Once upon a time in Mari Vanna restaurant, on a cold winter day in the heart of New York City, we were served a hot cup of tea in a beautiful crystal glass encased in a silver-plated holder with a handle.
After not-so-subtly admiring it, we learned from the friendly Russian bartender that it was a real Russian tea glass holder – a “podstakannik” (literally “under the glass”) – which had previously been used for serving tea on a Russian railway.
As it so happens, podstakanniks have a very interesting history. Believed to have entered the tea community in Russia toward the end of the 18th century (when tea drinking became common in this area of the world), they became increasingly more widespread, particularly on Russian trains and in the Soviet Union era when markets were flooded with podstakanniks made of copper-nickel, nickel, silver and gold.
Intended as they were for practicality – to keep your hands from being burned by the hot surface of the tea glass – they became valued works of art due to their intricate designs, many of which depicted Soviet era revolutionary symbols such as rockets, images of heroes, and the sickle and hammer.
While podstakanniks are not as widely used in Russian homes as they once were, they are still used in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other post-Soviet states, mainly for serving tea while traveling on a train. Today, many of the designs portrayed on the podstakanniks include historical dates, people, USSR cities, architectural landscapes, and more.
How lucky we are to now have in our possession a beautiful, authentic podstakannik!
Of interest: Kolchugino in Vladimir Oblast, which is the biggest tea glass producer, remains the main Podstakanniks maker.
Please note that all information above was gathered from: http://ifood.tv/equipment/podstakannik/about
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