Russian Samovar

Russian samovars are painted on nesting dolls, rolly polly musical dolls, lacquer boxes, santa figurines... They are very popular in between Russians. Every other household has a samovar for practical or decorating purposes. Old samovars are put in very bright spots, so they can be seen from everywhere in the house. Samovars of different kinds, designs and times are a part of Russian cultureand Russian traditions going hundreds and hundreds of year back in time...

Samovars are typically crafted out of plain iron copper, polished brass, bronze, silver, gold, tin, or nickel. A typical samovar consists of a body, base and chimney, cover and steam vent, handles, faucet and key, crown and ring, chimney extension and cap, drip-bowl, and teapot. The body shape can be an urn, krater, barrel, cylinder, or sphere. Sizes and designs varied, from large, "40-pail" ones holding 400 litres (110 US gal) to those of a modest 1 litre (0.26 US gal) size.

A traditional samovar consists of a large metal container with a faucet near the bottom and a metal pipe running vertically through the middle. The pipe is filled with solid fuel which is ignited to heat the water in the surrounding container. A small (6 to 8 inches) smoke-stack is put on the top to ensure draft. After the water boils and the fire is extinguished, the smoke-stack can be removed and a teapot placed on top to be heated by the rising hot air. The teapot is used to brew a strong concentrate of tea known as заварка(zavarka). The tea is served by diluting this concentrate with кипяток (kipyatok) (boiled water) from the main container, usually at a ratio of about 10 parts water to one part tea concentrate, although tastes vary.

The samovar was an important attribute of a Russian household and particularly well-suited to tea-drinking in a communal setting over a protracted time period. The Russian expression "to have a sit by samovar" means to have a leisurely talk while drinking tea from a samovar. This compares with the German Kaffeeklatsch, or Turkish nargile culture.

In everyday use samovars were an economical permanent source of hot water in older times. Various slow-burning items could be used for fuel, such as charcoal or dry pinecones. When not in use, the fire in the samovar pipe faintly smouldered. As needed it could be quickly rekindled with the help of bellows. Although a Russian jackboot сапог (sapog) could be used for this purpose, bellows were manufactured specifically for use on samovars.

In modern times, the samovar is mostly associated with Russian exotica and nostalgia, though they are also quite popular with Iranian immigrants and their descendants. Samovars may be purchased in Europe, and in the United States, they may be found in neighborhoods with heavily Slavic populations, such as New York's East Village or Coney Island in Brooklyn, or in areas with large Iranian populations like Los Angeles.

(Excerpt from "Samovar", Wikipedia)