinking process

Samovar is original Russian invention.  Its origins are connected with tea.  Tea was first brought into Russia from West Mongolia in the 17th century and was used as a medicine among the nobility. 

As it gained popularity, tea became a competitor of sbiten, the favorite drink in Russia at the time, which components were hot water, herbs and honey. In the 18th century, samovar-kitchens were operated in the Urals and town of Tula. They were made of three parts, in two of which the meals were cooked, and in the third, the tea was made.  Sbitennik and samovar-kitchen were first samovar prototypes. 


There are different versions of the first samovars; they were made in the Urals, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Tula, later in Vladimirskaya, Yaroslavskaya and Vyatskaya provinces.  The first samovar factory was founded in Tula by Nazar Lisitsin in 1778. 

The town of gunsmiths, Tula, became known to the entire world as the center of samovar manufacture thanks to its rich ore deposits, highly qualified metal workers  and location of the town in the vicinity of Moscow. Samovar factories were very profitable. Handicraftsmen quickly became manufacturers. In 1826, Tula had eight samovar factories, in 1896 - seventy. 


Samovars were made from nickel, red and green copper, pinchbeck, sometimes from silver.  Some of them were plated with gold, silver, but base metal was always brass.  In the course of centuries samovar shapes changed.  By the end of the 19th century,  the number of samovar shapes reached 165.

It was almost impossible to mechanize samovar manufacturing completely. The tools were also unchanged; assembly of five to six samovars per day was completely manual. The peak of samovar manufacturing in Tula was in the 1880s. 


The samovar was a feature of home comfort, a symbol of Russian hospitality, and a sign of good circumstances.  Among the folk artifacts samovars occupy special place.  Some of them may not only be considered domestic utensils, but also true works of  arts.  Many samovar makers wanted to astonish their customers by their creative fantasy. 

Refined design and durability in combination with decorative qualities caused interest to samovars all over the world.  Tula samovars were presented at the exhibitions in Russia and abroad.  The manufacturers participating at the exhibitions were often awarded with medals, the reprints of which were later posted on the samovars' sides. 


Tula samovars were popular all over Russia.  At the fairs  samovars of different shapes were displayed, vase-shaped, pear-shaped, wineglass-shaped and others.  Cost reductions in the manufacturing process caused standardization of samovar shapes, and as a result, cylindrical samovars were  produced in large quantities. Coal samovars made in Tula had the charcoal water heater; later, kerosene samovars were introduced.

Prices were derived from the shape, metal and size of samovars.  Simple-shape samovars were sold based on their weight.  Samovars of complex shapes (gifts or made to order) were sold by piece. In 1910, prices for some types of samovars  had reached 225-230 rubles. At that time, a cotton shirt cost 40 copecks (1 ruble = 100 copecks), pants - 1.5 rubles, sheep - 4 rubles and a cow - 45 rubles.


During the 19th century portable samovars were made in Tula. As a rule, they were many-sided, cubic, or right-angled. 

Production technology has greatly improved for two hundred years. Manufacturers began to use presses, conveyor lines, and pressure-casting. 

At "Shtamp" plant nickel-plating automatic line was introduced.  Some samovars are now decorated with art rolling.  The plant produces different types of samovars:  six versions of coal samovars, as well as painted decorative electrical samovars (since 1956) that can take 2 to 3 liters of water. 
Tula samovars are often awarded at local and international exhibitions. 

 Based on "Tula Samovars" miniature book by Alevtina Tikhonova

Tula samovar site - more about samovars
How to make tea - exhaustive guide to tea and utensils involved in the tea-making process
Клуб чайной культуры

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