They say good things come in small packages. That may be true in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, home to the world’ smallest tea house: Haj Ali Darvish.
Measuring just 2 meters wide, Haj Ali Darvish has been in business since 1918. In its nearly hundred-year history, the tiny shop has had just three owners. The operation opened under Haj Mohammad Hasan Shamshiri. In 1962, he sold the enterprise to Haj Ali Mabhutyan, who handed it down to his son, current owner Kazem Mabhutyan.
The miniature tea house—tea room might be more accurate—sells herbal teas, coffee, and hot chocolate.
Located inside the Grand Bazaar, the tea room is a popular destination for tourists, who are encouraged to sign the shop’s guest book and receive a souvenir coin for their patronage.
Click here to watch CNN Travel’s video of the pint-sized shop.
The Grand Bazaar is an epic shopping destination:
Measuring 20 square kilometers, the collection of shops stretches 10 kilometers long, and is divided by sections that specialize in particular materials (i.e. the copper section, the leather section). Often labeled a “city within a city,” the Grand Bazaar boasts a wide array of architecture, with some buildings dating back 400 years and other structures built in recent decades.
Lonely Planet recommends tourists visit the capital’s shopping mecca in the morning, when “business is brisk but not yet frantic.” No matter what time locals or tourists visit the bazaar, they’re likely to see workers transporting goods on pushcarts or winding through alleys carrying large wares on their backs.
It’s common for shopkeepers of all industries to offer guests tea, the nation’s unofficial beverage:
Since the 16th century, tea has been an important part of Iranian culture, facilitating both business and social interactions. Tea has been produced since the early 20th century in the Gilan promise of Iran, which sits next to the Caspian Sea.
Haj Ali Darvish used to provide tea to many of the shops in the Grand Bazaar before the Iranian Revolution, but since then, most shops prepare their own tea.
Nonetheless, Haj Ali Darvish has enjoyed a steady stream of customers, many of whom are tourists hoping to experience maximum flavor in the worl’d smallest tea house.
In fact, tourism to Iran has increased in recent years. Europeans have been booking more and more trips to the country, while the lifting of sanctions against Iran in 2016 by the United States resulted in more Americans traveling to the county. In 2014, 5 million foreigners traveled to Iran, and the country expects its tourism to increase five-fold by 2025.
If you’re in the mood to explore Iran’s rich history and a big cup of tea in a small space, set your compass for Tehran, keeping in mind the State Department’s Travel Warning.