Recently I was asked by one of my clients to host a tea tasting at her spa for Valentine’s Day. I started to think about what I wanted to share with my guests that day. Preferably something totally new by way of both my talk and the experience – something related to love. I contemplated all the connections between tea and love and those that I had experienced in the country that I was born and raised in – Iran.
So naturally I thought of Persian Saffron Love Tea.
This is an aromatic and visually beautiful tea that is traditionally served in Iran by the bride-to-be to the groom’s family after the bride and her family have accepted the marriage proposal. The serving of this tea is a subtle way of saying “yes”, maybe because the tea – in particular, the saffron – is thought to have aphrodisiacal qualities.
Traditional Persian Tea Blend
So to honor St. Valentine’s Day, I would brew Persian Saffron Love Tea and share it with my guests at the tea tasting. Then, while they sipped this heavenly brew, I would read passages from my favorite Persian Sufi poet Rumi. This way, they would experience first hand two of the three things Persians live for – poetry, tea, and rice! (I will address the Persian obsession with rice in a future post.)
History of tea in Iran
Maybe a little tea history is in order here. Tea drinking in Iran dates back to the end of the 15th century. It owes its development to the difficulty of importing coffee, which was greatly enjoyed at the time, but very hard to obtain from the producing countries. Taking the same path as the Silk Route, tea gradually began to replace coffee.
It was not until the end of the 19th century that the first attempt was made to cultivate the tea plant in Iran and not until the beginning of the 20th century that the first crop of Iranian tea was sold on the local market. Today Iran is the eighth largest producer in the world and consumes almost its entire output of tea. Iranians are great tea drinkers. Tea or “chai” is the national beverage – I would even say the national pastime or obsession. It is served at the office, in mosques, in bazaars, and, of course, in homes all day long. The tea of choice is almost always a loose-leaf black tea. Thank God tea bags are a big no-no in Iran.
How to make Persian Tea
Tea is a staple in all Persian households. Most people brew it on their stoves all day long and enjoy drinking it morning, noon, and night in delicate tea glasses with such accompaniments as sugar cubes, dates, raisins, and toot (dried mulberries).
To make a great pot of tea, the secret is to use a double-decker pot.
To make 6 cups:
1. Add 2 tsp of Persian black tea blend in the smaller top pot.
2. Boil water in the larger bottom pot and then add to the top pot with the tea leaves.
3. Boil water in the bottom pot again and place the filled top pot with the tea on top of the pot with the boiled water. Leave the tea to brew for about 15 minutes.
4. To serve the tea, add 1/4 of the tea to the cup and fill the rest with boiling water.
Tip: If your water is hard, use filtered or spring water for better clarity and taste.
How to make Persian Saffron Love Tea (serves 4)
• 4 cups water
• 2 green cardamom pods, bruised
• ½ teaspoon saffron thread, ground
• ½ cup rose water
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• Organic rose buds and petals
1. Add the cardamom pods and saffron to a kettle, along with the water, rose water, and sugar.
2. Stir the mixture to dissolve the sugar.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Remove the cardamom pods before serving.
5. Add rose buds and petals.
6. Serve in a tea glass with saffron rock candy on the side.
This article updated from February 2010.
What a fascinating tradition. I love the Persian Saffron Love Tea and its tradition during the acceptance of an engagement. This is the first I’ve heard of Iran’s rich tradition of tea. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I’m eager to try the tea myself.
After reading your post, I just had to brew a cup of Persian Rose tea! I’m enjoying its warmth as I observe the snowstorm outside…
There’s nothing better than a cup of “Marry Me Again”- Tay Tea, first thing in the morning except for a cup of “Better Than Sex”-Tay Tea in the afternoon, and finally, “Kyoto”-Tay Tea, at night.
Your Persian Rose Tea captures all the warmth, love and mystique of Persian traditions. Bravo!
What a beautiful article! I can’t wait to try this Persian love tea.
Magic-making!! I was just in the kitchen at dawn this am crushing cardamom pods from Zanzibar for my oatmeal & thinking, there MUST be some other use for these fabulous little things. I’ve been feeling the same tug to bring to life all of this rose water from Morocco and some saffron an old man gave me in Thailand I have lying around . . . and Viola! Like magic, this appears & they all find a purpose. What a rich, gorgeous, post – full of love, history poetry & recipes to nurture the soul. Thank you!!
What a wonderful post! I’m also Persian and grew up drinking black loose leaf tea with cardamom and rose water but wasn’t familiar with the tradition of saffron tea. Needless to say, I was pleased to learn about it.
I spent a few minutes on Tay Tea and really enjoyed reading about your blends! The Persian Rose in particular sounds amazing.
I work for Rishi Tea, based in Milwaukee and our Wild Rose white tea has been a personal favorite (no doubt it reminds me of home). In fact, I wrote a sugar cookie recipe using Wild Rose that mentions Shiraz, the City of Roses. You can read here – http://www.rishi-tea.com/Recipe-WildRoseSugarCookie.php.
I look forward to learning more about Tay Tea and hopefully visiting your tea shop soon!
There is nothing more loving (and lovely) than Tay Teas! Not only does this recipe excite all the senses while educating us about a beautiful and little known tradition, it is a wonderful insight into what makes Tay’s creator, Nini, tick. Thank you for sharing with us, Nini. I look forward to sipping this tea with you at the newly renewed Tay Home this summer.
Tea drinking – a dying art in the West….and now suddenly, I have hope that a revival is in on the horizon. Thanks Nini.
Nini! I am home visiting family and memories. Sifting through old photos, I found a gorgeous photo of my uncle marrying his beautiful Persian wife, Guiti. They are so 60’s and glam- defying tradition and finding love without cultural boundaries. I love your article, and vow to live life with more cardamom, saffron, roses and of course, Tay Tea.