JA :: Just Articles

  Russian Tea HOWTO
  Dniel Nagy 
  v1.0, April 1, 2002

  Caffeine is essential for keeping the brain active during nightly
  hacking  sessions. There are, however, many ways to satisfy a hacker's
  need for caffeine.  Drinking Canned Capitalism (Coke) contradicts the
  very principles of the open  source movement, for it is a closed
  source product, manufactured by a huge,  evil corporation. This sweet
  brown fizzy water is unhealthy and does not leave  any space for cre
  ativity; you just get what you pay for. It is like M$  Windoze. Coffee
  is somewhat better (much better, in fact), though it can cause  irre
  versible neural damage especially in young hackers still in larval
  stage  (e.g. K-8), if consumed in large quantities.  Moreover, it is
  strongly addictive  and does not taste very good for those not yet
  addicted. A good tea, however,  induces catharctic sensations even in
  those, who drink it for the very first  time, warming one's mind,
  body, and soul. Many cultures have developed excellent  ways of pro
  ducing delicious tea. The English, the Chinese, the Japanese and  many
  more have mastered the art of this divine beverage. In this HOWTO,
  however,  I would like to focus on my native, Russian way of prepar
  ing, serving and consuming  tea. The issues of scalability (preparing
  tea for yourself versus the LUG gathering), portability (preparing tea
  using different utensils), and quality control are  also addressed in
  this HOWTO. Cultural references are given for the curious.  Enjoy!

  Table of Contents

  1. The Basics

     1.1 What is tea
     1.2 What makes it Russian
     1.3 How to make it

  2. Choice of ingredients

     2.1 The water
     2.2 The leaves
     2.3 Additions
        2.3.1 Sweeteners
        2.3.2 Alcohol
        2.3.3 Other stuff

  3. Utensils and their usage

     3.1 The zavarka pot
     3.2 The Samovar
        3.2.1 What a Samovar is, and what it is not
        3.2.2 Brief history of the Samovar
        3.2.3 Samovar Anatomy I. -- The charcoal-burning samovar
        3.2.4 Samovar Anatomy II. -- The electric samovar
        3.2.5 How to Use the Samovar
        3.2.6 Samovars in North America
     3.3 Other waterboiling devices
        3.3.1 The Whistling Tin Pot
        3.3.2 The Primus
        3.3.3 The Immersion Heater
     3.4 The Saucer
     3.5 The Podstakannik

  4. Troubleshooting

  5. Glossary

  6. References

  7. Legal stuff

     7.1 Copyleft
     7.2 Disclaimer

  8. Acknowledgements


  1.  The Basics

  1.1.  What is tea

  First rule: tea is made of tea. Period. Other hot beverages based on
  leaves of vegetation different from the Tea Bush (Thea sinensis) are
  not tea. However, hot water and tea leaves do not necessary make good
  tea. The ways of wasting the precious leaves are amazingly plentiful
  and widespread. In America, for instance, making bad tea seems to be a
  matter of patriotism since the infamous incident in Boston.

  Second rule: forget those paperbags. They are filled with the dust
  swept from the floor at tea factories. The bags give the tea an
  unmistakable flavor of cellulose. In Russia, we call it "the postman's
  tea", because it comes in envelopes.

  Third rule: never cook the tea leaves. The first contact of the tea
  leaves with water should happen right after the boiling of the latter.
  Neither before, nor long after. If you cook the tea leaves, you will
  obtain a liquid almost, but not entirely, unlike tea, fit for leather
  tanning, rather than drinking.

  1.2.  What makes it Russian

  If you adhere to the above rules, you make tea. Not necessarily good
  tea, but real tea, nevertheless. These rules are universal, there's
  nothing Russian so far. What makes all the difference, is the so-
  called "zavarka", the tea concentrate. The Russian process of tea-
  making is a two stage one; First, you make the zavarka, then water it
  down with hot, boiled water ("kipyatok" in Russian).

  At this point, it is worth noting that it's the process sketched in
  section ``How to make it'' that makes the tea Russian. The origin of
  the tea leaves does not matter, whether they are from Georgia (a
  member state of the former Soviet Union, located in the Caucasus range
  on the shore of the Black Sea; home to the largest tea plantations in
  the Russian Empire and the S. U.) or from Ceylon (Sri Lanka, a former
  British colony, an island south of India). Nor do the utensils
  involved in the process of making or consumption. If hot water is
  poured onto tea bags from a samovar the result is still "postman's
  tea" which has little to do with Mother Russia. In my experience, fake
  Russian tea parties like this gained some popularity in certain
  circles.  Don't let them fool you. Zavarka is what matters. It's that

  1.3.  How to make it

  Prior to any further action, you should boil a fair amount of water.
  You will need kipyatok at various stages of the process, and you will
  inevitably spill some of it during your first attempt. Actually, the
  more you fear spilling a liquid, the more likely it is that you will,
  because you are too cautious. Don't hesitate -- be resolute, but pay
  attention, as hot water is dangerous and carelessness may result in
  serious injuries.

  Boiled water is the only water used in the process of tea making.  The
  Russian language actually makes a clear distinction between "boiled
  water" and "raw water". The latter is often misinterpreted by non-
  native speakers as wet water (as opposed to dry water?), which is
  funny. Although these substances are very similar, they behave very
  differently under certain circumstances for some mysterious reason.
  Even a minute quantity of raw water, no matter how hot, can spoil the
  tea. Therefore, keep the water boiling for a while in order to make
  sure that it is boiled thoroughly.

