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Tea Culture

Cultural Cognates

Chai KhanasAzerbaijanis drink tea at home and also in a chaykhanas, or tea houses, typically from armudu (pear-shaped glasses). The tea ceremony for Azerbaijanis means freshly brewed (usually in a samovar, a metal container heated with wood or coal), and strong, brightly colored hot tea served with lemon, cube sugar (kələ qənd), sweets, and fruit desserts. Azerbaijani tea culture evolved alongside Iranian, Russian, and Turkish cultures even while accruing distinctive traditions.

Chai Khanas

The chaykhanaToday’s chaykhanas, or tea houses, build on a centuries-old tradition as places where (primarily) men can meet, chat, (more recently) play backgammon, and spend several hours drinking tea. The tradition became popular during the Safavid era (1501-1736), as tea became more widely available popular along the Silk Road.


Azerbaijani samovarsThe samovar, which means “self boil” in Russian, is used in Azerbaijan as in neighboring areas to heat water for tea. It features a small vessel on top in which strong tea is brewed and a large container at the bottom where boiling water serves to create the desired strength of the brewed tea. Both compartments generally are heated by wood or coal, and a shaft for the smoke runs through the middle of the samovar.

Armudu (Pear-shaped Glasses)

A traditional Azerbaijani armuduAzerbaijan is famous for its armudu, or pear-shaped tea glasses, which prevent heat from escaping while allowing the surface of the tea to cool. The wide rim on the top of the cup also allows the drinker to pick up the glass without risking a burn.

Tea for Guests

Shirin chorekIt is customary in Azerbaijan to serve a guest tea almost immediately upon arrival. Sometimes a tea get-together can last for hours. Jams and other sweet offerings complement the more bitter taste of the tea. Azerbaijani cooks have developed jam varieties from local produce ranging from walnuts to olives, from quince to berries.