The samovar is an urn used by Russians to make tea. It both heats the water and seeps the tea. Tea has been a favorite drink of Russians since they started importing from China in the seventeenth century. They may serve tea at any meal or at any time of day, served strong and black and sweetened with honey, sugar or jams. In the early nineteen hundreds in Russia, there were stands on the street corners selling tea, and trains had samovars for the travelers.
The early samovars were made in Moscow, St. Petersburg, the Urals and several other provinces in Russia. These first samovars were utilitarian and made in many shapes, but soon a standard cylindrical form evolved and decorations were added so that some became beautiful works of art. The first factory to produce them was founded in Tula by Nasar Usitsin in 1778, and Tula has become the center of samovar production. The usual urn is around 18 inches tall, but can range up to two feet. Bronze was often used to make the urn, although early ones were made of other metals, some plated with gold or silver. The early ones used charcoal to heat the water and today, electricity is used with standard 110 or 220 voltage for those imported into the United States. While they can be used to brew tea, they are usually collected for their beauty.