  The basic steps of zavarka preparation are as follows:

  1. Put a certain amount of tea leaves into some pot,

  2. Pour kipyatok onto them (approx. one cup for each five teaspoons)
     in one resolute spurt,

  3. Wait until all the leaves sink.

        Never drink the zavarka undiluted. It has a strong narcotic
        effect, causing intense heartbeat, hallucinations and
        restlessness.  This effect has been widely used by captives in
        Russian prisons and forced labor camps, since tea has always
        been included into the rations of the prisoners. The name of
        tea-based narcotics in the Russian criminal slang is "chephyr".
        If you introduce Russian tea-drinking into some non-Russian
        company, don't forget to label the zavarka pot! Otherwise,
        ignorant people might drink its content, and die of a heart
        attack as a consequence. You, in turn, may face lawsuits or
        vendetta depending on the culture you live in.

  Now, you are ready to make your first cup of Russian tea. Pour some
  zavarka into a teacup and dilute it with kipyatok. The ratio is
  approximately 10:1, though it may change as your deadlines approach.
  Actually, the strength of the tea depends both on this ratio and the
  strength of the zavarka. Given the brand, the strength can be inferred
  from the color.

  The color of the tea should be similar to that of a chestnut.  If your
  glass, cup, or mug has vertical walls (constant horizontal cross-
  section, that is), you can control the color very easily. Observe that
  the color of the tea does not change if you look from above, assuming
  the water is completely transparent (the proof of this statement is
  left as an exercise to the reader). Therefore, all you have to do is
  pour zavarka until it reaches the desired color, and water it down
  thereafter. Cups with increasing horizontal cross-sections do not
  offer such an easy method, you will either have to solve an integral
  equation or make an educated guess.

  Lastly, I would like to draw your attention to a very important
  detail. Many of the steps in the Russian method of tea preparation are
  time consuming and might appear superfluous at first glance.  Good
  tea, however, takes patience and commitment; all shortcuts degrade the
  final product. Don't hurry, take your time. As the wise Russian
  proverb goes: "If you rush, you just make people laugh."

  2.  Choice of ingredients

  2.1.  The water

  Water matters big time. As unbelievable as it may sound, the quality
  of the water and the way we treat it determine the quality of the
  product to an equal, if not greater, extent than the tea leaves.  The
  best tea can be spoiled by poor quality water, while careful treatment
  and the right choice of water along with the right technology can work
  wonders even with the cheapest tea.

  First, I would like to repeat: all the water involved should be
  thoroughly boiled and hot. Never ever use raw water that hasn't been
  boiled, no matter how hot it is. Boiled water that has somewhat cooled
  down is equally unacceptable for most purposes, though at the final
  stage (watering down the zavarka) it is less harmful than raw water.

  The source of the water also deserves some attention. Most of the
  time, hackers are compelled to use the water from the hot water
  faucet. As tempting as it may be, using this water is disadvantageous.
  Hot water spends more time in pipes, and being more active in chemical
  reactions, carries more pollution than cold water. Therefore, you'd
  better stick to the cold water. Furthermore, after opening the faucet,
  let the water flow until it reaches its final cool temperature before
  collecting it for tea. Residual water usually tastes worse than fresh

  Although natural sources, such as springs, unpolluted lakes, fresh
  snow in the countryside, and so on are great in general, some comments
  are to be made. High concentration of calcium or potassium ions harms
  the boiling equipment and somewhat degrades the taste of the tea.
  Therefore, if possible, avoid artesian water in areas where the soil
  is rich in limestone. The softer the water is, the better tea it

  Interestingly enough, the actual taste of the cold water does not
  matter as much as one would expect. This does not mean of course, that
  you can use water with some repulsive odor or taste, but if some water
  appears to be extremely delicious, don't rush to make tea out of it;
  you're better off drinking it raw.

  2.2.  The leaves

  Of course, there are good tea brands and poor ones, but again, the
  right technology and careful treatment work wonders. Although in other
  fields of life the package might be less important than the internals,
  with tea it is almost exactly the opposite. Since the flavor of the
  tea is due to volatiles, the package should be firmly sealed and
  airtight. Personally, I prefer cube-shaped metallic boxen with round
  hatches, which one can open using the handle of a teaspoon as a lever.
  They can be reused to hold tea from cheaper packages, like plastic or
  impregnated paper bags, which cannot be properly resealed.

  If you take a look at the unit prices of tea, you may notice that the
  distribution is essentially bimodal. There is a clear distinction
  between cheap and expensive tea. Expensive, selected tea usually has a
  strong aroma, characteristic to the particular brand, which you may or
  may not like. Generic cheap tea, in contrast, is usually acceptable to
  everyone. However, mixing expensive and inexpensive tea is not only
  acceptable, but strongly recommended and encouraged.  Moreover, you
  can mix different tea and amaze your guests with the unique flavor
  invented by yourself. Since the Russian technology of tea preparation
  preserves the aroma very well, it is usually recommended to dissolve
  expensive, flavored tea in some good, generic tea (that is, to mix the
  leaves before making zavarka).

  There are, however, poor quality leaves, which are best avoided.
  Firstly, tea in less airtight packaging that hasn't been sold for a
  long time loses its aroma. If you buy tea in paperbags or cardboard
  boxes, pay attention to the date of production. Even if you choose to
  buy it, pour it immediately into some airtight, resealable package
  (e.g. a metallic box). The second important factor is the granularity.
  Finely grained, dust-like tea is a by-product of tea production.
  Selling it as tea is a consequence of the typical capitalist rush for
  efficiency that sacrifices quality on the altar of productivity.
  Don't buy dust swept off the floor. The other extreme is the rough tea
  possibly containing parts of the tea plant other than the leaves.
  This is due to the careless treatment characteristic of planned
  economies.  Underpaid slaves or irresponsible workers who get paid no
  matter how badly they work are prone to such crimes.

