Iranian tea
Iranian tea

Flavors of Iran

Origins and traditions

Generally beverages are not served with meals in Iran, aside perhaps from a glass of ice water or dugh. Nonetheless, Iranians are great tea drinkers. Chai is the national beverage – some would even say the national pastime. It’s served at the office, in mosques and bazaars. Along with the hammam (bath house), the chai-khaneh or tea house is a fixture from one end of the country to the other. Tea plays a social role and ends every meal, at which time everyone returns to the living room. The tea leaves infuse in the tea maker, set atop a samovar. The hostess pours a little of this dark liquid into a glass and brings it up to the light to assess its color and strength. Then she pours the very strong tea into small glasses rimmed with silver, set on a silver tray. She dilutes it with boiling water from the samovar to the taste of each guest. When the sugar is passed to you, don’t drop a piece into your glass: this is sugar that doesn’t dissolve easily. Instead, you put a piece into your mouth and drink little sips of tea around this crystallized or caramelized sugar cube.


Choice of tea
  • never in a tea bag, which often contains tea “dust” rather than full-flavored leaves;
  • choose an Iranian tea sold loose or in bags from a Middle Eastern grocer;
  • suggested blend: 2 parts Darjeeling, 1 part Earl Grey and a pinch of Orange Pekoe

The basic principles:

  • the water must fully boil, but never the tea;
  • always rinse the tea pot with hot water before filling it with boiling water;
  • place a sufficient quantity of tea leaves in the tea pot even if it means having to dilute the tea in the cup with boiling water

If you don’t have a samovar

  • take a kettle with a wide open top; remove the lid;
  • reduce the heat under the kettle once the water has boiled and place the teapot on top so that the heat is retained but the flavor is not destroyed
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