While tea-drinking in Russia was once considered an afternoon affair, it has become an all-day activity and arguably the favorite drink of many Russians (non-alcoholic, that is; it can't compete with kvass). Residents of the chilly nation drink more than 3 pounds of tea per person each year, and tea is a key component in Russia's social culture.
Traditionally, Russians used a unique device known as a samovar, or a heated metal container (the silver bottom of which can be seen in the top center of this photo) to boil and brew their tea. Though these days, many opt for the convenience of an electric kettle and small teapot, especially when making tea for one.
How to make a proper cup: Russians use black tea most often, though green tea is rising in popularity. (Consider trying an Oolong blend known as "Russian Caravan.") Russians add loose tea leaves to a small teapot with boiling water to create a "zavarka," or a very strong tea concentrate. The tea concentrate is poured, either a splash or up to an inch, into individual mugs and topped off with boiling water. Like tea in Turkey, everyone can have their cup as weak or as strong as they prefer.
It may come as little surprise that this "strong like bull" nation enjoys its tea as strong as its vodka. But sugar, lemon and milk are served so you can sweeten or dilute your cup. Russians also have been known to add jam to their tea. Even tea-loving author George Orwell, who was adamantly anti-sugar when it came to his tea, added sweetness when tea was served Russian-style.
Whatever you do, just don't serve it naked, that is without breads or sweets to accompany it, as that's considered rude. Likewise, it's considered rude to drink your tea naked, which is when you decline the treats set out by your host. So eat — and drink — up!