  Anyhow, I challenge you to experiment with various tea brands; mix
  them at will. Share your experience with others. And don't hesitate to
  ask your host what leaves s/he uses if you happen to be offered some
  tea you like. In my experience, even a hint of selected, flavored tea
  can ameliorate generic inexpensive tea to an amazing degree.
  Remember: you can't spoil tea with tea.

  2.3.  Additions

  Tea is a full-featured beverage on its own right. Some claim that any
  addition will only make it worse by suppressing its genuine taste.
  Despite such opinions, many drink tea with different additions making
  it sweeter, sourer or inebriative. I would like to give a brief
  overview, so that you can decide what to do.

  2.3.1.  Sweeteners

  Sweetening of the tea is very popular. It has to be noted, though,
  that this practice is unhealthy for your teeth. After hacking all
  night long sipping on your sweet tea, wash your teeth thoroughly
  before going into bed.

        Sugar is the cheapest and the most widespread way to make your
        tea sugared. Sugared tea usually contributes to clear thinking
        more than the unsugared kind. But of course, if you prefer to
        fuel your braincells without disturbing the original flavor of
        the tea, you can eat jelly or candies instead of adding sugar to
        the tea. More than three teaspoons of sugar can ruin the
        beverage: it becomes a syrup. Exercise self-control.

        A less trivial way to sugar your tea. Essentially the same as
        sugar, except that it tastes better and feeds braincells more
        efficiently than ordinary sugar. The true hacker's choice.
        Especially recommended before exams or approaching deadlines.

        Very healthy and very Russian. Caught the flu? No problem. Three
        spoons of honey and a resolute spurt of vodka into your tea, and
        off to bed you go. Of course, you do not need to be sick to
        drink tea with honey.

        jam:" Some Russians prefer to put fruit jam into the tea. Others
        eat it separately. Changes the taste of the tea dramatically,
        though not necessarily in an unpleasing fashion.

        and other artificial sweeteners:" The taste of sugar, without
        the benefits and disadvantages thereof. Unless you have diabetes
        but cannot drink unsweetened tea, there is no point in
        contaminating your tea with such chemicals. Real hackers prefer
        the real thing to substitutes.

  2.3.2.  Alcohol

  Alcoholic influence degrades the quality of your code. Therefore, you
  should abstain from alcohol while hacking. And while driving.  If,
  however, you are celebrating a finished project or a successful exam
  or whatever, a touch of alcohol can't hurt.

  Tea with alcohol loosens inhibitions and relaxes the muscles of the
  mouth. Thus, it is very helpful for learning foreign languages.  Learn
  Russian! It's a fun language, not to mention the abundance of dirt-
  cheap scientific and technical literature available in it, both on-
  and off-line.

  In this section we will take a look at the ways of cheering up your

        Since the outstanding Russian chemist, Dmitrij Ivanovich
        Mendeleyev (same guy who devised the periodic table of elements)
        invented and standardized the technology of 40% vol/vol vodka
        production, you have Absolut control over the alcohol content of
        your tea. If the ratio of vodka does not exceed one third, we
        speak of tea with vodka. If it is between one and two thirds, we
        speak of a sailor's tea. Beyond that, it is contaminated (or
        pure) vodka.  But come on, hackers claim to be intellectuals,
        right? You will need your braincells in the future.

        This is the Caribbean variant of vodka, distilled from sugar
        cane. Its special flavor fits very well to that of the tea. Make
        a stand against imperialism, support the Isle of Freedom!  Did
        you know that the Castro regime runs its website on a Linux box
        and funds the local LUG? ;-)

        Very ladylike.

  2.3.3.  Other stuff

        Some like it, some do not. Find out for yourself which category
        you belong to. Note, that even a drop of lemon juice makes the
        color of the tea substantially lighter. This is because tea has
        properties similar to litmus: in an acidic environment it
        lightens, while in an alkalic environment it darkens. Hence, you
        can find out if you have rinsed the detergent off the cup
        insufficiently even before letting the soapy tea into your mouth
        (FYI: detergents are bases). Some claim that tea with lemon is
        healthy, because of its high C vitamin content. Bu^H^HNonsense.
        Molecules of ascorbic acid disintegrate at a temperature much
        lower than that of the tea.  Whether or not to put lemon in your
        tea, should depend solely on your taste.

     Baking soda:
        This is a dirty trick, used primarily by state-operated, cheap
        catering enterprises in Russia. As you can infer from the
        description of the lemon, the alkalic nature of baking soda
        makes the tea substantially darker, even if added in very small
        quantities. Makes almost no difference in taste, but the tea
        will look much stronger than it is in reality. No self-
        respecting tea-drinker would cheat his/her guests (or oneself)
        by darkening the tea by any means other than more zavarka. This
        paragraph is intended to give you a clue in case the tea you
        have been offered looked great but tasted like hot rainwater.

        Adding milk to the tea is actually an English custom.
        Nevertheless, it's fine as long as you don't mind sweating like
        a pony. Smokers tend to like it for its detoxicating effect; tea
        with milk cancels the weariness caused by tobacco.

        Similar to milk, only less common. And less cost-effective.

        Lemon and milk/cream conflict. They are incompatible.

