A Guide to the Serbian Mentality – Sumadija Tea

If they, per chance, happen to be in our city, Anglo Saxons are most surprised that their invariable ritual – tea at five – is not served with milk, as it’s elsewhere around the world!
I try to explain them that we, Serbs, drink tea only when we’re taken ill and milk only when being breastfed.

An American who has been living in Belgrade for sometime carries pockets full of the small milk packages that are served in airplanes,  just in case.

But this doesn’t mean we’re nation without refinement! We, too sometimes drink tea at five o’clock… Šumadija tea. 🙂 


And while the English sip their tea in silence of their  well -padded rooms, where nothing is heard  except the clanking of silver spoons against porcelain cups, we, on the other hand, clink our cups of Sumadija tea and this can last a long time, especially if Dragačevo -like trumpets are around. 

Although the Boston tea party is much more famous, the advantage of Sumadija tea is that one  doesn’t need to wait until five o’clock to have it: we take it in the morning, in the afternoon, after midnight or at dawn for clearing heads and dealing with hangovers.

Sumadija tea is made by boiling diluted plum brandy or from low – proof plum brandy to which cloves and a pinch of sugar are added.

In the old days, when we used firewood to get warm, cubes of sugar were added to the Sumadija tea with hot iron tongs, which would sizzle as they dissolve in the boiling brandy.

Many are unaware that our national tea is very close to the family of English grog; it is also related to punch, and has a distant relative in Japan since their brandy – sake – is also drunk warm.

Nevertheless, it will  forever remain a secret how an ordinary Serbian peasant, having discovered Sumadija tea such a long time ago, came by this epoch – making discovery in the same ways as the most decadent lords and admirals of the British fleet. 

Drinking heated brandy (as opposed to drinking it cold) entails certain effort to evade the sense of guilt: a man drinking Sumadija tea is not seen as a drunkard.  This drink, at times unjustly suppressed by the imperialistic tendencies of whiskey and French cognac, makes its comeback in times of  winter, flue epidemics, when antibiotics are powerless against viruses.

I have yet to run into someone  who drinks Sumadija tea  on a regular basis that has caught the flu.
The germs simply drop dead at the entrance of the tea house.


Momo Kapor, Guide to the Serbian Mentality