On Myasnitskaya Ulitsa, a 5 minute walk from Chistye Prudy metro station, you can find of Moscow’s most seemingly out of place buildings: a three-storey-high Chinese pagoda in the center of the Russian capital! Originally a high-renaissance style building typical of most of the others on this street, the building housed the offices and show rooms of the Perlov family; who were highly successful tea merchants.
Not only it looks pretty unique, with its strange architecture and Cyrillic signs done in Chinese-style calligraphy, but the building also has a pretty original history.
Most Muscovites had never heard of tea when the Perlov tea dynasty began in the 18th century. Alexei Perlov started his business with a small market stall, selling imported tea leaves and brewing up tea drinks as well. Russians soon fell in love with the new drink and business bloomed. With his profits, Perlov was able to build a typical Russian-style house located on the central Myasnitskaya Street and opened a tea shop on the first floor.
Hoping to land a lucrative tea contract from China, in 1895 Perlov tried to be granted the privilege of having extraordinary Chinese ambassador Li Hongzhang (who would come for the coronation of the Russian Emperor Nicolas II) reside in the headquarters of the family business. In order to wow the ambassador Perlov spared no expenses and commissioned architect Karl Guippious to completely redesign his building.
The Ambassador did not accept the invitation, but the Chinese pagoda caught the attention of Muscovites, who fell in love with Perlov’s out-of-place house and tea shop. The building became possibly the first successful example of retail signage and within 50 years, Moscow was filled with Perlov’s “tea taverns,” where customers could sip cup after cup of steaming tea.
The original tea house was so popular and beloved that it remained in use as a tea shop throughout the Soviet Period, although it was of course expropriated by the State and the upper floors were turned into communal flats and fell into disrepair. More recently, in 1997 the historic house was returned to the Perlov family and renovated.
Today it is both a typical tourist destination because of its architecture and a beloved tea shopping place for Muscovites thanks to the large selection and high quality of tea (and coffe) that you can buy there.
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