  3.  Utensils and their usage

  3.1.  The zavarka pot

  Zavarka is usually prepared in a teapot ("chainik" in Russian) made of
  some sort of ceramic or glass. In either case, the inside has to be
  hot at the moment you put the leaves therein.  Usually, this is
  achieved by steaming (on the inside), but rinsing with hot water does
  the job equally well. Russians disagree as to whether the pot should
  be wet or dry. The followers of the latter opinion wipe it dry with a
  cloth or a napkin after steaming. In my experience, it makes no
  difference. Hence, I stick to the minimum-effort approach and leave it

  Once you put the leaves into the pot, close it, and let them warm up
  and release some of the volatiles. It is essential that you keep the
  pot closed at this time; otherwise, you risk losing aroma.  After 5 to
  10 seconds, you should pour hot, boiled water onto the leaves, and
  close the pot again. When all the leaves sink, the zavarka is ready.

  It is strongly recommended that you keep the chainik warm by covering
  it with a cloth, a knitted cap, or the skirt of a special doll
  ("baba"), which is the traditional Russian way. Warming the chainik
  with steam is allowed, but never boil the zavarka inside.  Warming
  after it has cooled down is meaningless. Either keep it warm, or let
  it cool down. Once it has cooled, you best leave it that way.

  The canonical chainik has a circular bottom and a circular top hatch.
  Moreover, these two circles are of identical diameter (8 centimeters),
  so that they fit into the crown of a standard (GOST 7400-75) samovar.
  Cheap chainiks are available in the Chinese markets.

  If you have to make tea for a crowd -- say, at a LUG meeting --
  regular chainiks can prove to be too small. In this case, bigger
  teapots of glass or metal can be utilized.

  In any case, you might want to filter out the tea leaves, since they
  are claimed to cause cancer (like everything else in this world) if
  swallowed directly. Russians use a special hemispheric metallic net
  for this purpose ("sitechko"), which is hung from the spout of the

  In case of emergency -- say, if your chainik has broken into a
  thousand pieces -- zavarka can be brewed in an ordinary mug. This
  procedure, however, requires skill and care. First off, you'd have to
  find some way to cover the mug in order to preserve the aroma.
  Secondly, pouring the right amount of zavarka out of an ordinary mug
  without a spout is a task very far from trivial. You have been warned.

  3.2.  The Samovar

  3.2.1.  What a Samovar is, and what it is not

  Let us begin with the etymology and the morphology of the word.  The
  Russian prefix "samo-" is somewhat similar to Latin "auto-" and
  English "self-". The second part of words beginning with the "samo-"
  prefix usually derives from a verb. Thus, "samolet" (literally: flies
  by itself) means aircraft, "samokat" (literally: rolls by itself)
  means roller, and "samogon" (literally: self-distilled) means illegal
  whiskey. The "-var" part derives from a verb meaning both brewing and
  cooking. Therefore, the proper literal translation of "samovar" would
  be "autobrewer" -- a device that brews tea automagically.

  However, samovars are not fool-proof, self-reliant devices; they
  require care and attention, which they pay off with years and decades
  (if not centuries) of reliable and faithful service. Furthermore, we
  never brew anything inside the samovar, although it is true that the
  samovar might serve as the only source of energy in the entire process
  of tea-making. All steps of Russian tea-making with a samovar involve
  some operation with this truly wonderful machine. Therefore, its
  central role is unquestionable.

  In short, samovars are fit for the following tasks:

  1. water boiling

  2. steaming

  3. boiled water portioning

  In a broad sense, all utensils capable of the above operations could
  be samovars, though in general, we call so only those consisting of a
  brass boiler with a faucet near its bottom, steam-holes and a teapot
  socket at its top, and some heating device inside.

  At this point, I would like to emphasize that the samovar is not just
  an ordinary item in the household, but also a hallmark of the Russian
  way of life and hospitality.

  3.2.2.  Brief history of the Samovar

  When Americans were busy dumping tea into the dark waters of Boston
  harbor (late eighteenth century), a Russian gunsmith, Fedor Lisitsin,
  set up a small workshop south of Moscow, in the city of Tula, the
  heart of the Russian defense industry. Lisitsin and his two sons were
  laboring in their time free from making arms and ammunition for Mother
  Russia on a rather unusual device, which had been hitherto handcrafted
  by individual craftsmen in the Ural region solely for personal use:
  the charcoal-burning samovar.

  Lisitsin's workshop was the first to produce samovars industrially and
  had tremendous success. Due to the blessed lack of IP law enforcement
  in Russia, which endures to our days, competing samovar-factories
  sprang up in Tula like mushrooms after the rain. By the thirties of
  the nineteenth century, Tula established itself as the capital of

  During the nineteenth century, samovars gained increasing popularity
  in major cities, such as St. Petersburg and Moscow, and became
  inseparably bound to the Russian way of life. Classics of Russian
  literature, like Pushkin, Gogol and Chekhov, regularly mention
  samovars in their works. Anton Pavlovich Chekhov has even coined an
  idiom, which stands for an utterly wasteful effort: to take one's own
  samovar to Tula.  This phrase is still understood and occasionally
  used by most Russians (even on Linux-related mailing lists). You know,
  it's like writing a new C compiler for your project, instead of using

  In the second half of the nineteenth century, samovar manufacturing
  took root in Moscow, St. Petersburg and some industrialized parts of
  Siberia and the Ural region. However, Tula retained its leading and
  standard-setting role in this trade. By that time, four shapes of
  samovars became traditional: cylindric, egg-like, spherical and the
  most beautiful of them all, those resembling the ancient Greek vase
  called crater.

