The tea drinking from a beautiful cup through pieces of watermelon. How Muscovites drank tea in 19th century

May 11

In April, the Garden Ring Museum opened the Tea Drinking in Meshchanskaya Sloboda and Moscow Habit exhibitions. Both give an idea of how the merchants of the 19th century, who lived in one of the oldest districts of the city, drank tea, what utensils they used and what rules they followed. Among the exhibits are items from the funds of the museum, as well as from the Dmitry Rogov’s private collection.

Anna Morozkina, a museum exposition specialist, tells about how the overseas drink gained popularity among Muscovites and how a special tea culture was formed in Moscow.

The first sip - in the royal palace

Tea first appeared in Russia in 1638, when the Russian ambassador Vasily Starkov brought it to Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich. The strange dried herb, which at first did not make any impression on anyone, was a gift from the Mongolian Altyn Khan. Rather, the eastern ruler insisted on an exchange: a little more than 60 kilograms of tea - for sable furs. Mikhail Fedorovich was skeptical about this deal, but then, when he tasted the brewed drink, he did not regret it at all. Though, when this tea ran out, it was forgotten in Moscow for a long time.

They started talking about the drink again later, after about 30–40 years, when tea had already begun to be imported from China and it could be bought at the fair, albeit at an incredibly high price. Still later, in 1728, a trading settlement called Kyakhta was built on the Russian border, through which the Chinese regularly brought fragrant leaves for sale.

The popularizer of tea drinking in Russia is considered to be the merchant Alexei Perlov, who in 1787 opened a tea shop in the Upper Trading Rows. At this time, tea was available only to rich people, and the entrepreneur decided to make it cheaper. To do this, he refused the services of intermediaries and opened his own office in Kyakhta for purchasing tea. In the future, his sons Vasily, Ivan and Mikhail continued the business. In addition, they actively fought counterfeiting and achieved the adoption of a law according to which traders could only sell tea in packs with an indication of the company and the date of packaging.

In 1887, the Perlovs celebrated the 100th anniversary of the tea trade. Emperor Alexander III granted them a title of nobility. Except them, other merchants also worked in the tea field, including Dmitry Rastorguev.

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A dozen glasses at a sitting

By the middle of the 19th century, tea had become a national drink, and Moscow became its capital. It is interesting that in St. Petersburg, which at that time was the main city of Russia, they liked coffee more. For Muscovites, tea drinking was a very special process. The writer Alexander Vyurkov said so in the story "Friend of the Family":

“Muscovites drank tea in the morning, at noon, and always at four o'clock. At this time in Moscow samovars were boiling in every house. Teahouses and taverns were full, and life froze for a while. They drank it in the evening, drank it when they felt sad; they drank when they had nothing to do, and just like that ... If a Muscovite, having drunk a dozen glasses, put the glass aside, this did not mean that he got drunk: that was how he took a break. But when he turned the glass upside down, put the rest of the sugar on it and thanked, it meant that the tea drinking was over, and no persuasion would help ..."

The merchants who lived in the Meshchanskaya Sloboda could indeed spend long hours drinking tea. The drink was enjoyed unhurriedly, with marmalade, cookies, soaked apples, and pies with different fillings as snack. They also loved Montpensier sweets - a tin box of delicacies from the beginning of the 20th century can be seen at the exhibition.

Caviar was spread on the pancakes, which were also served at the tea table. It was most often sold in beautiful enamelled earthenware jars. One of such containers (the beginning of the XX century, "Trading house of Alexey Kolganov's sons") is presented in the museum.

Dried apples, cherries, thyme, and wild rose were often added to the tea leaves. Many loved to drink tea with milk, and also nibbling watermelon. Remember Boris Kustodiev's painting "Merchant's Wife at Tea": slices of a large watermelon flame in the center of the rich table at which the heroine sits.

Boris Kustodiev. Merchant's Wife at Tea. 1918

Not only tasty, but also beautiful

In Kustodiev's painting, the table is laid festively, with grace and taste. But in reality, this was not always the case. Tea drinking among the representatives of the merchant class often took place in a fairly simple and free atmosphere, which cannot be said about the nobles who adhered to English traditions. The merchants did not care much about the aesthetic side of the tea drinking - for example, they could easily put milk on the table right in a pot, forgetting about milk jugs. One of these clay pots of the late 19th - early 20th centuries can be seen in the museum. Expensive sets on the merchant's table stood next to cheap ones. A sugar bowl with a broken handle is a common thing, no one paid attention to this.

With the growing popularity of tea, there was also a huge demand for tea-things, especially porcelain, - here the undoubted leader was the "Partnership for the production of porcelain, earthenware and majolica products of M.S. Kuznetsov ". The only competitor of this enterprise was the Imperial Porcelain Factory.

Women liked to drink tea from porcelain cups. The men were served the drink in glasses inserted into the cup holders. To cool the tea, they poured it into a saucer, blew on it and drank it in small sips. By the way, sipping, while making sounds, was normal and was even considered good form - which means that the tea is delicious. At the exhibition a saucer painted with gilding from the early 20th century, as well as various coffee pots, bouillon bowls, and jam spoons can be seen. Most of the presented tableware was created in the Kuznetsov Partnership.

Tea houses and taverns, parks

It was possible to drink tea not only at home. During the reign of Alexander II, tea establishments began to open en masse. Their owners paid the minimum tax, as they carried out an important mission - with the help of tea, the state fought against the abuse of alcoholic drinks. A city dweller could choose an establishment to his taste and wallet.

If an ordinary Moscow tavern included tea in the menu, then it became very popular. A regular visitor could refuse a treat, a glass of something stronger, but never tea. In taverns, by the way, business meetings were held over a glass of strong aromatic drink. For example, the tavern Eagle on Sukharevskaya Square was very famous. There met mainly antiques dealers.

Since the middle of the 19th century, it has become fashionable in Moscow to arrange tea drinking in parks. Merchants were required to keep their samovars, dishes and other utensils perfectly clean. Milk and sweets were served with tea.

The samovar is boiling - advises not going

A samovar was an obligatory attribute of tea drinking. Even the poorest Muskovites’ family had a simple one. The phrase "they don’t even have a samovar" meant that people live in real poverty.

In Moscow, samovars were produced at the factories of Mathisen, Pyotr Sevryugin, Ivan Pekin and others. They were made of copper, brass and plated with silver or nickel. Samovars were given various shapes: oval, round and even square, decorated with intricate patterns. Handles were often made of ivory. However, in terms of functionality, they were no different from simpler samovars, which, among other things, were made in Tula - the capital of the samovar business.

The exhibition in the Garden Ring Museum presents more than 30 samovars (1825-1900), all of them belong to the famous collector Dmitry Rogov. Guests can also see tea still-lifes by Moscow artist Lyudmila Titova.


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