Thanks to Auggy, I can have my Samovar debut! This post is actually part backlog and part recent because I’ve got two different sessions and two different preparation methods in it.
This is the backlogged bit. I started out making this one western style, primarily because at the time I had forgotten that this was the one to try with jam and milk in it. I didn’t realise that until afterwards.
The dry leaves smell strongly of ashes. Being a smoky tea lover, this is to me a good thing. (Ironically though, I abhor cigarette smoke…). Once brewed up, it still smelled smoky but also with a creamy sweet note to it.
The taste, however, was not as smoky as I had expected. It did have smoke, but it was still quite smooth. There was a sweet note too, which originally I thought of as ‘the absence of honey’. Once I tasted a bit more thoroughly, concentrating on it, I decided that at first it was a reminder of fruit, but then developed in the mouth and turned sort of darker. Samovar’s description mentioned apricots, but I couldn’t really find any properly apricot-y apricots, but I could agree that the initial fruityness of the sweet note could very well be apricots. It added a slight tartness to the smoke sort of.
When it cooled off a bit, I was surprised to find it turning almost flowery. I don’t really understand how you can have flowers and smoke at the same time, but evidently you can. It defies logic, but it works.
I decided that based on this session I would give it about 85-90 points, and the next time I would do it the russian way. Jam and all.
This is actually quite similar to the turkish brewing method that I have posted about before, in that you first brew a concentrate and then dilute and sweeten it to taste. The difference here is just the additives used. In Turkey they use only sugar. In Russia apparently jam and milk is popular.
There wasn’t any description on how exactly to make the concentrate (or ‘zavarka’) so I decided to just use my normal amount of leaves and half the amount of water with a long, about 13 minutes steep. Of course, I’m curious about such things, so I had to taste the zavarka by itself before continuing. It was indeed very smoky, but not really as super-strong and astringent as Samovar’s instructions said it should be. So it probably should have been stronger. That’s just a shame, though, because I was given this sample as a gift and therefore have limited amounts of leaves available. I didn’t want to use them all up for the sake of this one cup.
I diluted it half zavarka/half water, added a splash of milk and a large teaspoon of raspberry marmalade. Samovar said to use strawberry jam, but I didn’t have any and when I asked Auggy, she thought that raspberry marmalade should work just as well.
I can taste three things here. Milk, smoke and raspberries. It’s a bit like eating a raspberry cream cake in a smoke-filled room, actually. I can definitely see why they would call this a meal in itself because it almost is. It’s more smoky this way than when brewed western style, I assume because of the zavarka. The raspberries give a funny tart sort of flavour too that reminds me of hibiscus. I understand now why hibiscus is so often used to imitate berries. The difference here is, though, that his actually tastes nice. Whereas hibiscus is quite simply, in a word, undrinkable.
I would be hard pressed indeed to say which of these two styles I preferered. The western style gives a very good cup and it’s more than good enough for everyday use. The russian style seems more luxurious. To be reserved for special occasions, like when you want to be a little extra good to yourself or when you need a little extra comfort.
Or a celebration. It kind of tastes a little bit of birthday.
Having had both the western and the russian style, I’m ending up at a solid 90 points.