Russian Tea Machine – SAMOVAR

Soon it will be three hundred years since the samovar has been recognized as a Russian symbol of hospitality, spirit and an inalienable part of the Slavic people’s culture. It became deservedly one of the most pronounced Russian  features in the world. The samovar was an ordinary household accessory and represented prosperity, family comfort, and well-being. It was carefully polished and kept in the most honorable place in the room.

Nowadays, it is still with us, both as a part of the culture and as a part of everyday life. Besides being an art object for collectors and aesthetes, ordinary people buy samovars as well. It is very convenient for making tea and creates a uniquely cozy and warm atmosphere.


Generally, heating devices of such kind have been known since ancient times across different cultures. For example, in ancient Rome, archaeologists have found heating drinks or cooling devices (autopsy (antique samovar), whose design features are similar to the Russian “tea machine.”

In Chinese cuisine, there were, and still exist, special heaters – “hogos.” They are also well-known and used in Japan and Iran. The first prototype was found by archaeologists on the territory of Azerbaijan and it is believed to be 3600 years old. In Chinese cuisine, there were, and still exist, special heaters – “hogos.” They are also well-known and used in Japan and Iran. The first prototype was found by archaeologists on the territory of Azerbaijan and it is believed to be 3600 years old. 

In Chinese cuisine, there were, and still exist, special heaters – “hogos.” They are also well-known and used in Japan and Iran. The first prototype was found by archaeologists on the territory of Azerbaijan and it is believed to be 3600 years old. 

It is interesting to note that they were initially used for cooking but not for heating water to make tea which samovar is associated with when we think of it. Cooking dishes fast at the dinner table while the guests are watching is a typical feature of Far Eastern cuisine and “hogos” fit well into the culture.

17th century. Predecessors of samovar and tea

The machine owes its appearance to tea, which required hot water to brew.

Tea was brought to Russia from Asia in the 17th century. In 1638 at the Tsar’s court, the first tea party held place. According to the legend, a Mongol khan sent four poods (64kg) of Chinese tea leaves to Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich. The excellent drink of green and black tea was a favorite at the court of the Russian Tsar. Later on, in 1655 Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, the future emperor Peter’s I father, was cured from stomach ailments by the green tea infusion. And in 1679 negotiations were held with the Perking court on the border passage of Russian tea caravans. With time passing by, tea has been acknowledged as the Russian national drink.

Tea has replaced sbiten, a well-liked drink of ancient Russia. In winter, to warm up quickly and protect themselves from the cold, people drank hot sbiten with honey, herbs, and spices. This drink was first mentioned in the chronicles of the XII-XIII centuries – in those days, it was also called “perevar.” The drink was served in a vessel – sbitennik, which was similar to samovar.

Sbitennik externally resembles a teapot. It had a big curved spout, and inside it was a hollow jug, where coals were put. At fairs and street parties, one could buy this drink from sbiten vendors – merchants in the markets and fairs, who would carry it in special vats wrapped in cloth. The site was poured into cups with curved edges, which helped avoid burning.

In the XVIII century, Samovar-kitchen had been presented in the Urals and Tula regions. That was a round container with three compartments divided by partitions. Two compartments were used to cook food, while the third one had a faucet and was used to boil water. The brazier was placed right in the middle to provide even heat spread. The device was used for cooking in camping conditions.

Sbitennik and samovar-kitchen were considered to be the predecessors of a samovar.

18th century. The first samovar in Russia and the history of Samovars factories.

Peter the Great, known for his peculiar attention to the merits of Western civilization, often visited Holland, from where he brought the samovar to Russia. Initially, in the Russian Empire, it was called the “Russian tea machine.” Then, after a while, Russia got its own adapted analog. However, the name “samovar” stuck to it later.

During the time when Peter the Great ruled the Russian Empire, the Urals had gone through an extraordinary development in the metallurgy industry when an enormous number of copper-smelting and metallurgical plants and factories were established. The production of household copper utensils had been produced followed by a production of kettles with a handle in the 30s of the XVIII century.

