The samovar is a metal container through which a chimney passes vertically and is filled with solid fuel, traditionally coal , which constantly keeps it in a boiling state. At its top is placed a teapot with tea leaves, where the heat slowly prepares a strongly concentrated infusion called zavarka; This is diluted with the samovar water itself to drink.
Tea with samovar is one of the most widespread images of traditional Russian life. It is difficult to find a Russian who has not heard of this utensil or has at least no idea what it is. However, samovar is not only a curious system to heat water and maintain its temperature. It is a striking phenomenon of decorative art and manufacturing production.
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- 1 Operation
- 2 Emergence and history of the samovar
- 1 Something more than a utensil to heat water
- 2 Some curious facts
- 3 Sources
The interior fireplace is filled with solid fuel, traditionally coal, so that the water remains in a boiling state. At its top is placed a teapot with tea leaves, where the heat slowly prepares a strongly concentrated infusion called zavarka; This is diluted with samovar water, ready to drink.
Appearance and history of the samovar
The term “samovar” comes from two Russian words: samo, which means “by itself”; and varit, which means “boil”. Basically it is a boiler that has a central tube in which the fuel is housed, which keeps the drink at a constant and hot temperature. In the past, inside that chimney, coal or pine cones were burned, keeping the flame with the help of a pot that they put inside the tube.
The appearance of samovar is closely related to sbiten, the most popular Russian drink since ancient times, an infusion of honey and spices. The sellers of this drink invented the sbítennik, a device that was used to maintain the temperature of the drink. Unlike the samovar, that container did not have a tap. Also, a classic samovar is used to heat the water, while the sbítennik only kept the temperature.
Little by little, tea, which arrived in Russia in 1638, became popular and the use of samovar for the consumption of the new drink began to spread. Therefore, the Russians adopted the ritual of drinking tea with their own peculiarities. At first they made the tea in a small teapot, then they poured the liquid into the cups and added water in proportions of 1: 3 or 1: 4 (depending on the desired intensity). This is precisely why the need for a container to heat water appeared in Russia.
After investigating the processes that occur in the classic samovar, scientists today affirm that it is an ideal mechanism for heating water and at the same time softening and filtering it. The tea obtained with a samovar is said to be more intense and offers different nuances of flavors. For the Russians of the 18th and 19th centuries, the samovar was attractive mainly because it allowed the water to heat more quickly, since back then they used stone ovens to cook, which had to be heated with firewood.
The very idea of such a container comes from old. Analogues of the Russian Samovar existed in Ancient Rome and China, where they were used to prepare food. But the samovar is for heating and keeping the water warm, and therein lies the main difference, that’s why you need a tap.
The first samovars appeared in the Urals in the second half of the 18th century. The invention gained popularity very quickly for being very easy to handle: not only charcoal, but also any tinder served for its use. The heating speed of the water in the samovar was higher than in the teapot and also the water temperature was maintained for a long time, so the housewife did not have to worry about boiling more water. Finally, it was more convenient to serve tea from this container. For all these reasons, the samovar became an irreplaceable attribute of Russian daily life.
Within a short time, samovars began to be produced in Central Russia: in Moscow , Perm , Yaroslavl , Arkhangelsk and especially in Tula. In the 19th century this city became a symbol of the production of samovars, “a capital of the samovar”. Every year, more than 100,000 of these utensils were produced in Tula. And all handmade!
At that time the production of samovars and coffee machines occupied an important place in the country’s metal industry. They were generally made of green, red, and yellow copper, iron, Tula steel, and brass. Wealthy people had samovars of gold and silver that were authentic pieces of art.
Traditionally samovars were made by hand and several people participated in the production of each one. For this reason, they usually dealt with the production of the Samovar artisan crews. It was not until the end of the 19th century, when steam engines arrived in Russia, that they began to be used for the production of samovars. The containers were then standardized and the shapes simplified considerably. However, even today a handmade samovar can be ordered, for example in Tula.
Over time, as tastes changed, the design of the samovars changed. Thus, at the beginning of their existence they reproduced the shape of the Russian copper cups. At the end of the 18th century, samovars imitated the vessels of the ancient world: amphoras, urns … the classic style was in fashion. At the beginning of the 19th century, at the time of the empire style, solemn and ornate, samovars with that character were produced. Others had details of the Baroque, Rococo, Classicism, Modernism, etc. The greatest diversity of samovars in forms and decorations occurred in the mid and late 19th century.
In this same century, oil and alcohol samovars appeared, and the so-called “combined samovar” was invented, which worked with three types of fuel: alcohol, oil and charcoal. However, this innovation was not popular with buyers.
In the mid-fifties of the twentieth century another novelty appeared in the technique: the electric samovar. Although customs are lost, in the country there are still those who enjoy a cup of tea with such a samovar, many tourists buy these beautiful examples of Russian tradition to take with them back to their countries.
More than just a utensil to heat water
The peculiarity of the Russian samovar is that it reflects the Russian tradition of drinking tea and corresponds to an authentic way of life. Never, in any other place in the world, has a kitchen utensil enjoyed such respect as in Russia. No other container has had that color and spirituality. Only in Russia has a peculiar cult of the samovar been created.
In each house, in each family the samovar occupied the best place in the rooms and was always at the center of the table. They respectfully called him “family friend” or “the general of the table”. And only in Russia did it become an integral part of the history of the people, of their culture and way of living.
Some curious facts
The world’s largest active samovar was produced in 1995 at the Tula “Shtamp” mechanical construction factory. The weight of this giant is 500 kilos and its volume is 450 liters.
The smallest samovar in the world was made by the locksmith of the Institute of Radiotechnics and Electronics of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Vasili Vasurenko. Only a drop of water can be heated in this small 3.5 mm high container.