Chinese tea in Pushkin's Russia


Preis-courant neuerhaltener, ausgesuchter, bester Chinesischer Thee die zu haben sind in den Magazinen der Kaufmanns Gregorius Marinin, in St. Petersburg

Publication: [Skt. Peterburg], 1843.

[GASTRONOMY], Preis-courant neuerhaltener, ausgesuchter, bester Chinesischer Thee die zu haben sind in den Magazinen der Kaufmanns Gregorius Marinin, in St. Petersburg

Extremely rare broadside boasting “the all-best” teas from China available at a merchant’s in St. Petersburg. The poster contains much interesting information and is illustrated with many Asian scenes. Very fragile but in very good condition.

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Our Notes & References

Very rare commercial broadside advertising, in German and with ‘Asian’ illustrations, Chinese teas offered in the Russian capital during its “Golden Age”, when Pushkin and Gogol were stars of literary gatherings, where such teas were elegantly served.

The large (> 50 cm) sheet presents a variety of Chinese teas offered in March 1843 at Gregorii Marinin’s two shops, both located on the main street of Saint Petersburg, the celebrated Nevskii prospekt – one being in a prime location, opposite the Kazan cathedral and “next to the sugar and coffee shop” clarifies the text.

The poster features 21 kinds of green and black teas listed along with corresponding prices in silver roubles and assignation roubles, both of which were in circulation at the time. They can come in various colourful silk packaging, already prepared in China.

As a valuable commodity, tea was sold by weight. A pound (app. 0,4 kg) of a premium grade tea is offered for 15 silver roubles – a price inaccessible for the vast majority of Russians of the time: a monthly salary of a low rank bureaucrat in the 1830s was around 20 roubles. Chinese tea was reserved for the middle and upper classes, while the majority of Russians had to make their own variations of this hot beverage, mostly from the local herbs and dried carrot leaves.

The price list is interestingly illustrated with a number of simple but lovely woodcuts featuring scenes with Asian military men and aristocracy. Curiously, many illustrations here, probably copied from travel books of the time, show, in fact, characters from Japan rather than from China.

Most of the tea imported into Russia was brought by land from China via Kiakhta and Siberia. Because of the relative geographical proximity of the two Empires, tea in Russia was cheaper than in Europe or America. Since the beginning of the 18th century, this hot beverage was steadily gaining popularity among Russians, and by the 1790s Russia was importing around 600 tons of tea annually; by the 1830s this number grew up to 2300 tons, constituting 4% of all Russia’s imports.

Being in German, this broadside was aimed at the important German-speaking community of St. Petersburg. In the 1860s the German population there exceeded 50,000 people, with a high concentration of State officials, scientists and professors – all relatively wealthy and potential customers of Marinin. The merchant also offers shipping within the empire “mit der grössten Pünktlichkeit” [“with the greatest punctuality”].

This fragile broadside, printed on thin paper, is very rare: we could not trace any other examples in WorldCat or on the market. We could not find much on Marinin either, except another, earlier witness of his efforts to reach the city’s German community: a 1837 price list and advertisement in St. Petersburg’s largest German-language newspaper, the St. Peterburger Zeitung.


Cf. St. Petersburgische Zeitung für das Jahr 1837, p. 213 (online).

Item number



Physical Description

Broadside (53.5 x 41.5 cm), text in German, multiple woodcut illustrations.


Central horizontal fold, minor marginal restorations, a few creases, light foxing in places; in appealing condition considering the fragile paper, which hasn’t been laid down.

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