A samovar (the literal translation is "self-boiler") is a heated metal urn traditionally used to brew tea in and around Russia and other Slavic nations. It is said it was invented in the Central Asia.
A traditional samovar consists of a large metal container with a faucet and a metal pipe running up through the center. The pipe is filled with solid fuel to heat the water in the surrounding container and the teapot placed on top. The teapot is used to brew the zavarka, a strong concentrate of tea. The tea is served by diluting this concentrate with kipyatok (boiling water) from the main container at a ratio of about 10 parts water to one part tea concentrate.
It is particularly well-suited to tea-drinking in a communal setting over a protracted period. The Russian expression "to have a sit by samovar" means to have a leisury talk while drinking tea from samovar. This compares with the Japanese tea ceremony, but only superficially.
In everyday use it was an economic permanent source of hot water in older times. Various slow-burning stuff was used for fuel: charcoal, dry pine tree cones. When not in use, the fire in the samovar pipe was faintly smouldering. When necessary, it was quickly rekindled in a peculiar way, with the help of a sapog (Russian high boot). For better flexibility, the sapog has folds at the ankle level. A common habit of vanity was to make more of these folds than necessary, so that the sapog would resemble the windbag of an accordion. The sapog was put upside down on top of the samovar pipe and was worked just like bellows to pump the air through the pipe for better burning. Of course, there were special samovar bellows as well.
Samovar was an important attribute of a Russian household. Sizes and designs varied, from "40-pail" ones (100 gallons) to quart-size, from cylindrical to spherical, from plain iron to polished brass to gilded.
In modern times, samovar is mostly an attribute of Russian exotics and nostalgia. Today electric samovars are available. In the West, they can be ordered from Europe or may be found in neighborhoods with heavily Slavic populations, such as New York's East Village or Coney Island in Brooklyn.