Guide to Uzbekistan Tea Traditions
Generally, Uzbek tea is taken without sugar. Uzbek tea with sugar has its own name - kand-choy. Frequently various herbals and spices are added to Uzbek tea. In Karakalpakstan people drink tea, both black and green, with milk.
Uzbek tea, as a ceremony, is one of the most wonderful oriental traditions. In any house a guest will be offered a piala (cup) of tea. Green tea is also the sign of hospitality. Beautiful traditions of tea drinking exist not only in China. Uzbek tea drinking also has its own peculiarities and canons.
Brew should be put in warm teapot. Then teapot is filled with boiled water up to half and is held over steam. After the teapot is filled up to ¾ of volume and in 2-3 minutes up to the brim.
The hospitable host brews himself, pours in piala and gives to guests. Traditionally: the more guest is esteemed, the less tea is poured in his piala. Tea is the staple drink of Central Asia, and chaikhanas (tea houses) can be found almost everywhere in Uzbekistan full of old men chatting the afternoon away with a pot of tea in the shade.
Tea is always served to a guest immediately after he or she comes into a house. It is offered in a small cup called a piala. As a token of respect for the guest the host fills only one - half of the piala, and then, putting the left hand to his heart, with his right hand holds out this piala to the guest. At the same time the fresh flat round bread is served.
According to tradition a tea is poured from the teapot (that has just been filled with boiling water to brew) into the cup (piala) and returned to the teapot at least three times. The first returning is called "loy", the second "moy" and only after the third time it becomes "choy" or tea. Tea should always be drunk while it is hot. Only in this way it is believed that the full aroma and flavor of the tea emerge.
Uzbekistan holds one of the highest levels of tea consumption per capita in the world – 2.65 kg per capita in annually. By comparison, in Japan consumption is 680 grams and in the USA, 430 grams.
The chaikhana (tea-house) is an institution in Uzbekistan. It is where people come to drink tea, talk with friends and relax. Often the chaikhanas are the towns social centre within small communities. They can be quite simple, just a small group of table/s under a tree in the shade or have a more elaborate layout located in picturesque surroundings, shaded with trees or vines spreading their branches over a steel or wooden frame next to an aryk (small irrigation canal) or a cozy khauz (pool) full of water.
In every respectable chaikhana in Central Asia the hot green or black tea is served in a porcelain pot (Chianik). Local tea connoisseurs still debate about the merits of black and green tea, however traditionally aromatic green tea is the more popular.
Chaikhana is usually located in picturesque surroundings, with trees spreading their branches above it and aryk (small irrigation canal) or a cozy khauz (pool) full of water being next to it. One of the usual appanages of chaikhana is a cage with bedana (quail) whose soft singing creates a serene atmosphere disposing to rest and leisurely chat.
Chaikhana is the right place for artists, too. They can find here attractive colorful characters that are leisurely drinking tea and do not hurry anywhere. “Kuk Choy-Bek Choy” so popularly called green tea, which is considered as a drink of aristocrats. There are a lot of legends and myths about the occurrence of green tea. One of the legends tells that even before our era, the Chinese Emperor Chen Nung, walking in nature sat down to rest under a bush and his servants laid a table for him there. When the ruler started to eat, in tableware in which was hot water fell a couple of leaves from a shrub, under which he sat down. The water had changed its color and became a greenish-red color. This event greatly interested the Emperor that he decided to taste it, taking a sip and feeling the taste in his mouth. He was very surprised at the pleasant taste and aroma of this drink. He ordered to gather the leaves from the shrub, dry them and use it as a drink.
Uzbek cuisine would be incomplete without tea. Green tea is much more than a beverage: it is a tonic that offers sustenance, refreshment and relaxation; above all, it is a mark of hospitality, offered to guests as soon as they arrive. Tea should be drunk while it is hot. It is generally accepted that the tea, which got cold, should be poured away and the cup should be refilled with a new portion of hot tea. It is consumed at the beginning of the meal, during the meal and at the end of the meal. In Central Asia, it is believed that Europeans lose a lot by making their tea sweet, especially with sugar.
Gathering in the teahouse is a traditional privilege of men. Since ancient times, the main place of rest and tea drinking in Uzbekistan was chaykhana (tea house). Tea-houses have been presented in every mahalla, near bazaars, in bathhouses and caravan-sheds. Uzbek chaykhanas collected folk musicians and poets for a cup of tea. There were songs, poems; humorists competed with each other. Until nowadays, tea in the East is just a reason to gather with friends in the appointed tea, leisurely, tastefully talk about life. Green tea in the teahouse is served with pilaf and meat dishes. Tea in Uzbekistan is drunk without milk and sugar, but with a lot of sweets.