Perlov Tea House: Russian Tea, Chinese Style

Perlov Tea House: Russian Tea, Chinese Style

Have you ever “gussied up” your house and made it look really nice because you were expecting special visitors? Maybe you finished that deck, installed a hot tub, or simply repainted the house.

Such was the case in Moscow in the 1890s for the Perlov family. We can thank them for the stunning Chinese beauty of the Perlov Tea House – a place where even today you can sip a classic cup of tea – even though the Perlovs’ expected visitor was a no-show.

No Soviet hammers and sickles here: Perlov Tea House is bedecked with Chinese dragons and decorations <br>Photo credit: Marina Karptsova

No Soviet hammers and sickles here: Perlov Tea House is bedecked with Chinese dragons and decorations
Photo credit: Marina Karptsova

Bright colors and curved embellishments distinguish Perlov Tea House from its Soviet-style neighbors <br>Photo credit: Marina Karptsova

Bright colors and curved embellishments distinguish Perlov Tea House from its Soviet-style neighbors
Photo credit: Marina Karptsova

Tea for the Russian MassesMost Muscovites had never heard of tea when the Perlov tea dynasty began in the 18th century. Alexei Perlov started his business with a small market stall, selling imported tea leaves and brewing up tea drinks as well. You might compare it to Howard Schultz starting a little coffee bean business in a tiny Seattle storefront, selling hot drinks made from those beans. Does Starbucks ring a bell?

Not a tea drinker? The Perlov Tea House is still a memorable Moscow place to visitPhoto credit: Marina Karptsova

Not a tea drinker? The Perlov Tea House is still a memorable Moscow place to visit
Photo credit: Marina Karptsova

Diplomatic No-ShowBack to the 1890s: With his initial profits, Perlov built a typical Russian-style house located on Myasnitskaya Street and opened a tea shop on the first floor. Hoping to land a lucrative tea contract from China through a visiting Chinese ambassador to Moscow, in 1895 Perlov transformed his house into a Chinese pagoda replete with dragons, hoping the dignitary would stay with his family.

He did not.

These tea tins aren't just pretty; they can keep tea fresh up to a year <br>Photo credit: Marina Karptsova

These tea tins aren’t just pretty; they can keep tea fresh up to a year
Photo credit: Marina Karptsova


Lemonade From Lemons, Tea From Tea LeavesIf only Perlov could have read the tea leaves! The Chinese pagoda caught the attention of Muscovites, who fell in love with Perlov’s out-of-place house and tea shop. Within 50 years, Moscow was filled with Perlov’s “tea taverns,” where customers could sip cup after cup of steaming tea.

During Soviet times the Perlov house was carved up into communal apartments and fell into disrepair. More recently, in 1997 the historic house was returned to the Perlov family and renovated.

Consider tea the universal liquid of hospitality, here written in Russian with Chinese curves <br /> Photo credit: Marina Karptsova

Consider tea the universal liquid of hospitality, here written in Russian with Chinese curves
Photo credit: Marina Karptsova


Trying TeasTry a cup of tea at this one-of-a-kind tea house, with offerings from China, Ceylon, India and more. Coffee is also available – but tea is truly the highlight of this place.

Just as Starbucks offers coffee – and tea, so Perlov offers tea – and coffee <br>Photo credit: Marina Karptsova

Just as Starbucks offers coffee (and tea), so Perlov offers tea (and coffee) 
Photo credit: Marina Karptsova

Banish the thought of taking tea in Russia without cakes and cookies, like these at Perlov Tea House <br>Photo credit: Marina Karptsova

Banish the thought of taking tea in Russia without cakes and cookies, like these at Perlov Tea House
Photo credit: Marina Karptsova


Tea Sayings“Reading the tea leaves” – Telling your future.
“It’s not my cup of tea” – It’s not my thing; I’m not crazy about it.
“What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?” – Something totally irrelevant.
“Stop by for some tea!” – Say this to a new friend in Russia; it’s a serious offer to get together.
“Chasing teas” (“Гонять чаи“) – No hurries or worries, just relaxing and enjoying cups of tea for hours, usually at home with family and friends.
“Indulge with tea” (“Побаловаться чайком“) – Splurging on and indulging in tea, usually very high-quality tea.
“To take tea” – A time set aside for drinking tea and enjoying snacks like cakes, cookies, pastries. For example, at the Perlov Tea House in Moscow, Russia.

Russian folklore believes samovars have souls, each with its own boiling songs as it heats water for tea <br /> Photo credit: Alla Shishkina

Russian folklore says that samovars have souls, each with its own boiling song as it heats water for tea
Photo credit: Alla Shishkina


Travel to Russia with MIRYou can sip tea, Russian style, on many MIR tours to Russia, including the cultural and culinary offering that visits the Perlov Tea House. You can also book a handcrafted, custom private journey. Regardless of how you travel, you are following in the footsteps of a famous Russian novelist:

“Let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”

— Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(Top photo credit: Marina Karptsova. The Perlov Tea House is large; this photo is a portion of the exterior.)

PUBLISHED: May 20, 2014

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