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Chaykhana - where does the name come from? What does this mean and what types of Chaykhana exists?

Updated: Apr 19, 2021

The word "ChaykhanA" can be heard or read in the Ukrainian language not for the first time. In this article we will try to understand what the word Chaykhana means, where it came from and when it is used.

Word's origin

Arts of teahouses (Chaykhana)

Uzbek teahouse (Chaykhana)

Dishes in the Chaykhana

Culture in the Chaykhana

Atmosphere of Chaykhana

Word's origin

The word Chaykhana comes from the Chinese 茶 "choi" (tea) and the Persian محل "hone" (room) - tea house. In the modern world there is a transfer of the final vowel "E" to "A" in the Turkic languages. And the change of the root vowel "O" in the word "Choi" to "A" in the Slavic languages. So we have pronaiunced "Chaykhana" [tcaihana] instead of originally "Choykhone" [tcoihone].

The word "tea house" can be found in many languages of Central Asia and the Middle East. So in Uzbekistan in almost every quarter you can see a sign with the word "Choikhona", in Tajikistan "Chaikhonai", in Kazakhstan "Askhana".

Arts of teahouses

According to the historical description of the 19th century of Hungarian traveler Armenius Vamberi, teahouses in places such as Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva were like coffee shops in Europe. There were a lot of them, and they were on almost every street. Under the old Platanus trees or under the Mulberries stood wide couches, on which sat for hours the elders (older men with gray beards). They drank tea, ate and talked. So at the beginning of the XX century in Dushanbe there were 12 teahouses, where people could not only drink tea and eat, but also communicate with neighbors, make a trade deal, stay overnight, listen to music, songs, take part in a competition of wit. The tea house was a kind of club in the broadest sense of the word.

Currently, most tea houses remain a place in the living area of the city where you can sit, drink tea and eat. Such tea houses have a more social status, where you can meet acquaintances and exchange information.

This is what a teahouse in the East looks like. The whole family is sitting around the dastarkhan on the couch.
This is what a teahouse in the East looks like. The whole family is sitting around the dastarkhan on the couch.

But in some places, the teahouse has become just a name, and the tea house itself has become a cafe or even a restaurant.

There are specialized tea houses, for example, where only pilaf or samsa is prepared. In addition to tea, they can offer a couple of salads. Such tea houses are open only at noon, they are closed in the afternoon.

Uzbek Chaykhana in Samarkand. Oshpoz (pilaf master) Anvar Mammadov.
Uzbek Chaykhana in Samarkand. Oshpoz (pilaf master) Anvar Mammadov.

Узбецька чайхана

Many of Uzbekistan's tea houses offer salads, shurpa and kebabs. The barbecue can be at the entrance, so that people passing by could see what is deliciously prepared here after then deciding to come in will be easy. You can eat well in the Uzbek tea house Chaykhana. It will be delicious food that is prepared for yourself, because mostly people come here from neighboring houses. Prices in such a teahouse are moderate, if not cheap. The interior of such a tea house is minimal, because they know that people come here not only for communication, but also for delicious food.

Modern teahouse-restaurant in Tashkent
Modern teahouse-restaurant in Tashkent

Another format of the Uzbek tea house is "Oshkhona" as a restaurant or café. Oshkhona translates as "Dining Room", although traditionally it may have name as a Tea House Chaykhana. The teahouse cafe or teahouse restaurant is located in large cities near the bazaar or shopping center. The tea house-cafe can have a simple interior and a few dishes on the menu with reasonable prices. The tea house-restaurant can be luxurious and more expensive.

Dishes in the Tea House Chaykhana

Unlike other types of Oshkhona, you can always order riches soup shurpa and juicy kebabs in a real teahouse. Skewers can be of several types: lump or ground, lamb or beef.

Salads and appetizers can be tomato salad - achichuk or shakarop (sometimes it is simply called "fresh salad") or radish and chakki salad.

In the Samarkand region (Uzbekistan), almost every teahouse can offer such a snack as Anzur - pickled onions.

Culture in Tea House Chaykhana

As a social phenomenon, the Uzbek tea house is more suitable for cafés than restaurant. Regular customers, homely cozy atmosphere and friendly service. The chaykhana is not used to drinking alcohol, most of them are simply not on the menu. However, there is a lot of tea here, either green or black, depending on the region.

As in traditional Eastern society, the same rules of conduct apply here. The younger ones greet the older ones, and when they enter, they greet those present. They do not speak loudly. They are first allowed to express their opinion to the elders. Everyone is treated with respect. After bringing food, wait until the senior at the table begins to eat.

In a traditional tea house Chaykhana they sit on the couch topchan, take off their shoes before getting on such a big sofa. Junior at the table, pours tea from a teapot into cups, three times poured tea from a cup into a teapot (for better brewing).

Chaykhana atmosphere

In almost every Chaykhana you can find things that are always present here. Of course, in the Uzbek teahouse dishes will be served in Uzbek styled dishes. This dish in blue and white color has a pattern of cotton flowers and is called "Pahta Gul". Cups, teapots, plates and tureens can all be in the same style.

Uzbek knife - stove, cauldrons, flat skimmer - kapkir, and barbecue - everything can be seen when the cook in the chaykhana prepares food. In the halls as an interior can be suzanies, carpets and topchan's. On the tables are dastarkhans, on the walls are khan atlas cloth's, Uzbek skullcaps and big decorative ceramic plates as wall decor. There is to hear oriental songs in Uzbek, Tajik, Iranian or Arabic. Delicious, almost exotic oriental dishes are served. How not to be satisfied with such kind of oriental atmosphere in Chaykhana?

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