Camels, Campfires & Russian Caravan

The Tea Centre has the ultimate campfire story for you.

Given our history of jolly swagmen and “boiling the billy” for tea, it makes sense that Aussies think a blend like Australian Breakfast is the primordial campfire tea. 

But did you know that the history of sipping tea by the fire goes back 200 years before Waltzing Matilda was first sung? In this week’s Stories From The Silk Road episode, we would like to take sippers across to Asia, where Russian Caravan—the ultimate campfire tea—was born.

Setting the scene: Caravanserai

The story behind Russian Caravan doesn’t begin in one set place, but rather a whole host of places called caravanserai. Meaning “caravan palace” in Persian, caravanserai were dotted all across the historic Silk Road. 

What does the “caravan” refer to, you ask? Well, a convey of camels carrying trade goods like tea were commonly referred to as “caravans” back then! A caravan was typically made up of five-to-twelve camels who were led by a caravan leader that rode on the first camel.

Caravanserai were often large accommodation rest places, where traders could stop for the night and tend to their camels—they weren’t your typical roadside inns either!

Both the gorgeous Tilla Kari Madrasa in Uzbekistan and ancient Tash Rabat in Kyrgyzstan are examples of how vast and stately caravanserai could be. Moreover, it was at pitstops like this that Russian Caravan was created.


The Tilla-Kari Madrasa (pictured above) was built upon the ancient Mirzoi caravanserai after the fall of the Sino-Russian Silk Road in the fourteenth century. You can also spot her beautiful design on our The ‘Silk Road’ wooden tea box!

A smoky beginning

Russian Caravan first came to be on the long and winding Sino-Russian section of the Silk Road. It was the 1600s and Tsarist Russia was exchanging precious furs for just a caravan of Chinese tea.

Two serendipitous elements from this particular trade route—icy Siberian winds and the necessity to rest every night on the long journey—made the environment ripe for changing the flavour of the travelling tea!

Specifically, large amounts of Chinese tea like Keemun would travel the road in fabric parcels on the back of camels. Given this road was particularly snow-ridden,  traders had to rest every night and stay warm by a campfire. Moreover, traders preferred to have their goods close at hand, and so tea would be unloaded by the fire as well.

This meant that every night, the fabric parcels were engulfed in campfire smoke. Soon enough, the tea inside gradually became imbued with unique wood notes and smoky flavour from the campfire. 

These flavours became more pronounced as the journey went on, to the point where the tea arriving in Russia tasted completely different to the Keemun loose leaf it once was!

The Tea Centre’s Russian Caravan


Flash forward 400 years and Russian Caravan is now a staple black tea blend for many tea companies across the globe. Aside from Lapsang Souchong, no other blend can match Russian Caravan’s delightful smokiness.

Rich with caffeine with hints of chocolate (according to some fine-tuned palates!), this tea well and truly deserves its place in The Tea Centre’s Stories From The Silk collection

Can’t wait to sample The Tea Centre’s Russian Caravan? Discover its delightful taste by pre-ordering our Christmas The ‘Silk Road’ wooden tea box!

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