DISPATCH: Tea drinking in Azerbaijan

>>Oil wealth is giving even Azerbaijan’s most deep-rooted traditions a kitsch tinge

BAKU – Three Azeri men — a psychologist, a photographer, and a software engineer — sat at a café in central Baku. As always, they ordered tea with jam.
Jam is an important part of the tea drinking tradition in Azerbaijan but, like Baku itself, this tradition is changing.

The waiter served the tea and then proffered the three men a plate of nuts and dried fruit.
He then added a plate heaped with pastries and another with a tower of miniature Kit-Kat bars.

The psychologist shook his head vigorously.

“Ludicrous,” said the software engineer. “It used to be different. You would just choose a
type of fruit jam to eat with the tea.”

Tea in Azerbaijan is encased in tradition. Served in an armudu, a pear-shaped glass designed to keep the liquid hot for as long as possible, tea is shared between friends in cafés and served to guests upon arrival in homes.

But excess and bombast, by-products of oil wealth, are everywhere in Baku. Some say that the evolution of the tea service is just another expression of the showy development of Baku.

Others, that it simply marks the development of tradition.

The software engineer had another theory. “It’s for tourists,””he said. “Or children.”


This story was first published in issue 145 of The Conway Bulletin, an independent weekly newssheet covering Central Asia and the South Caucasus. To subscribe, click here

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