When you are tired of a long working day and coming back home on a cold rainy day, just thinking about Persian black tea can make you feel better. What kind of magic is in a cup of Persian tea that can make you forget how tired you were only after one sip?
You grasp the transparent mug and touch its hot edge while looking at the tea’s gorgeous dark red color inside. The steam makes this drink tempting enough to force you to take a sip without thinking about how hot the tea might be. Who cares? A Persian idiom says the perfect tea must have an astringent taste and be lips burning!
What Is the History of Tea?
According to the UK Tea & Infusion Association website, we can find the early traces of tea in China and then Britain. Like any other big discovery in history, the discovery of tea was also an accident. If we take a look at legends, we can find one interesting story that tells us everything about how tea was found:
One day, the emperor of China, Shennong, went outside of the palace to a mountain, and he was sitting under a tree. His servants were boiling water to make it drinkable for the king. Suddenly, some tea leaves fell down from the tree and dropped into the pot of boiling water. Just when servants were terrified and wanted to throw away the tea, Shennong, a herbalist, decided to give the drink a try. Today we know that the result was successful because no one died, and we drink tea every day.
One thing about this story is absolutely true. Tea was found in China and then found its way to Europe and the Middle East. But how tea arrived in Iran and became this popular is another story.
Where Does Persian Tea Come From?
Tea is a big deal in Iran, but interestingly, Iranians have a longer relationship with coffee than tea. There were some traditional cafes called Ghahveh Khaneh in which Iranians spent time while listening to live music and performances. However, tea did its magic and replaced coffee in Iranian’s hearts around the 15th century when merchants shipped tea from China to Iran. The amazing taste of tea was not the only reason that replaced coffee with tea. Shipping coffee to Iran from other countries located far away from Iran was expensive, so getting introduced to tea was an excellent opportunity for the government and merchants to replace coffee with something more affordable. The Silk Road was the main reason that made shipping tea to Iran easy, and little by little, the culture of drinking tea became popular to Iranians.
What is Persian Tea?
What we call Persian tea or Chai is the black tea that is made out of loose leaves. Persian tea started to be cultivated by farmers around 1889. According to the World Tea Dictionary, someone named Mohammad Milza (Mohammad Mirza), who used to travel to India a lot, brought saplings to Iran. What part of the county was better than Gilan for cultivating tea? From that day on, the south of the Caspian Sea became a significant place for tea lovers. The beautiful tea farms in the area make Gilan even look more amazing! Later on, around 1934, the first tea factory got established in Iran.
Today, there are many tea factories in Iran that produce Persian tea in different tastes and forms. We are going to talk about taste in a bit, but you can find different types of tea for different occasions.
For tea lovers, the instant tea or teabag is one of the best things that humans have created. Especially when you are on the road in winter and craving tea so badly that you just need to have some. Putting a teabag in a cup of boiling water when you cannot brew yourself some tea can be really helpful! However, it is nothing like real Persian tea!
Depending on your budget and even preferences, you can buy different types of dry tea as well. We will talk about identifying high-quality tea, but to give you a heads up, you can buy tea leaves that come from different parts of the plant and have different quality and taste.
The best tea comes from the top and youngest leaves of a plant that got harvested during spring. Older leaves usually have a bitter taste, but the new ones are more delicious. Also, Spring is the best time to harvest tea, and spring tea is more expensive and has higher quality.
You can also find tea powder which is known as gunpowder tea, split tea, or whole leaves of tea that give you different tastes and qualities.
How Does Persian Tea Taste?
If you are a big fan of tea, you know how different types of tea can taste. To describe Persian tea’s taste and give you an idea of what you can expect, you can think about the spring in a cup. Persian tea has a slight earthy aroma that makes you feel connected to the earth. When you take a sip, you can feel the richness and how the astringent taste spreads in your mouth. Surprisingly a good Persian tea is not bitter at all, so all you can taste is a pleasant astringent taste that makes you fall in love with this tea right away.
How to Identify High-Quality Persian Tea?