  The beginning of the twentieth century has been marked with various
  attempts at innovation. The traditional heating method has been
  challenged by gasoline, petroleum, kerosene, gas, and other means of
  heating at that time. However, these models proved unpopular, due to
  the repugnant odor of the fuels and the dangers of inflammation and

  Railroad companies in Russia recognized the practicality and
  popularity of samovars and fitted long-distance sleeping cars with
  them. Luxurious cars of the Trans-Siberian railroad were first to
  adopt this custom. Today, all sleeping cars from second class up are
  equipped with a samovar at the end of the hallway, next to the
  conductor's closet. Just in case you need some hot water during your

  During World War I and the subsequent turmoil of revolutions and civil
  war, the design and the production technology of samovars were largely
  simplified and made fit for the military. It was during that time that
  huge samovars holding dozens of liters of water became common. Roughly
  welded cylindric samovars devoid of decoration are characteristic of
  the period.

  The late twenties and early thirties saw Stalinist collectivization
  and industrialization. Small samovar-making workshops were integrated
  into vast factories or disbanded. Quantity took priority over quality.
  However, it was during this period that the largest samovar-
  manufacturer of the Soviet Union, the "Shtamp" company, was founded.
  In Tula, of course.

  During World War II, factories of the defense industry -- and samovars
  have always been byproducts of military production -- were moved from
  the European part of the Soviet Union to behind the Ural mountain
  range, out of the reach of fascist intruders. Thus, skillful samovar-
  manufacturers and essential equipment were saved, despite the Nazi
  occupation of Tula.

  The fifties and sixties brought significant changes. Ground-breaking
  technologies provided mankind with wondrous inventions: space travel,
  nuclear powerplants, supersonic jets, and the nickel-plated electric

  The hitherto undisputed reign of the charcoal-burning samovar came to
  an end. The gentle flavor of smoke proved to be insufficient in the
  face of such benefits as the ease of use and convenience, reduced tea-
  brewing time and the ease of cleaning, let alone the longevity
  provided by the nickel-plating that protects brass from corrosion.
  Catering facilities and households embraced the new technology
  swiftly; Only the railroads remained faithful to the smoky, charcoal-
  fueled, traditional samovar.

  The period of Brezhnevian stagnation did not leave any marks on the
  samovar. In fact, only the Olympic games of 1980, during which an
  incredible amount of samovars were sold to visitors from abroad
  affected the samovar: it gained international recognition and became a
  symbol of Russia.

  While the samovars on the railroads resisted electrification, the
  other prerequisite of communism postulated by V. I. Lenin, ceased to
  exist in the nineties: the soviet power. The second dawn of capitalism
  in Russia brought the samovar industry back to its original shape.
  Recent spin-offs of the Shtamp corporation are competing for their
  share of the samovar-market with newly founded businesses.

  A Tula company, no matter whether it produces radars, guns,
  refrigerators or armored vehicles, must have a samovar workshop. Thus,
  if you're seeking venture capital to start an ISP or a software
  development company in Tula, don't forget to mention samovar
  manufacturing in your business plan.

  What does the future of samovars look like? Will the twenty-first
  century bring internet-enabled computer-controlled samovars that guide
  us through the tea-brewing process in the language of our choice?
  Certainly not. Two engineering principles, often overlooked by western
  engineers, became second nature to their Russian colleagues due to the
  stormy history of Russia and the constant need for working, mission-
  critical technology in extreme or downright hostile environments.
  First, we keep things as simple as possible: "the more complicated,
  the sooner dead" as the proverb goes. Second, one must not fix what
  works. During the above outlined process of evolution, the samovar
  achieved technical perfection: nothing to add, nothing to take away.
  Like a good UNIX utility, it serves one purpose, and serves it well.

  3.2.3.  Samovar Anatomy I. -- The charcoal-burning samovar

  The parts of the samovar beginning from the bottom up are as follows:

  1. Nearly all samovars have a four-legged square-shaped foundation.
     This keeps the samovar from damaging the furniture with its heat.

  2. Above that, we find the "neck" of the samovar, or "sheika"in
     Russian. The neck thickens towards its top, where the ventilation
     chamber (the windbox) resides. This chamber has small intakes
     (holes) along its perimeter in order to supply the combustion
     process with oxygen from the atmosphere. The foundation with the
     neck together are referred to as "poddon".

  3. At this point the actual boiler begins. Inside, we find a thick
     tube (in Russian: "truba") which constitutes the combustion
     chamber. The bottom of this tube is separated from the ventilation
     chamber with bars to prevent the fuel from falling therein. This
     separation we call "kolosiak" in Russian.

  4. Near the bottom of the boiler, a small faucet ("kran") protrudes
     from the tank. It consists of three parts: a small decoration at
     its stem (the "repe'ek"), that contributes to the rigidity of the
     mounting, the pipe itself, and an extremely simple valve with a
     handle ("vetka"). The valve is essentially a funnel with a hole. In
     the two extreme positions of the handle the valve is closed, while
     in central position the water can pour through the hole. It is the
     weight of the valve and the handle that keeps the whole thing in
     place; you can simply pull it out upwards. No O-rings, no gaskets,
     no bearings, no screws -- nothing to go wrong.

  5. The hatch of the boiler has two small handles protecting your hands
     from the heat. These two handles are denoted by the same word that
     means pine-cones: "shishki". There are also small steaming holes
     ("dushinki") on the hatch. Their purpose is to prevent the samovar
     from explosion and to steam the teapot at the same time.

