Posted in Kafevend Blog
Do you enjoy a leisurely afternoon at your favourite local tea room? Does the idea of afternoon tea fill you with longing for scones, jam, clotted cream, maybe a cucumber sandwich or two and a delicious slice of carrot cake? A large proportion of the British are happy to keep the tradition alive and it has a tendency to become a more frequent pleasure with age! Nevertheless, while we enjoy the indulgence, men and women alike, the tea room does have an undoubtedly feminine air about it. Teapots, bone china, dainty cakes and napkins make us think fondly of aunts and grandmothers, not uncles and grandfathers. What a stark contrast then is the traditional Azerbaijani tea room.
As we discovered last week, tea is central to the way of life in Azerbaijan and one cup never seems to be enough, hence their saying, 'When drinking tea, don't count the cups.' Tea is as important outside the home as it is inside. Azerbaijani tea houses are called chaihana or chaykhana, and were historically the province of men only. Outside the more cosmopolitan urban areas where times have moved on, they remain very much a male domain. Men really do spend quite a lot of time at the chaihana too, not just consuming lots of tea, but chatting, smoking, discussing politics and sport, playing games such as backgammon or dominoes and generally having a little time out. There are some Azerbaijani women who complain about their other halves spending too much time at the tea house in the same way as there are women here who complain that their partners are always off down the pub.
When you stop to consider that over 90% of the population of Azerbaijan identify as Muslim, the central role of tea as opposed to alcohol becomes less of a surprise. And of course the local tea houses have built up a very masculine identity over the centuries and fulfil much the same role as the traditional British pub as a social meeting place.