Chaikhanas everwhere: Always time for tea
The chaikhana is is central to life in Uzbekistan, and nowhere more so than in the Fergana Valley. This is where the old men come to while away the hours, drinking tea, chewing the fat with old friends, snoozing in the shade on a hot day. Families come too, several generations together - there's always room for one more on the takhta - the large low bed-cum-dais, spread with mats and cushions, a table set down in the middle. Take your shoes off and sit cross-legged (if you can), lean back against the railing at the end if you need to - the tea is coming.
Fergana chaikhanas are grand, two-storied buildings with wide verandahs on both levels, often a garden with more takhta under the trees and, if there's water near by, more takhta and maybe woven-matted booths set up - you can bring your own food and stay as long as you like.
Favorite Dish: Tea - kuk choi -green tea - unless you stipulate black - qora choi. No milk, no mint, preferably no sugar - just tea. A bowl of kishmish - raisins - is often served along with the tea.
Before you pour to drink, pour once, twice and three times into the piala - tea bowl - and return it to the pot. It's only the fourth pour that you drink. Don't fill the bowl - pour a little and pour it often. A bowl filled is a signal that it's time to leave.
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