Further on, cauldrons and distillery cubes with pipes were produced. Then, however, the kettles cooled the water rather quickly. And Ural factories started to produce cauldrons with pipes, distillation cubes with pipes, and wine cubes with caps and pipes. Probably, from these forms came soon “sbitenniks,” intended for making sbitnen.

In any case, the samovar, a metal container for heating water having a tap and an internal brazier in a shape of a high tube with coals, was created by Russian masters in the XVIIth century. Who was the first to manufacture a samovar? The question remains controversial.

Researches believe that there are three places that could have possibly contributed to the invention of the Russian samovar: 

  • Tula ( Ural region ) factories of the Lisitsyns
  • Suksun (modern Perm region) factories of the Demidovs
  • Irga factory (nowadays Sverdlovsk region)

However, the first factory, specializing only in the production of samovars, was opened in Tula by two brothers gunsmith Fedor and Ivan Lisitsyn in 1778, so Tula is considered the homeland of Russian samovars.

Samovar Factory of Lisitsyns had grown quickly and in 1830 there were 4 tradesmen, 7 gunsmiths, 2 coachmen and 13 peasants working. In total, 1850 in Tula there were 28 samovar factories producing around 120000 samovars each year!

The samovars of the Lisitsyn dynasty became famous for the diversity of types and their finishing: vases, kegs with chasing and engraving, samovars of oval shape, with dolphin-shaped taps, with loop-shaped handles. Interestingly, each samovar was named after its form like “egg”, ball”, “shot glass”, “vase” and “turnip”. With the time more and more people wanted to purchase a fashionable and essential in everyday life samovar. As a result of the high demand and profitability, the production of samovars was opened in many towns in Russia and a big number of artisans altered their workshops into samovar production factories. 

The samovars of that time had several distinctions from the ones used nowadays. Taking into account the fact that they were mostly used in military campaigns and on road trips, samovars were small in sizes, from 3 to 8 liters, and had removable legs. For extended, families bigger-sized samovars were produced ranging between 12 and 15 liters. It is worthy of note that they were sold by weight; the heavier – the more expensive.

19th century. The importance of the samovar in an everyday life.

In the 19th century, samovar became a characteristic feature of Russian life, the center of any table, and was used in everyday life, festive events, and campaigns. The samovar made tea brewing so easy and at the same time could warm up the room so quickly that it became and despite its relatively high cost, an indispensable item for a lot of people.

The price of samovars was equal to the price of a cow, and during wars or natural disasters, people always took samovars as one of the most valuable things from their homes.  In affluent households, a beautifully decorated samovar was considered a luxury item and a source of pride.

At the same time, samovars also entered almost every peasant’s home, where they were inherited from generation to generation.

19th century. Improving the samovar to a modern look and further development of its production, technology and design.

The modern look of samovar had formed by the end of the XVIII century. It was a complex structure of a jug-like fire tube having blowers, a handle, holders, burners, a tray, a tap, lids, caps, and plugs. Various modifications of the samovar along with safer models reducing the fire risks were applied progressively. Copper samovars were gradually replaced with samovars made of zinc and copper alloy.

At the beginning of the XIX century, a big number of samovar factories were functioning in Russia. Samovar production became the most demanded in the Tula province, and other enterprises opened in the Lisitsyns’ factory’s neighborhood.

The 1810-s about a dozen samovar factories worked in Tula, among which were the enterprises of V. Lomov, A. Kurashev, E. Chernikov, S. Kiselev. Vasily and Ivan Lomovs’ water heaters became most famous among other samovars. Their good reputation quickly widespread among Russian cities, and the above mentioned factories produced more than a thousand pieces per year. By the middle of the XIX century, water heaters were quite affordable for ordinary people and could be seen practically in every family household.

By the end of the XIX century, dynasties of samovar producers were established – Batashevs, Vorontsov’s, Kopyrzins, Teile, and others. Soon there were so many enterprises that every manufacturer got their own trademark. The government approved each one.

The XIX and the beginning of the XX century were marked by the remarkable development of samovar technology and design in Russia. Many of them became masterpieces of engineering and artistic creation. Samovars were also made for emperors. One example is the Armory Chamber that preserves the samovar belonged to Paul I of Russia. It was decorated with gold and ivory, enamel, and expensive stones.

