Tea and produce at the core of Azerbaijani culture

By | Rachel Brooks

March 8, 2021 

Image credit: Hirkan Park, Lankaran, Azerbaijan. “File:Hirkan Park Lankaran, Azerbaijan.jpg” by User: (WT-shared) Lankaran at wts wikivoyage is licensed under CC SA 1.0

Azerbaijan’s diversity borrows from its position as a land of the empire’s crossroads. The food and architecture of Azerbaijan have notes of Turkish and Gulf influences. Mutton and tea are a staple food and beverages of the rich cuisine. Tea is centric to the soul of Azerbaijani culture, perhaps one of the most unique elements of it. As the Azerbaijani marketplace begans to expand after the pause of the most recent episode of the Karabakh conflict, the prospect for more in the international community to become aware of the richness of Azerbaijan’s tea culture is ready present. 

A tea-time in Baku 

In September 2017, Baku magazine published a review of the cay khana or tea house that finds itself at the soul of social life on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The word “cay khana” is Persian and means “tea house.” These “cay khana” are also commonly seen across Iran, Azerbaijan’s immediate southern neighbor. 

 The tea house is central to the social gatherings of working men, many of whom are seen on the oil rigs along the Caspian. Azerbaijan has its signature tea brand the Azerçay’s Buket Dogma Çay, perhaps the most common blend in the country. It is a large-leaf black tea that grows in the sub-tropics of Lankaran and Astara regions. These regions are in the country’s deep south. The tea farms of this region are recognizable to American readers, whose tea grows along the Atlantic shoreline in well-groomed farms of the Carolinas. 

Lankaran, the cradle of the country’s tea harvest 

The farms of Lankaran are tourist attractions. Likewise, in Lankaran, citrus thrives, as the land of Azerbaijan is known for its variety of fruit yield, being one nation that is known to harvest all species of pomegranates. Lankaran is the site of the annual Tea, Rice, and Citrus Fruits Festival. The tour of the region’s signature harvest occurs in autumn. The first festival was held in 2018 and was organized by the Lankaran executive power, see AzerNews. 

The produce festival showcases the full yield of Lankaran, showing its citrus fruit and brown rice in park pavilion settings. Much like a fall farm festival in the western world, the Tea, Rice, and Citrus Fruits Festival is a major attraction for local businesses, farms, and tourist agencies. The festival is accompanied by a gala concert and fireworks. 

Mena FN reported that the festival in 2017 was held in Heydar Aliyev Memorial Park and was organized by the Lankaran Executive Power. The 2017 festival saw evergreen trees decorated in spirals of oranges as if the vibrant fruits replaced fairy lights in a festive scene. 

Lankaran instituted the project as part of a community development effort. Tea is richly engrained in the culture and daily life of Lankaran Slogan surfaced including “build new Lankaran” and “Whoever wants to live in paradise, come to Lankaran.” Lankaran’s first festival celebrated the many varieties of tea grown in the region, which include “Hashimi”, “Sadri”, “Campo, which are but three varieties of 50 different varieties. 

From source to table

The rich yields of black tea from Lankaran are not the only aspect of the tea culture that makes Azerbaijan a tea destination. It is Azerbaijan’s unique tea set table that often draws a foreign interest in the culture and cuisine of the Azerbaijan tea time. For Azerbaijani tea tables are adorned with a armud or literally translated “pear-shaped” glass that Baku Magazine called a “unique pleasure” of the Azerbaijani tea culture.

The Azerbaijani people have a saying, states Baku Magazine. In English the phrase“çay nedir, say nedir” means “when drinking tea, don’t count the cups.”  Tea is enjoyed with indulgence along with a spread of the many sweets and bowls of the rich produce that flourishes in the heart of Azerbaijan. The tea is considered to have a vanilla-flavor, and has a red-floral color when poured. One favorite is the Azercay Buket tea, which the company refers to as ” a decoration of our tables.”