Food in Russia: what's hot in a cold country

How to brew very Russian tea (with lemon)

Today I’ll show you how to brew tea Russian-style – and no, we’re not gonna use samovar! Sure, not every Russian brews it that way, some prefer other methods or other teas (green, pu-erh etc.), but it’s probably the most common way.

The most important thing about this method is that we’ll brew concentrated tea (zavarka in Russian) which will be later diluted with hot water. It’s typical to brew a whole teapot of concentrated tea for a family, guests or to use later, hot or cold (which I don’t think is very good as I prefer my tea freshly brewed). The more zavarka you put in your cup, the stronger the tea. You can start with ¼ of your cup’s volume and adjust as you like.

Another thing is a tea you use. It should be black Indian-style tea without any additional flavors, preferably long leaf variety. I’m sure you can find the right kinds in your local Russian shop. Or just use Lipton if you can’t find it.

Your tea should look something like this:


Ok, now let’s start brewing, shall we?

For the most authentic Russian brewing you’ll need a teapot. You can also use a French press like my parents do. Or may be a saucepan with a tight lid, if you want to cheat. Finally, you can brew individual drink using a cup and a sieve (although in that case there wouldn’t be any concentrated tea).


And also, you may need a lemon and some sugar (both are optional).

Boil water in your kettle. When it’s ready, put a little bit of water in your teapot, close the lid and shake it well. Pour the water out. (It helps to warm your teapot.)

Put tea in your kettle. Use 1 teaspoon for every person plus one more “for a teapot” (i.e. if you brew tea for 4 people, add 5 teaspons of tea). Fill it immediately with boiling water. If you have like 2-3 teaspoons of tea, may be don’t fill it completely so the tea is more concentrated. Of course if you teapot has a sieve (like the one I put in a cup on a picture above), you should put tea leaves into it and not in the pot itself.


Put the lid on your teapot and let it steep for 4-5 minutes.

Put lemon wedges (if you use it) in the cup. It will be the most aromatic if you pour a little boiling water over it.


When your concentrated tea is ready, put about ¼ cup of it in your mug. Then fill the rest with hot water from the kettle. You can also use a bit of cold water to get a tea you can drink immediately. Put sugar if you want. Honey works great too. Squeeze the lemon a bit so its juice mixes with your tea.

Now enjoy your very Russian tea!


Funny fact: many Russians do drink their tea with a spoon in, even after they stirred the sugar (heck, even if they didn’t put any sugar at all!). There was even a joke that no matter the country, if someone is drinking tea with their spoon in the cup, they are Russians!

That’s just one way to brew tea we use in Russia. Tell me in the comments if you like to read more about tea in Russia (what you can add, when it’s served, variations etc.) or have any other question about Russian food you want me to write about.


7 comments on “How to brew very Russian tea (with lemon)

  1. kate
    November 5, 2016

    I have always been a tea drinker and have always drunk it with the spoon left in, much to the laughter of others, because it seemed like the right thing to do. My parents never drank tea and now I wonder if some genetic Russian legacy from my grandmother imprinted in me to do so…or that great minds think alike. I really enjoy your blog, I came here for the barley porridge and am already planning on making the Sharlotka 🙂

    • alenastavrova
      November 5, 2016

      Thank you, Kate, you made my day with your comment! And I’m really glad you’re trying some recipes. Let me know if you have any questions or requests.

      As for tea, it can very well be a legacy. When I got interested in cooking, I wanted to try and cook dishes from other cuisines – Italian, Chinese, Indian, but as time went by I started to crave some home-cooked Russian food, something I never thought I would want to cook. There is even this theory that it’s best to eat roughly the same types of food or meals your parents and grandparents used to eat (e.g. may be not go heavy on spicy food if you’re from a northern country). I hope you’re enjoying your tea, with the spoon or without!

  2. Pingback: Buzzfeed knows what tea I’m drinking (some facts about Russian tea habits) | healthyhappyhelping

  3. Juliana @ Urban Simplicity
    December 27, 2016

    This is exactly how I was taught to make tea when I lived in Russia. I’ve also found Russian Caravan tea gives me the flavor I crave/remember. The taste is very Proustian for me. The spoon thing too! I miss Russia so much!

    In Krygyzstan, they do this method as well, but they put a little strainer on the spout of the teakettle to catch the tea grains (they tend to use Assam tea, which is granular, rather than long leaf) as they pour it into the cup.

    I just found your blog while looking for other things to do with grechka–there are so many great things here, thanks for sharing!! I’ve added your blog to my feedly and look forward to what you have to share in the future! I’ll be combing the archives for other recipes too–I’m eager to try the barley kasha recipe, and the Oliviets New Years salad.

    • alenastavrova
      December 28, 2016

      I’ve never been to Kyrgyzstan, but I’ve seen those little strainers too. I think my granny has one, but she doesn’t use it often.

      I’m glad you like my blog, Juliana! Let me know if you have any questions or requests for future posts.

  4. Guignol
    February 24, 2018

    Wonderful, very helpful, many thanks. We are just starting out in out tea drinking adventures. A particular favourite is ‘Russian caravan’. The tea concentrate method is something I am looking forward to trying.

    • alenastavrova
      February 26, 2018

      I’m glad you found my post useful, Guignol. Tea adventures sound very exciting – there are so many different tastes and traditions in the world!

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This entry was posted on January 25, 2015 by in Russian Recipes and tagged .
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