It is experiment time! Let’s see how we can distinguish a high-quality Persian tea from a cheap one. These methods might vary for different types of tea because Persian tea has its own characteristics. We are going to introduce you to several methods to test and see the result:
- You can look at your dried tea; if all leaves have similar colors, it is a good sign. But if you see different colors, it means that your tea got dried in an unstable situation, and it affected the quality.
- Another way to test your Persian tea is to put some of the dried tea in a glass of cold water and let it be for a couple of minutes. A high-quality Persian tea will not lose its color in the water. So, if you see the water turn brown, the tea is not very good.
- The color of your tea is one of the best ways to see if you are drinking an original high-quality Persian tea. A high-quality Persian tea has a vivid reddish-brown color. If your tea looks cloudy, you should consider changing the tea’s brand.
Tea in Persian Culture
Tea is the ice breaker of every Persian gathering. When you arrive at a gathering, you can take your time to adjust, but when the host comes with tea, the mood suddenly changes to a more friendly one. So, it is safe to say that you cannot have a Persian gathering without tea.
Besides these casual gatherings, tea plays a significant role in asking for a girl’s hand. In traditional Persian proposal gathering, the girl used to come to the gathering with a tray full of cups of tea. It was important for a “soon to be the bride” to be careful and avoid pouring tea in the tray because the groom’s family may find her not qualified (too much etiquette and pressure, right?!)
Different Iranian ethnicities also have their own tea culture. In some cities in the south of Iran, the host must brew new tea for new guests. Or in some other parts of Iran, it is disrespectful to bring your guest light color tea. Also, in some places, you cannot leave your teaspoon inside the cup when you are not using it. The teaspoon must always be beside the cup. Another interesting culture regarding tea is that in some cities, you should put your glass upside down when you are done drinking. If not, the host will pour you tea again and again!
What Are Different Types of Persian Tea?
Iranians make their tea in different tastes and aromas. There are lots of ingredients that you can add to the tea and make it more wonderful to drink. Even those who do not like tea may find these types of Persian tea delicious. These varieties of tea are based on people’s preferences and tastes, so you can make your tea the way you like it. You can find the list of ingredients that combine well with tea below:
- Rosewater or Persian Roses’ pedals
- Bitter Orange Blossoms
How to Brew Persian Tea?
Brewing tea seems easy, but it can be tricky if you are making tea for experts. Also, Persian tea has its own characteristics, so it is good to review how to make a good Persian tea.
All you need to have in order to brew Persian tea for 4 are:
- Dried Persian tea: 2 Tablespoons
- Boiling water
- A teapot
- Your optional ingredients like Saffron or ginger
You need to fill your kettle with water and let it boil, then turn it off.
Add your dried tea to the teapot and fill it with water. You can add additional ingredients at this point and fill the teapot with boiling water.
Put the kettle back on the heat and put the teapot on the kettle to make the tea brew with water steam for about 15 minutes. Your tea is ready!
How to Serve Persian Tea?
Knowing how to serve Persian tea properly is an art. Some people get offended by having their tea in the wrong way, so serving Persian tea is serious and has its own methods. First of all, you need to pick the right tea set. Traditional Persian tea sets are small Turkish tea glasses and ceramic saucers. You have to have a bowl called Ghandan and fill it with small sugar cubes and put it in the tray beside the tea.
You should be careful how you pour the tea into the cup. Unlike Moroccans, Iranians do not like having bubbles in their tea glasses and consider it inconsiderate. So, you should pour the tea slowly. Also, be careful about tea pulps. It is better not to have any pulp in the tea glass.
Besides putting sugar cubes next to the tea, you can have dates or different types of pastries to serve your tea. However, nothing is more famous than Nabat (rock candy)!
Chai Nabat: The Ultimate Medicine
If you have an Iranian friend, you have definitely heard about Chai Nabat! There is a joke about it that says Iranian mothers find Chai Nabat the cure of every disease. No matter what your problem is, a good Chai Nabat can solve everything.
Nabat is rock candy that is made of a lot of sugar. So, a tiny bit of Nabat can make your tea sweet and delicious. If you have any plans to visit Iran, you should try this amazing combination and see how delicious it is.