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.