The word sa-mo-var literally translates to “boils itself.” This utensil for boiling water for tea is over 3,000 years old and has been an integral part of the Russian culture for many centuries. Now, samovars are much more than just devices for boiling water - these stunning items embody the true fusion of art and craft and are often used as unique elements of décor, adding unparalleled charm that reminisces of rustic ingenuity of the faraway times and of the inimitable ambience of intimate comfort of homes from the gracious, simpler times, now long gone and all but forgotten by most of us.
One of the indispensable elements of Russian culture, way of life, and history is, by all means, tea-drinking. And Russian people like their tea very, almost scolding hot, which can be easily explained by Russia’s extreme climate: a hot drink is essential for surviving long and severe winter. And that is the reason Samovar was brought and became hugely popular in Russia.
Russian Samovar literally means “self-boiler” derived from Russian “сам” - self and “варить” - to boil. Samovar is a large metal urn in which water is boiled and kept hot by means of a special vertical pipe in the middle of a samovar filled with solid fuel such as pine cones, charcoals, and wood chips, which are set on fire. A small teapot is placed on top of a samovar to steep with the hot air coming from the pipe. Tea is served mixing tea concentrate from teapot known as zavarka with hot water from the main container.
The origins of the samovar are not too clear. The first mention of Russian samovar and samovar production in Russia dates back to 1745. The tea-drinking custom contributed to the growing need and popularity of samovars. Like most other inventions samovar has its predecessors. One of them is possibly Chinese huo guo or hot pot brought to Russia when China started to export large amounts of tea to Russia. The second version is the traditional kettle from the Netherlands that was brought to Russia by Peter the Great. He then ordered Russian craftsmen to replicate its construction and design. In the 18th century in England, also known for love for tea-drinking, people used so called tea urns with the design similar to samovars but with different construction. Similar tea containers were also used in Turkey, Iran and Central Asia.
According to one of the versions, samovar was invented by Lisitsyn brothers in Tula, Russia, in 1778. This town was known for metal-workers and arms industry. Hence more and more craftsmen opened their own shops there and Tula became the center of samovar production in Russia. The process of samovar manufacturing was long and laborious and consisted of several stages with individual masters specializing in certain parts of samovar construction. The devices were very expensive, however, and once a family bought a samovar they used it for years and even passed it down to the next generation. As samovar was ideally suited to the Russian climate it slowly, but surely, became a household staple throughout Russia in the next 70 years.
The first samovars had little to no decorations. However, later craftsmen started to pay particular attention to details and materials. Consequently samovar prices and designs varied depending on the social class they were sold to. They were still very expensive and not every peasant family could afford a samovar. The more affordable samovars were mainly made of brass, copper, and nickel with a limited amount of decorative elements.
The rich households and aristocracy in Russia used samovars made of silver and gold and lavishly decorated. Craftsmen added decorative accents to handles, pipes and body and all kinds of artistic embellishments. For instance, Russia's most famous jeweler Carl Faberge created a samovar for the royal family using lustrous silver, ivory and gems.
Tea drinking is ingrained in Russian identity as well as samovars. A lot of Russian literary giants like Tolstoy, Pushkin and Gogol incorporated tea and samovars in their stories and plots using them as symbols of Russian lifestyle, society, and culture itself. Chekhov even coined the idiom “you don't bring your own samovar to Tula”, which is widely used by all Russian people and basically has the same meaning as the British idiom "to bring coal to Newcastle."
Russian people still remain at the top of the list among the biggest tea consumers in the world. Nowadays, however, the samovar is nowhere near as widespread as it was in the 19th century. After the 1917 Revolution in Russia the samovar grew to be considered a relic of the old times, the times bourgeois and capitalism, and had been gradually replaced by modern kettles. Modern Russian factories produce contemporary electric versions, as well as old-fashioned samovars. The electric samovars do not have the fuel pipe inside and use an electric heating element, instead. However, there are still families who use samovars, take pride in them, and will bring them out for special occasions. The samovar remains a symbol of Russian hospitality, hearth, and culture.
If you are looking to buy a samovar for your home or as a gift, you’ve come to the right place! We offer a variety of traditional and electric samovars and we are constantly expanding our range to satisfy your nostalgic feelings and help you impress your family and friends. We also have large selection of Russian tea sets