  6. The whole construction is topped off by a crown-like teapot socket,
     often decorated with some ornament. This part of the samovar is
     called "kamforka".

  7. Finally, charcoal-burning samovars come with two accessories: a cap
     and a chimney extension for the tube. Both need to be placed onto
     the open end of the heating tube, though not at the same time.

  3.2.4.  Samovar Anatomy II. -- The electric samovar

  Rather than enumerating all the parts of the electric samovar, we just
  highlight the differences from its smoke-puffing predecessor.

  The first -- and most important -- difference is the look and the
  purpose of the thicker part of the neck: instead of ventholes, you'd
  find one big electric socket on its perimeter; In the place of the
  empty ventilation chamber of the charcoal-burner, the electric samovar
  has a packed electric compartment.

  The most apparent difference, however, is arguably the lack of the
  characteristic tube. A huge spiral of an electric immersion heater is
  what occupies the tube's place.

  Inside the ventilation chamber, which you can access by unscrewing the
  nut at the bottom of the samovar, you will find the connections of the
  heating coil. The coil itself is insulated from the spiral's body (and
  thus the samovar itself) by a set of ceramic rings. The coil with the
  white insulator rings resembles the backbone of some fish, if you pull
  it out of the heater.

  In order to unscrew the nut (with a metric M6 thread, in most cases)
  at the bottom, you will need a metric wrench (usually a 10mm one). The
  one used for your bike or your car would do. Do not apply your swiss
  army knife, though. The refined Swiss tool is just not appropriate for
  the rugged Russian machinery.

  The last important distinguishing feature of the electric samovar is
  the position of the steaming holes; The lack of the tube allows for a
  more convenient place right at the center of the kamforka.

  Some samovars have a special floating device near the heater, which
  turns the latter off, if the water in the tank does not engulf the
  spiral entirely. This design, however, did not prove very popular,
  since it has an additional moving part, which, in turn, constitutes
  yet another point of failure. Thus, it caused more problems than it
  solved, so Russians chose to look after the simpler samovars.
  Generally, Russian technology assumes dumb machines and smart humans,
  not the other way around.

  Don't complain about the missing switch -- just pull the plug, if you
  want to turn the heating off; the only moving part in a samovar should
  be the valve of the faucet.

  3.2.5.  How to Use the Samovar

  Charcoal-burning samovars are strictly outdoor equipment. Even today
  you can encounter them at rural garden-parties in remote, cozy dachas,
  where laptop computers run on batteries and the only access to the
  Internet is a satellite link.

  The first thing to do with a samovar is to clean it thoroughly and
  fill it up with water through its open hatch. A samovar shining bright
  in the sunlight is a sign of hospitality and good manners of the
  party's host.

  Now, it is time to load the device with fuel. Instead of charcoal,
  Russians often use dry pine-cones. Cones add a hint of resin's flavor
  to the tea, which is especially precious to hardware hackers, the
  Knights of the Soldering Iron.

  No matter whether you use charcoal or pine-cones, you've got to ignite
  the fuel somehow. The traditional way is to use pieces of bark from a
  birch-tree. In the soviet era, we used Pravda, the newspaper of the
  Communist Party. Proprietary software licenses work just as well.

  As soon as the igniting substance and smaller pieces of the fuel catch
  fire, you need to pump on the upper end of the tube, in order to help
  the fire burn. The canonical pumping device is a Russian infantry
  boot. Finally, attach the chimney extension and wait until the water

  Controlling the oxidation process is somewhat simpler than controlling
  a nuclear reactor, though the principles are similar. In order to
  abate the fire, put the cap on the tube instead of the chimney. If,
  however, you want to stimulate the heater, apply the pump.

  When the water boils, cover the tube with the cap, and steam the
  chainik with the steam coming from dushinki. Then prepare zavarka as
  described in sections ``How to make it'' and ``The zavarka pot'' .

  Put the zavarka pot where it belongs: onto the top of the kamforka.
  It will keep it warm.

  You shall dilute the zavarka with kipyatok poured from the samovar.

  Electric samovars can operate indoors. Their operation is much
  simpler, since the only thing you need to do to start one heating is
  to plug it into the AC outlet. To stop it, you, respectively, pull the
  plug out. Always make sure that the heater is fully immersed in water,
  when turned on.

  3.2.6.  Samovars in North America

  In North America, charcoal-burning samovars can be used exactly the
  same way we use them in Russia, except, perhaps, that you should warn
  each participant of the garden-party, preferably in written form,
  about the dangers of scalding themselves. Otherwise, some ignorant
  bastard might sue your pants off, should s/he touch the samovar in the
  wrong place.

  The operation of Russian electric samovars is somewhat more involved,
  given the differences in the AC grid. First off, the frequency
  differs: as opposed to the Russian 50 Hz, North America operates at 60
  CPS (unit conversion: 1 Hertz = 1 Cycle Per Second). This difference
  does not affect the samovars in any way.

  The difference in voltage is more salient. Recall Ohm's Law: R=U/I and
  the definition of electric power: P=UI.

  >From these two equations it is apparent that the heating power of the
  same resistance at half the voltage is one fourth of the original
  value. Assuming the samovar's heating coil linear and the losses
  negligible, it would take four times as long to boil the water in the
  same samovar in America than it took in Russia. Fortunately enough,
  non-linearities work to your advantage.

  The last obstacle is the difference in connectors. You can overcome it
  either by replacing the plug with an American one, or by utilizing a
  so called "outlet adapter" (Radio Shack part #273-1406D).  Don't
  forget the grounding!

