Those who have been reading my blog know that I have a book coming out about Angelica Balabanoff by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. To mark the book launch I’m starting a new series of articles dedicated to Angelica, her friends, recipes and her pastimes. The aim is to tell you more about my heroine. Drinking tea with jam (vareniye) is a Russian tradition which Angelica followed since her childhood. For her, tea and jam were basic necessities, no matter where she lived, how poor or rich she was.
Angelica preferred well-brewed strong black tea. At the time when tea-bags did not exist, she followed a two-step tea-drinking ceremony. First the tea-concentrate was prepared in a small pot, then the desired quantity was poured into a cup and diluted with hot water. As for jams, Angelica had a variety of them. She preferred jam made of fruit and quite thick —like preserves, the way it was made back home in Chernigov. With forests being full of berries, the most reputed jam in Russia was raspberry jam, known for its healing power during flu in winter, the most common – strawberry jam.
If she had guests, she served jam in a large bowl along with the pot of tea, explaining to her newcomers that they had to spoon out a little bit of jam for themselves into a smaller glass container. Then simply put a small spoonful of jam in your mouth, and sip the tea through the jam.
The preserves transform the flavor of the tea, adding a totally different kind of sweetness than regular sugar cubes.
The tradition remained popular until recently. However in our days to taste real tea with jam you have to go to remote parts of Russia.
To learn more about Angelica and the book, consult the page About Angelica.