Persian tea, also known as Chai, is an integral part of Iranian culture and is enjoyed throughout the day. The history of Persian tea dates back to the end of the 15th century when coffee was the main beverage in Persia. However, due to the difficulty and cost of shipping coffee from other countries, Persians turned to tea, which was being produced in nearby China.
A Brief History of Persian Tea
The cultivation of tea in Persia started in 1889 when Mohammed Milza brought 3000 saplings from India and initiated tea cultivation in the Giran region of the country. The tea industry quickly expanded in the Mazandran and Giran regions, and in 1934, the first modern tea factory was set up. Today, there are over 107 tea factories and a total of 32000 ha of tea farms in Iran.
Iran Tea Production Today
Most of the tea farms in Iran are located on the hillsides, and they produce a characteristically deep reddish-brown, orthodox style of black tea similar to those produced in Darjeeling. In 2016, 31,200 tons of dried tea leaves were produced, a 60% rise compared to 2015. Although there is a rising demand for tea in Iran, domestic farmers are unable to satisfy the demand, which has led to importation from other countries. The government is putting strategies in place to encourage and support tea farming, including a guaranteed purchase system.
Preparation and Drinking of Persian Tea
Iranian tea is typically taken on the stronger side, but some prefer to take it without adding sugar or milk. Traditionally, a sugar cube is placed between the teeth while sipping the tea, allowing the sugar to melt. Preparing Persian tea is quite different from preparing Western tea, as it requires loose tea, a pinch of rose petals, and a teapot. Simply add 3-5 pinches of loose tea and a pinch of rose petals to the teapot, pour boiling water, cover the pot, and let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes, saffron, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves are added to enhance the flavor.
Persian tea has found its way into Western countries, but its unique culture, history, and method of preparation make it stand out from other teas around the world. As a highly valued drink in Iran, tea holds a rich history in Persian/Iranian culture and is an essential part of daily life.