Every morning in houses all over Iran a gas burner flickers to life under the kettle that will continue to boil all day.It boils through morning prayers,lunches of rice and kebabs afternoon conversations and late into evening meal sustaining talk of politics,gossip and news well into the night.The kettle contains tea one of the most important cornerstones Iranian culture and the tea-house is its centuries -old keeper.
Tea houses or «Chaikhaneh» have been in existence since the Persian Empire.They gained prominence after the 15th century when coffees was abandoned in favor of tea leaves that were easier to come by through China’s Silk Road.
Even in socially conservative cities such as Yazd a centuries-old cultural stronghold in the middle of the country,mixed groups of teenagers will stop for tea and a meal at the local tea house.
Iranian tea comes in a verity of subtle flavors but its defining characteristic is its deep reddish-brown color which tea drinkers can choose to dilute with water depending on their preference.Despite its cultivation in the country’s Northern provinces other tea from Sri Lanka and India are also widely consumed as the country imports a majority of its tea in order meet the large demand.
Moat Chaikhanehs will serve tea on the stronger side unless otherwise indicated by the drinker.The stronger the tea the higher the concentration of Tannin and coffee so a good cup of tea is like a good cup of coffee for those who take it straight.Because of its bitterness many prefer to have sugar with their tea.The traditional way to do this is to take a sugar cube and place it between your teeth,you then sip the tea and allow the sugar to melt.Iranians especially in colder regions of the country ,find this a convenient way to drink multiple cups.Crystal or rock sugar can be found throughout the country and bought in spice shops for this specific purpose.
The taking of tea is a ritual unto itself.Most meetings or formal occasions will begin with the offering of tea and most meals will end with it.In the Chaikhaneh tea can be served after a meal or with a water-pipe.,it is rarely served before or during a meal.Some Chaikhanes have takhts or low-rise platforms covered in rugs and pillows that you may recline on.Remove your shoes before doing so most meals are served on a table-cloth laid at your feet.
Shiraz is another gorgeous venue in which to find memorable Chaikhanes.Until recently there was a Chaikhaneh in the garden of Hafez tomb.Further towards the center of town,above the Quran Gate in Shiraz is another tea venue that many enjoying escaping to when they want to get away from the bustle of the city,not exactly a Chaikhaneh it is an outdoor-multi-tiered tea venue which is accessed by climbing up a steep set of stone steps.Once at the top there is a crisp and breath-taking view of the city.So weather-permitting take your shoes off,climb atop a Takht,order a cup of tea and enjoy the moment.