Forget about vodka. The world's largest country is also the greatest tea-drinking empire.
Not everyone in Russia drinks alcohol, let alone vodka – the strong taste is not for the faint-hearted. So, your chances to be offered a shot of vodka on the first visit are rather low.
What you certainly will be offered is tea. Russians love tea and always drink it.
Famous author Leo Tolstoy used to say: “I needed to drink much tea for I can’t work without it. Tea awakens those opportunities that dream deep inside my soul.”
No matter who a Russian might be – a saint or a villain, a genius or a mediocrity – chances are great that he loves tea.
Alexander I, who reigned from to 1801 to 1825, made tea affordable in restaurants and in city markets. He enjoyed the drink, with courtiers reporting that he always “starts his day with green tea and cream, with toast.”
Vladimir Lenin also enjoyed tea. Many memoirs by revolutionaries of that period begin with Lenin drinking tea with his comrades.
What’s up with lemon? This habit is specifically Russian.
The tradition appeared at post stations when travelers were changing horses. Roads were poor, so they often had motion sickness. Something sour helps in this case, and so they were offered tea (to warm up) with lemon (to feel better).
Not all Russians, however, prefer tea with lemon. Some like it the English way, with milk; but many also drink plain tea. In the end, there’s no such thing as ‘bad tea’ for a Russian.