Fragrant and full-bodied flavour with a fruity mellowness and a hint of smokiness, Russian Caravan Tea is one of the most distinctive offerings on the H. R. Higgins list. The story of how it came to be can be traced back centuries, to the early beginnings of the Russian relationship with tea.
Russia's love affair with tea is believed to have started in around 1618. The Mongolian ruler Altyan-Kahn presented Tsar Michael with a gift of tea. It took a further two years before emissaries from the Tsar reached Beijing and established contact with The Emperor.
After many disputes, a common boarder was established. This began regular commerce between the two countries. There was a designated place for the transfer of tea to take place at the frontier town of Usk Kayakhta. The Russians took delivery, repacking the more delicate black teas into paper and foil packages. Then the long journey to Moscow commenced. The tea completed a journey of over eleven thousand miles. During the summer months, the tea was transported in carts pulled by oxen. But, in winter, only the camels could cope with the arduous conditions.
Six camel loads of tea a year was being drunk in Russia by the end of the eighteenth century. The Camel Trains formed Caravans which transported the tea overland in exchange for furs.
The journey sometimes took sixteen months to complete. As a result, transportation charges were naturally high. Only the very wealthy aristocracy could afford the luxury of tea.
Then the price of tea dramatically fell with the opening up of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1903. No longer would it take sixteen to eighteen months for the precious tea to reach the eager Moscow tea lovers. The journey now took about seven to ten days. Usk Kayakhta became virtually abandoned.
However, the swifter transit caused a change to the flavour of tea. It no longer had that special quality the tea lovers so enjoyed. It was difficult to put one’s finger on the problem. The suggestion was that the smoke from the camp fires lit by the caravan drivers on the long journey had perhaps contributed, creating the flavour the Russians had so enjoyed.
They created a new blend to replicate the tea that had started their love affair with the product. And so Caravan Tea was born.
Our Russian Caravan Tea has a distinctive, fragrant and full bodied flavour with a fruity mellowness and just a very little hint of smokiness. The flavour that perhaps owes its origin to those long, long, journeys by the camel caravans.