Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CHAIKHANAS (TEAHOUSES) OF UZBEKISTAN


Isupov Aleksey (1889-1957) Tea-house (Source: Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art named after I.V. Savitsky http://www.museum.kr.uz)

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 domestic tea market averages some thirty thousand tons annually. Tea is imported with China holding (about 58%) of the market, then Iran (25%) and in third place Sri Lanka (4%). Tea being also imported into Uzbekistan via the UAE, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Russia.

There are more than thirty companies working in the tea market, with most of the main players being based in Tashkent and Samarkand where imported tea is repacked. These companies produce more than 200 types of tea; from low-grade to branded grades. Leading branded teas in Uzbekistan include “Ahmad”(UK), “Alokozay-tea” (UAE), “Beta”(Turkey), "Jambo" (Kenya) “Impra” (Sri Lanka) and “Weston”, "SAM (Samarqand Tea) and “Tashkent” (all 3 packed in Uzbekistan).


Source: Pavel Benkov (Павел Беньков). Chaihana «Чайхана» 1932 from http://teagrad.com

TEA HOUSE

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 elabotrate 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.

Source: Uzbekistan Today