  The brave and impatient can hack up the samovar to operate just as
  fast as it does in Russia. In order to achieve the same power at half
  the voltage, you'll need one fourth of the resistance. Now, recall the
  definition of resistance in terms of dimensions: R=rl/A, whereby l
  denotes the length of the resistor, A its cross-section and r is a
  constant that depends on the properties of the material.  The volume
  of this resistor would be V=lA.

  In order not to affect the longevity of the spiral, you'd better
  preserve the volume of the heating element, while decreasing its
  resistance. If you take a look at the two above formulae, you'd notice
  that halving the length and doubling the cross-section would achieve
  exactly the desired effect. So, pull the spiral out, remove the
  insulation, fold it in two, and stretch it to the desired length
  before putting the insulation back. If you cannot stretch the spiral
  without risking its integrity, you can prolong it with a thick copper-

  3.3.  Other waterboiling devices

  In this section we will review some gadgets that come handy when you
  need boiled water "out there". That is, usually far from your home, on
  the move, etc. It does not cover the entire range of waterboiling
  devices available in the stores, since their usage is straightforward
  and well documented in the accompanying user's guide. Rather, I will
  focus on simple, practical devices popular among hackers and ordinary
  Russians (and ordinary Russian hackers) that can help one out under
  most unusual circumstances.

  3.3.1.  The Whistling Tin Pot

  One of the most cost-effective ways of obtaining boiled water is to
  place a metallic boiling pot with a whistle onto the stove.  It
  whistles when the water is boiling inside and if the hatch is closed.
  So, don't forget to close it.

  Always direct the spout toward the wall, in order to avoid injuries
  caused by the hot steam. Moreover, it is much more convenient that
  way. Some models are prone to shoot the whistle off after a few
  seconds of whistling. Be extremely cautious with those.

  3.3.2.  The Primus

  This is a propane-buthan canister integrated with a stove. For outdoor
  use only. Great in winter; makes kipyatok out of thawed snow.  Handle
  with care.

  3.3.3.  The Immersion Heater

  The immersion heater (Russian term: "kipyatil'nik") is one of the most
  frequent reasons for expelling hackers (esp. Russians, since many of
  them are notorious tea addicts) from dormitories for fire safety
  violations, second, perhaps, only to the soldering iron.

  It is an extremely simple device that boils water when plugged into
  the AC outlet. You can make kipyatok practically in any fire-proof
  cavity (no plastic or impregnated paper cups!) that can sustain
  boiling water. Make sure that the immersion heater is totally immersed
  in the water when you turn it on, when you turn it off, and all the
  time in between.

        Never leave an immersion heater unattended. As soon as the water
        boils, pull the plug. Even the unplugged heater is very hot for
        a relatively long period of time. Excercise caution when dealing
        with such a beast! And do not forget to hide it well in the

  3.4.  The Saucer

  In a well-kept household, there's always a saucer ("blyudce" or
  "blyudechko" is the Russian expression) beneath the cup or the mug,
  whenever we pour anything thereinto. It is a wise custom, for it saves
  you from many inconveniences resulting from spilled zavarka or

  If you have enough of them, it would be a manifestation of your good
  manners to serve tea with a saucer under each cup, so that your guests
  can put their wet teaspoons there.

  Furthermore, it makes a lot of sense to keep an additional saucer
  under the samovar's spout in order to save the table from dipping hot

  Finally, as seen in many Russian paintings, kids often drink tea
  directly from a saucer. The reason is the following:

  The pace of cooling is roughly proportional to the surface of the
  liquid over its volume. Therefore, tea cools much faster if served in
  a saucer rather than in a cup. Now, Russians prefer to drink their tea
  hot, while children can easily scald their lips or tongues with such a
  hot liquid. However, tea drinking is a community rite, so it would be
  inappropriate to let the juniors wait until their tea cools down while
  the elders drink. Hence the saucer.

  3.5.  The Podstakannik

  The podstakannik is basically a -- usually metallic -- holder with a
  handle for handleless glasses. It is much easier to wash a plain glass
  than a mug. Thus, such a device is just the right choice for a
  practical hacker. Many think, that it is the traditional Russian way
  to serve the tea, but in fact it is neither traditional nor Russian;
  First podstakanniks showed up on German railroads, exactly for their
  above mentioned practical value. However, as it often happens with
  customs adopted from former adversaries (see also the Japanese
  Matryoshka doll), it gained extreme popularity throughout Russia and
  gradually became characteristic of Russia. Someday, even "beysbollka"
  might become a traditional Russian headgear. Who knows?

  If you decide to purchase a podstakannik, pay attention to the
  material: although the most expensive and decorated ones are made of
  silver, I would not recommend them (except for showing off your wealth
  and ignorance); the heat conductivity of silver (approx. 420J/mKs) is
  too high, thus the handle becomes unbearably hot in a very short time.
  The best choice is stainless steel (50J/mKs) or brass (90J/mKs).
  Plastic? Please...

        The metric unit for heat conductivity is the
        Joule/(meter*Kelvin*second), the imperial unit would, therefore,
        be something like calories/(foot*Fahrenheit*hour) or
        horsepower/(inch*Fahrenheit); the conversion is left as an
        exercise to the reader.

  Most Russian-made podstakanniks are decorated with some theme.  A
  hacker's choice could be the one commemorating the greatest hack ever:
  the 1957 launch of Sputnik-1, the first artificial satellite of our

  Aside from protecting your hands from the heat and alleviating the
  burden of dish-washing, podstakanniks contribute a great deal of
  stability to the glass. Therefore, Russian railroads serve the tea in
  glasses with podstakanniks, and so do the operators of ferries and
  luxurious liners. And so does our Navy, of course.