20th century. Boom of samovar production in Tula and Revolution of 1917.

Production developed rapidly, the manufacturing technical process improved, and it was in the pre-war period (till 1913) when the most splendid blossoming of samovar craft was observed.




Production developed rapidly, the manufacturing technical process improved, and it was in the pre-war period (till 1913) when the most splendid blossoming of samovar craft was observed.

For instance, in 1912, the Kharkiv burgher Epelbeim patented a device for boiling water for household needs and bathing. The Moscow factory of merchants Alenchikov and Zimin received the privilege to manufacture a samovar that would heat water when placed on a stove. However, the samovar of such design did not become popular. Also, samovars working on a different kind of fuel began to appear — for example, the spirit samovar of “Norblin and Co” company. However, alcohol samovars were produced in small quantities, and there was no particular demand for them, most likely because of higher fuel costs. Another example of innovation was kerosene samovar, produced by the Tula factory “Berta Tyle and Sons.” 

Samovar “Norblin and Co”

Samovar “Berta Tyle and Sons”

Due to the war and the years of the revolution, the successfully developing production was interrupted. As a result, the samovar trade was maintained mainly at the expense of artisans and numerous artels in Tula. 

In 1919 the state association of samovar factories, a samovar trust, was organized in Tula. During those times the electricity was spreading fast and samovars turned to be electric devices retaining the old-fashioned appearance and functionality.

After the revolution, the private factories were closed. For this reason, for almost two years, the industry had not developed. Only in 1919, a state association of samovar factories was formed by the country’s new leadership but in spite of this, samovar production had not revived immediately. Nationalized copper-processing factory in Kolchugino produced the first Soviet samovar. Yet, the industry was not anymore as thriving as before the revolution. Fifteen years later, following the division of industries, the Stamp factory in Tula emerged. 

20th century. Post World War II Period, Soviet time and electric samovars.

After World War II, the Soviet Stamp factory remained the only one in Tula to produce samovars. During the Soviet time, samovars were also made at the metalware plant in Suksun. An abundant assortment of various items was produced which were in high demand: samovars, teapots, sugar bowls, trays, with beautiful artistic paintings.

In 1956 the “Stamp” factory began to produce electrical samovars, which replaced the fire (coal) models. According to experts, even though electricity ruined the original units, turning them into simple boilers, the Stamp factory was considered a prestigious and thriving enterprise until the early 90s. There were produced more than a million pieces a year. 

At the end of the 20th-century, samovars and the heritage of the great epoch (including porcelain figurines) began to disappear. Instead, the electric kettles appeared in kitchens. However, it did not completely stop the production of samovars.

Since 1959, a massive assortment of electric models appeared. Starting from 1964, a souvenir series, “Yasnaya Polyana” was launched. Fire models of samovar began to disappear from the horizon due to the appearance of kitchen stoves. 

21st century. Modern time.

Modern technology of samovar manufacturing has been reinvented. However, it practically has not changed and preserved the secrets of samovar craft. Thus, for several centuries the Tula samovar has been the center of the feast and an indispensable attribute of the tea drinking in the best Russian traditions. And today, the beautiful puffing samovar, cups with saucers, glasses with cup holders, gingerbread and loaf, recreate a fantastic atmosphere, filling the hearth with warmth and comfort.

In present times, silver and golden plated pieces which created in the manufactory of Carl Faberge are considered to be the most expensive samovars. The masters used unique techniques of embossing, hammering, casting, and broaching.

Drinking tea with samovar.

True connoisseurs of tea note that only with a samovar you can make a real tea drink. It is believed that water boiled in the samovar is much softer and tastier than from the kettle. In addition, the water is considered to be healthier, as it boils faster and cools more slowly. The samovar spout is above the accumulation of heavy water with sediments, and all the impurities remain at the bottom.

Above all else in Russian tea parties, it is the company that counts. Perhaps it is precisely this unconscious joy of having good people gathered around the table, having a peaceful conversation,  and the opportunity to escape from the bustle for an hour or two and have a delicious tea made with a samovar.