Photographer's Note

Samovar, originally made of gold, copper, tin and steel, is a heated metal container traditionally used to brew tea in and around Russia, as well as in other Slavic nations, Iran and Turkey. Charcoal-burning samovars are now strictly outdoor equipment. The first thing to do with a samovar is to clean it thoroughly and fill it up with water through its open hatch. A properly-maintained samovar with a shining finish is a sign of hospitality and good manners of the host. Set the samovar on a large tray to keep the ashes which work their way through the vent from damaging the table, also to catch any dripping water.
Afterwards, fuel is added. Instead of charcoal, Russians traditionally use dry pinecones. Cones add a hint of the resin's flavor to the tea. When using charcoal it is important to use unprocessed lump charcoal. Commercial compressed charcoal can burn with such a concentrated heat that it is possible to damage the samovar, especially if the water level falls too low.
No matter what fuel is used, it must be ignited. The traditional way is to use pieces of bark from the birch tree. In the Soviet era, a popular joke had it that Pravda, the newspaper of the Communist Party, was particularly good for tinder. Paper in general should work. An alternate method is to set the charcoal burning in a fireplace or brazier and transfer the coals to the samovar with tongs.
As soon as the igniting substance and smaller pieces of the fuel catch fire, one needs to pump on the upper end of the tube, in order to help the fire burn. Finally, attach the chimney extension and wait until the water boils. If the fire is strong a gallon of water can be brought to a full boil in approximately 20 minutes. In order to abate the fire, put the cap on the tube instead of the chimney. To stimulate the heater, apply the pump.
Electric samovars can operate indoors. Their operation is much simpler, since the only thing necessary to begin heating is to plug it into the AC outlet. Whether or not the samovar has a water level switch as was previously mentioned, the heater must be fully immersed in water when turned on.

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