From time to time I stumble upon various “Russian” blends on tne internet… this really fascinates me because, afaik, my country does not grow anything worth drinking… :) Does anyone have an idea as to why these “Russian” teas pop up from impossibility ?:)
I can’t tell you the history behind it, but ‘Russian’ blends tend to mean they have some amount of Lapsang Souchong, giving a smokiness to the flavor.
Wiki says some interesting things regarding trade routes and such, no idea whether there’s any basis in reality.
I had one called Czar Nicolas that I really enjoyed, its similar to an Earl Grey but I haven’t been able to find any information about it online
Whenever I see “russian” described as a tea here in the US (and not actually in Russia) I take that to mean a very smoky tea. One tea I have called ‘Choice Russian Caravan’ actually smells like leather. I can’t even store it with my other teas, the smell is so strong. But they are good! Some are called “pine smoked”. Since the box is in reaching distance from my keyboard, there is this description on the Choice Russian Caravan box:
“Organic Russian Caravan tea features the bold flavors so highly sought by the 19th century Russian Czar. Camel caravans labored over a perilous route and months of nightly fires added a heady aroma to the tea cargo. Our select black tea blend combines rich Yunnan with disctinctly smoky Lapsang Souchong.”
Basically they accidentally found a way to flavor tea. So the tea might not be made in Russia, but they like to describe it that way. It’s one of my favorite kinds of tea, actually.
This is what I think happened:
At one time, Chinese black teas were the only choice, and were consumed around the world. But after Britain opened its own tea plantations in India and Sri Lanka (Ceylon), many black tea drinkers abandoned the smoky Souchongs and North China Congous in favor of the non-smoky British varieties. Russians in Russia and overseas continued purchasing Chinese black teas during this period of decline, so that over time black China blends with a smoky character became known to tea blenders as “Russian” blends.
Also keep in mind that just because a tea is labeled as “Russian” doesn’t mean that they are implying that the tea itself was grown in Russia, just that it is a Russian-style blend. Kind of like “English” tea or “French” tea… these are all about traditional blends from that country/region, not tea grown there.
There’s a wonderful store in New York City called “A La Vieille Russie” which specializes in antique “Russian” jewelry and works of art, that is most known for its collection of jewelry and Easter eggs made by Carl Fabergé for members of the Romanov court and other wealthy patrons in late 19th century Russia. Faberge was French but opened his shop in St. Petersburg in 1830 and became synonomous with Russian jewelry.
Not far from that store is the location of the original Russian Tea Room whose glory has faded as much as that of the Romanovs.
It’s what we poor deluded Russophiles think of a Russian style tea, not tea grown in Russia.
When I was little and watched my Russian grandfather drink his tea, he still drank it out of a glass after first putting a small lump of sugar in his mouth, but as an immigrant, was reduced to drinking Lipton.
So I sometimes drink a glass of “Russian tea” my grandfather never could have afforded, and like the comedian Yakov Smirnoff think to myself, “What a country!”
not to mention American marketing is all about romance and sex. the term “Russian” usually confuted images of pre Communist Russia. fierce kosaks. courtly czars and power. that’s pretty sexy from a marketing angle. In the American mind there isn’t a new Russia of high tech and commerce yet. there is old Russia and USSR.