The Secret to Dip and Sip

Naomi Duguid
Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan

Occasionally an older person in Iran will dip a sugar cube into the tea and then take a bite of it. This is the story I was told to explain the practice: Sometime long ago (in the late 1800s it seems), there was a dispute between the authorities and some of the foreign (mostly English) sugar merchants about pricing. The authorities wanted the price to stay down, the merchants wanted a higher price. The authorities played hardball by having the mullahs at the mosques declare that sugar was haram, or unclean. Suddenly no one would buy sugar. This forced the merchants back to the negotiating table and eventually a deal was reached. But how to change the decree about sugar being haram? Simple: The mullahs declared that dipping sugar into tea made it clean.
Graham Plaster gives a another take on the story
This came about because in the late 1800s, the Shah of Iran gave a sugar cube concession to a Belgium monopoly which resulted in the bazaari merchants and clergy protesting and issuing a fatwa declaring the Belgian sugar cube as "haram". The royal court swiftly had another mullah issue a rebuttal fatwa declaring that because the Iranian tea was pure and "halal", all Iranians had to do was to dip the sugar cube into the tea and purify it before drinking the tea. To this very day some Iranians do this ritual, many of them not knowing why they do it.

http://www.cultureready.org/blog/tea-culture-around-world-legend-tradition
Looks like Plaster drew upon Dariush Gilani
When the bazaari merchants protested against sugar cube concession given to Belgium a clergy gave a fatwa declaring the Belgian sugar cube as “haram”. The royal court swiftly had another mullah issue a rebuttal fatwa declaring that because the Iranian tea was pure and “halal”, all Iranians had to do was to dip the sugar cube into the tea and purify it before drinking the tea. To this very day some Iranians do this ritual, many of them not knowing why they do it.

https://iranian.com/main/2011/aug/iran-owes-mullahs-one-government.html
A good story is worth copying but a note to the source would be nice. One more variation offered by Arron Merat [asked what team is he rooting for and offered tea on the basis of the response]:
"You are for Esteghlal?" one man asks me pointedly. I nod, hoping to guess right. "Then you are my friend." From under his chair he pulls out a little bag from which emerge several tiny glasses, saucers, a flask of tea and a silver dish containing jagged sugar cubes. He pops one between his front teeth as he sips his tea.

He explains that a hundred years ago a cleric issued a fatwa to boycott sugar because the Shah had permitted Belgium an official monopoly on Iran's sugar. Iranians duly followed the fatwa but deemed it highly inconvenient and were relieved when another mullah decreed that it was OK, religiously, to consume sugar with tea as long as it is not mixed in the glass but held in the mouth. Even now, almost all Iranians take their sugar this way.

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/jun/21/discovering-iran-tour-caspian-sea-persian-gulf
Now off to put the kettle on...

And so for day 2094
12.09.2012