Samovar Tea (Chai it Simawar)

Samovar Tea (Chai it Simawar)

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A samovar can be described as a metal container or urn, used to boil water for tea. A tea-pot containing loose tea is placed on top of the samovar (known as the crown). When the water comes to a boil, some of it is used to fill the tea-pot, which is then placed back on the crown. The tea is allowed to steep for fifteen minutes or more. When the samovar tea is ready to serve, each person can customize their tea with a ratio of tea concentrate and hot water, based on how strong or weak they like their tea. Assyrian sugar cubes, known as Shakar De Shlama, are usually served with samovar tea.

A Brief Samovar Tea History Lesson

Samovars originated in Russia, but are also very popular in the Middle East, and in parts of Europe. Assyrians pronounce “samovar” as “see-maw-war.” The original ones had a barrel running vertically down the center. Coal was placed inside the barrel to heat the water surrounding the barrel. Whereas, the newer models are heated electrically. The fact that samovars were heated by charcoal, made them easy to transport. Being portable meant they were often taken on picnics, as seen in the old photo.

samovar tea
A samovar can be described as a metal container or urn, used to boil water for tea. A tea-pot containing loose tea is placed on top of the samovar (known as the crown).
samovar tea
My grandmother’s old charcoal samovar
samovar on a table with a wooden fence and towers behind it

Samovars have a vent that is removable. As you can see, mine is pretty beat up. Who knows how many gatherings and picnics it’s seen?

Reminiscing with Old Family Photos

I looked through mom’s old photo box in search of old pictures that contained a samovar. After a long search, I found the following photos…

samovar tea
There are so many cool things about this picture, but my focus has always been on the samovar (partially visible) in the front.
samovar tea
This is a picture of my family at an Assyrian church picnic, from the early eighties. Don’t bother looking for me, I was in the Navy at the time. Mom is in the center of the photo, sitting with my Uncle, Bob. The rest of the family has gathered around. Notice the samovar towards the back of the picture. When I was younger I never wanted to attend these events, now I’d give anything to be there!
samovar tea
In this photo, mom appears to be serving tea from the samovar. My brother-in-law, Francis, is sitting across from her. The cutie in the red shirt is my youngest brother, Ninos. Every Assyrian family has to have a “Ninos,” you know![
samovar tea
And finally, this awesome picture of my brother, Joseph, (AKA Freddy Mercury) with my brother-in-law, Francis (my sister, Beni’s husband). I think it was taken in the early nineties. Just look at those handsome devils! This is the same charcoal samovar I have today.
samovar tea
Mom’s old samovar is stamped in Farsi. Can anyone tell me what it says? Bueller? Anyone?

Today’s Samovars

As mentioned earlier, today there are less of the charcoal samovars. Many are antiques, and therefore quite expensive. The electric samovars can be more reasonably priced. Instead of the barrel, some have a coil in the center of the main body. This coil heats the water.

electric samovar
This electric samovar also belonged to my mom. As you can see, this one has a knob to adjust the temperature. Although it doesn’t require a converter, it’s my least favorite. I guess I prefer the older ones that have more character.

Because they are usually manufactured overseas, a lot of the electric samovars need a converter in order to be used in America. Make sure you keep that in mind when purchasing one online. I purchased mine on eBay. It’s on the smaller side but has been perfect to host tea parties for a few close friends.

samovar tea

Samovars are saved for special occasions. They are usually brought out when entertaining a large group. For daily use, Assyrians follow the same concept as making samovar tea, but on a smaller scale. Most Assyrian families will have a tea kettle, topped with a tea-pot, going all day long on their stove-top. When unexpected guests arrive, and they always do, tea is ready to be served.

Here’s mom, serving “dookhrana” (lamb, prepared to honor various saints. I would need a whole blog post to explain it). The point is, notice the silver tea kettle with the golden tea-pot on top. You can bet that thing would have been brewing all day long. Pay no attention to that monkey on the bottom right corner.

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Don’t forget to check out my  Classic Middle Eastern Food Combinations.

5 from 2 votes
samovar tea
Samovar Tea (Chai it Simawar)
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
35 mins

Everything you need to know about making Samovar tea.

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Assyrian, Middle Eastern
Servings: 4 cups
Calories: 2 kcal
  • 1/4 cup loose earl grey tea
  • 3 to 5 cardamom pods (optional)
  • water
  • Assyrian sugar cubes
  1. Fill the body of the samovar with water. Plug the cord in, and turn on the knob, if your samovar has one. Bring water to a boil. This can take approximately 30 minutes.
  2. Fill the teapot with the tea, and the cardamom, if using.
  3. Add boiling water to the tea pot.
  4. Place the filled teapot on top of the samovar. Allow to simmer for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
  5. Place a strainer over a tea cup and pour some of the tea into the cup. The amount will depend on how strong you prefer your tea.
  6. Finish by filling the cup with enough hot water to achieve the desired tea strength.
Nutrition Facts
Samovar Tea (Chai it Simawar)
Amount Per Serving (1 cup)
Calories 2
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

2 thoughts on “Samovar Tea (Chai it Simawar)”

  • Shlama!
    Thanks for the wonderful history lesson and the great photos!
    Sugar cubes were invented in Bohemia after a man’s wife cut open her hand using the knife to break up the sugar loaf. Cool, eh?

  • Shlama Anastaciast,
    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. As always, I appreciate your comment. Also, thanks for the sugar cube history lesson. I could’ve used that cool info when I was writing that post. 😉

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