As the popular local saying goes – “Çay nədir, say nədir”, which can be translated as ”when you drink tea you don’t count the cups”. Chai, as the beverage is called locally, is an essential part of Azerbaijani culture and no social event can do without a few cups of a fresh brew.
How to have it
Tea is usually drunk hot in pear-shaped glasses and can be topped up with a slice of lemon or a sugar lump, never with milk. Interestingly, you will often see people putting a sugar cube into their mouth and sipping tea through it. Apparently, this habit has its roots in the middle ages when rulers, afraid to be poisoned by their enemies, believed that any malicious substances will react to sugar. Tea is very often mixed with thyme, mint or rose-water and accompanied by jams (varene), cookies, candies or dry fruit.
Chai in Azerbaijan is not only drunk in copious quantities but also cultivated.
The beverage has been enjoyed in the country for centuries but the idea of tea growing was first raised only in 1880s, when some of the local farmers realized that the combination of warm and humid climate, the Caspian Sea, rich vegetation and the Talysh mountains create favorable conditions for cultivation. The development of tea industry on a full-blown scale began in late 1930s. Over the following years tea growing had been continuously intensified and improved. Unfortunately, the socio-political events that took place in 1988-1994 resulted in a major slowdown of the industry. However, recently the efforts have been made to revive the large-scale tea production in the country. Today tea is produced mainly in the south-eastern regions of the country including the districts of Lankaran, Astara, Lerik, Masalli, Yardimli and Jalilabad.
Where to drink tea in Baku
All over the city you will find lots of places serving quality tea. The most atmospheric ones are located in the Old Town, and among them are Kishmish Club and Qiz Qalasi Tea House. The first one is located in a basement on Kichik Qala Street and serves tea accompanied by dry fruit and nuts (kishmish means raisin).
The latter one is situated in a lovely garden just next to the Maiden Tower (Qiz Qalasi). Worth visiting especially in the summer time.
Food and drink in Azerbaijan World Travel Guide