Why do you need to know about tea to travel to Iran?
Persian tea is one of the most important symbols of Iranian culture. The first drink that any Iranian offers you when visiting their home is usually tea. Iranian tea brewing has its own ritual.
Tea Culture in Iran
Almost all Iranians start their day with a cup of tea. The way we brew tea in Iran is somehow the same as Turkish and Russian methods and varies from family to family.
Ghouri (teapot), Ketri (kettle) or Samavar are the main traditional utensils for making good tea. Samavar or Samovar (literally meaning self-boiler) is used to keep water hot for a long period and it has been brought to Iran from Russia during the Qajar era.
To brew tea, first, we boil the water in the kettle or Samavar; Then, we add couple of spoons of loose tea into Ghouri (teapot) and then fill it with boiled water.
Afterwards, we wait. More we let the tea brew, stronger and darker the tea will become. In order to keep the tea always warm, we usually keep the Ghouri (teapot) on top of the Ketri (kettle) or Samovar and sometimes we cover it with cloth to brew it better and quicker.
Spice it up!
To add more flavor to Persian tea, we may add cinnamon, cardamom, damask rose, ginger or sour cherry while brewing the tea.
Iranians usually serve the tea in cups or drink it nowadays in mugs.
The cups and mugs can be made of china, but we prefer to serve and drink Persian tea in transparent glass drinkware like Estekan (stakan in Russian) in order to see its beautiful ruby red color.
Iranian Azerbaijani people are the most obsessed with Persian tea and they have special narrow-waist stekan for serving freshly brewed tea.
What do we eat with tea?
What we eat with tea may differ from hours to hours.
In the morning, as Persian breakfast, we tend to drink a stekan or even a glass of tea sweetened by a tablespoon of sugar. With this tea, we usually eat bread, bread and butter, bread and cheese and nuts, bread and butter with honey, jelly or jam.
During the day, we have the habit of drinking tea with something sweet and organic like dates, dried fruits like fig, white mulberry or sultanas with leblebies.
We may also drink tea with sugar cubes or Saffron Nabat (rock candy).
We chew sugar cubes like toffee and then drink tea with it to make our sips sweet. To drink tea with Nabat, we stir the Nabat in the cup to dissolve.
During winter, we drink tea with honey and lime to protect ourselves against gripp and cold.
In a ceremony, we may serve the tea with homemade jelly or jam, Persian traditional sweets like Gaz, Sohan, baqlava and ghottab, Persian confectionary products or even cakes, hard biscuits and soft cookies, toffees and candies or different kinds of chocolates or chocolate truffles.
At night, we may drink tea before sleeping to relax, while speaking and sharing with family members or watching TV or a movie. Some traditional families though, may replace this tea with tisanes or herbal teas to balance the diet of family members and we should not forget to mention the recent increase in the consumption of green tea by Iranian families.
We love tea!
We consume tea as much as some of us can’t skip a morning tea or we will get a headache.
The quality of tea that we consume depends on its taste and only usual consumers and professionals can find this taste difference. The quality can also be measured by color of the brewed tea and its perfume.
We can add more boiled water into our stekan to weaken the tea and adapt its taste and color to our own preferences.
As a matter of fact, one of the main features of a perfect Iranian host is asking the guest about their preferences.
Another basic etiquette in serving tea in Persian culture dictates to serve tea to ladies and elder people before others.
Brewing tea is so important that it traditionally was an indicator of how much a lady was ready to get married. During the Iranian ceremony of marriage proposal, the quality of brewed tea and the manners of serving it by the lady could make the first impression on the family of the future groom. This ritual has actually been a subject of Iranian comic movies and series following the style of Boulevard theatre.
Ghahvekhaneh (Tea House)
Ghahvehkhaneh or Teahouses are important social places where the older generations mostly gather to discuss or relax while enjoying a stekan of tea and listening to Naghal (storyteller) who recites tales of famous ancient Iranian books such as Shahnameh of Ferdowsi.
GhahvehKhane means coffee house, and the reason for its name goes back to the time before tea was introduced in Iran and coffee was widely consumed by Iranians. Although no coffee is served in Ghahvehkhaneh and only freshly brewed black tea is available, the name of Ghahvehkhaneh is still used by many of Iranians.
There has been a GhahvehKhaneh in every street of Iran’s cities since centuries ago and one of the most famous ones is Azari Ghahvehkhanhe in Tehran which is known between locals and tourists.
The traditional decoration and detailed architecture are the two main features of this teahouse which attract many visitors.
Haj Ali Darvish tea house is also the smallest GhahvehKhaneh of Iran in Bazar of Tehran and it has been serving tea since 1918. This GhahvehKhaneh is one of the recognizable attractions of the city.
Persian Tea Benefits
High-quality Persian tea has lots of benefits and positive points. It reduces the formation of blood clots and heart attack by decreasing cholesterol level in the bloodstream. Physicians say that its consumption reduces the risk of cancer because of the antioxidant it contains. Few cups of Persian tea have antioxidants equals to five servings of vegetables. The caffeine in Persian black tea is also beneficial for reducing depression and anxiety. Wet tea bags are highly recommended as a treatment for puffy eyes and skin cleansing. The juice of natural tea leaves is useful for dark circles around eyes.
Persian Tea in Market
The history of tea in Iran dates back to 453 BC. Two things have a prominent role in introducing tea to Iran. First, the Silk Road which was built in the Persian Empire as a trade route to connect the East to West and second, it was Persian’s tea easier preparation method in comparison to coffee. But the production of tea has not been started in Iran before 1900.
In 1895, Kashef Al Saltaneh, an Iranian diplomate in Iran Consulate in India, decided to bring more than 3,000 samples of tea plants from India to his home town, Lahijan. Lahijan is located in the north of Iran in Gilan province which thanks to its humidity is a good region for cultivation of tea.
It took about six years for Kashef Al-Saltaneh to introduce his product and its Iranian tea culture to the public market. Today, Lahijan Tea has the best tea production in Iran and the tea is being exported to many countries and Kashe Al Saltaneh is known as the Father of Iranian Tea.
Nowadays, there are about 107 tea factories and about 32000-hectare tea farms in Iran. Many of these farms are situated on the hillside of the northern region. For Iranians, Persian teas are an important part of their everyday life and their celebrations and gatherings especially in Iftar of Ramadan, during Muharram and Ashura or any religious or national festivals during which families serve tea for free to all pedestrians on the streets.
Persian tea in the market are available with various flavors like saffron, rosewater, milk, black pepper, ginger, fennel and cinnamon; However, some Iranians believe that such additions may reduce the natural taste of tea.
Nowadays, Persian tea is being exported to more than 36 countries. The three best brands of Persian tea in Iran are Naderi tea, Debsh tea and Ferdows tea and their prices depends on the brand and quality.