Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. It has a very long history as a domesticated crop and has spread across the world over the course of more than 3000 years. It has been consumed in Azerbaijan centuries longer than in Western and Northern Europe. Azerbaijan is famous for its tea consumption, as well as for its longevity. Tea is considered to be a healthy part of a daily diet in nearly every country that consumes it.
Throughout history, tea has been praised across the world for its health benefits. As early as the first millennium BCE, Chinese writers and physicians wrote of tea’s beneficial properties. When new cultures were introduced to tea, many of them began to remark on the beverage’s effect on health. Today, researchers around the world are actively studying the medicinal benefits of tea. Modern science is proving that tea is indeed a very beneficial drink, and each variety of tea has specific health benefits.
Azerbaijani longevity may not exclusively be a result of tea, but daily consumption of tea is still very beneficial for one’s health. Though all teas share similar properties, differences between the varieties exist. White tea is very low in caffeine and has a very high antioxidant content. It is also good for cardiovascular health. Green tea has been proven to aid lung and skin health. EGCG, which is found in green tea, is a powerful antioxidant that has been proven to fight various forms of cancer. Oolong has higher levels of caffeine than green tea, but less than black tea. It is considered to be good for digestion. Though not as caffeinated as coffee, black tea has the highest caffeine content compared to other varieties. Like white tea, black tea is good for cardiovascular health. Certain teas contain fluorine, which benefits tooth health. All varieties of tea contain tannins, which are also found in various fruits, nuts, herbs, spices, and wine. Tea is much more nutritious when fresh. Some researchers have suggested that consuming stale tea can be bad for one’s health.
In Azerbaijan, tea is the national beverage and is consumed from armudu glasses, which are pear shaped. The narrow center prevents tea from cooling, making the beverage more enjoyable for the drinker. Tea is typically served with fruit preserves, can sugar, and lemon. Chay-khanas (tea houses) can be found all across Azerbaijan as a place of social gathering. Historically, men would congregate at chay-khanas to pass time, gossip, tell stories, and discuss politics.
The Karabakh Foundation and Amy Riolo invite you to partake in the beloved Azerbaijani pastime of tea drinking by brewing your own kettle with the recipe below. We encourage you to enjoy tea the Azerbaijani way, with close friends.
Ginger Tea/ Zenjefilli Chay / Zəncəfilli Çay
Ginger is a spice that lends a warm touch to soups, spice mixes, stews, and beverages. Silk road spice traders transported ginger from China in “ginger jars” (white and blue porcelain from the Yuan Dynasty 1270-1368 CE). The Chinese initially used the jars as tea containers, but because ginger was so coveted in the West, they began using it for expensive spices as well.
4 teaspoons loose black Chinese tea leaves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Sugar cubes, for serving
1. Fill a tea kettle with 4 cups (the same size as you are serving in) fresh, cold water and bring it to a boil.
2. Place tea leaves and ginger into another teapot or kettle.
3. Pour the boiling water onto the leaves in the other teapot or kettle and allow to steep, covered, for 10 -15 minutes.
4. Stir just before serving and strain the tea into serving cups.
5. Serve with sugar, if desired.
*Ginger is believed to burn up the body’s toxins and is used to relieve inflammation, motion sickness, morning sickness, and indigestion. For maximum medicinal effect, boil 1 teaspoon ginger (without tea leaves) per tea glass, strain, and drink.
Post Written by Andrew Loughery, Karabakh Foundation Intern
With the Assistance of Amy Riolo, Author of The Cuisine of Karabakh
All content contained in the post is from The Cuisine of Karabakh and is therefore protected by copyright. Please cite references as: Riolo, Amy. The Cuisine of Karabakh: Recipes, Memories, and Dining Traditions from Azerbaijan’s Cradle of Culture. Karabakh Foundation: 2011.