  You can sample the best railroad tea in Russia on the Krasnaya Strela
  (Red Arrow) train that connects St. Petersburg, the capital of Russian
  hackerdom with Moscow, the city of Tetris (and the capital of the
  Russian Federation, by coincidence). This is a nightly train with very
  comfortable sleeping cars, where you can fix those last two bugs in
  your project, while sipping on delicious tea.

  Finally, it is worth noting that aside from samovars, some beautiful
  podstakanniks are also manufactured in Tula. Check, for example, those
  from TCW (Tula Cartridge Works, http://tcwammo.tula.ru). If you need a
  few dozen extra slugs for your AK-47M, they can probably help you as
  4.  Troubleshooting

  In this chapter, we will review the most common problems that emerge
  in the process of tea-making and the solutions thereof. Those having
  obvious solutions, such as changing the spiral if the samovar doesn't
  heat the water are omitted. Rather, we will focus on issues that are
  not as trivial and require some knowledge beyond common sense.

  Problem                       |Cause                     |Solution
  The tea is foamy, especially  | Some unboiled water has  | Dump the tea, boil the
  after adding sugar            | slipped in during the    | water thoroughly and try
                                | process of teamaking     | again.
  There's an oily film on the   | Tannin has been cooked   | Make new zavarka in a
  surface of the zavarka, the   | out of the tea leaves.   | well steamed, hot pot.
  tea has an unpleasant, sour   |                          | Do not heat it after it
  taste                         |                          | has cooled down.
  An oily film has formed on the| Tannin has formed in the | Make a new cup of tea.
  top of the diluted tea        | cup because it has been  | Drink it soon after
                                | standing too long        | making.
  Water drips from the faucet   | The valve is not water-  | First, try to use the
  of the samovar even when it   | proof anymore            | other 'closed' position.
  is closed                     |                          | If it doesn't fix the
                                |                          | problem, clean the valve
                                |                          | from the residual calx.
  The zavarka pot as well as the| The wet tea leaves molded| Dump the zavarka, and
  tea have a rather repulsive   | inside the teapot        | sterilize the pot. A UV
  odor                          |                          | lamp such as the one used
                                |                          | for erasing EPROMs comes
                                |                          | in handy

  5.  Glossary

  of Russian terms and expressions related to the tea

        Baseball cap in Russian.



        lozhka:" Teaspoon.

        A teapot with a spout for making zavarka. Means also "incapable
        dummy" in Russian slang.

        Tea-based narcotics, used chiefly in prisons and forced labor

        The holes at the top of the samovar that let the steam out.

        The crown-like topping of the samovar. Its purpose is to support
        the chainik.

        Boiled, hot water. No other kind of water is suitable for tea-

        Immersion heater.

        Bars that separate the ventilation chamber from the combustion
        chamber in the charcoal-burning samovar.

        Faucet. As of a samovar, in this paper.

        The foundation of the samovar.

        A metallic glassholder with a handle for handleless glasses.

        The reinforcement of the faucet at its stem. Usually depicts a
        flower or a figurehead.


        Water-boiling, steaming and portioning device described in
        detail in section samovar}{}.

        The "neck" of the samovar that supports the boiler tank.

        The handles of the samovar's hatch. Literally "pine cones".

        Hemispheric metallic net for filtering out tea leaves from the

        Tube. In this context, it means the combustion chamber of the
        charcoal-burning samovar.

        The handle of a samovar's faucet. Literally "branch" (as of a

        Tea concentrate. This is the most characteristic attribute of
        Russian tea-making.

  6.  References

  1. Comprehensive information on Tula Samovars

  2. Samovar FAQ 
    a nice picture at the same site:

  3. "Tula Samovars" by A. Tikhonova, MIR 1988 (English/Russian)

  7.  Legal stuff

  7.1.  Copyleft

  Russian Tea HOWTO for Linux Hackers

  Copyright (C)2001 Dniel Nagy.

  This document is free; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under
  the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free
  Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your
  option) any later version.

  This document is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but
  WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or
  FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License
  for more details.

  You can get a copy of the GNU GPL at

  7.2.  Disclaimer

  UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES shall the author be held responsible for any
  loss or injury, direct or indirect, resulting from reading, and/or
  following the procedures described in this document. Some of them are
  admittedly dangerous; follow them at YOUR OWN RISK. You have been

  8.  Acknowledgements

  I would like to express my gratitude and special thanks to the
  following individuals and organizations for various contributions to
  this HOWTO:

    Elena Zoubanova  for editing and

    Mission Critical Linux, Inc. ,
     my favorite employer for the inspiring atmosphere

    Nra Csrg , our secretary for mastering the
     art of teamaking and feeding us with delicious tea ever since.

    Mihly Brsz  for his positive feedback and
     encouragement in the early stages of writing this HOWTO

    Nick Kurshev  for his expert remarks on the
     alcohol-related issues

    Alexei Cheviakov  for pointing out the
     baking-soda thing

    Orsolya Kiss  for finding and correcting the
     most disturbing grammatical mistake

    David Madore  for the H2G2 quote

    My parents and grandparents for passing on the tradition of Russian

    Matthias Ettrich and the LyX team  for their
     great editor

    The Linux Documentation Project  for all
     the HOWTOs

    Linus Torvalds  for Linux

: Sergey Guriev
, , webmaster@ja.fatal.ru