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Chai Ich | Drink Tea

An imperative command that is anything but rhetorical, “chai ich” is the summons to the table.  Multiple times throughout the day, tea and bread are enjoyed by Kyrgyz families, friends and colleagues.  A few of those times a much larger meal is eaten, but the presence of tea is indisputable.

Most often, tea is brewed in a small “chai-nik”, or teapot, with loose coils of black or green tea leaves.  A thermos with boiled water is also present, for the purpose of diluting the tea as it increases in strength.  The Kyrgyz people that I’ve encountered generally do not prefer strong tea, so each cup is just a dollop of the brewed mixture mixed and warmed by the hot water.   The tea is served in shallow bowls that resemble English tea cups minus the handles.  A good hostess only fills the cup halfway as a sign of respect.  It indicates that the guest/recipient will of course be wanting more, and shall have it!

Restaurants and cafes have thrived in this tea steeped drinking culture.  Fruits, spices, herbs, and tisanes are mixed in unique combinations, then served elegantly in glass teapots that showcase the contents of the brew.  The favorites circulate seasonally, with summer boasting pots of fruits and berries, while winter sees more ginger, cinnamon, and citrus.  Ashkanas, humble Kyrgyz eateries, serve up pots of plain black or green tea as a standard with meals, charging only a nominal fee for the warming drink.  

Gathering around the table with friends or family is one of the traditions that most deeply defines Kyrgyzstan.  The warmth and enjoyment of the moment is cherished, valued, and repeated as often as possible, with tea being the ever-present central player to the event.

How to Survive Kyrgyzstan - Tea Traditions

Tea is such an important element of Kyrgyz culture and hospitality! Here are a few tips and rules from Explore Kyrgyzstan for making sure that you are a polite guest when invited to drink tea with locals.

Ruby Mitchell

Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.

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