This research contributes to a better understanding of the criteria used for the selection of plants for making beverages. Worldwide, not only the leaves ofCamellia sinensis, but also various other plants are used for making tea. We argue that the selection of plants for making tea (in Estonianteetaimed) depends on specific features possessed by or attributed to the plants. 54 plant taxa and one lichen were identified as being used for making tea, based on the analysis of Estonian historical handwritten archival records on plant use for the period from 1887 to 1994. The influence of popular literature on the use of plants for making tea was also assessed. The suitability of a plant for making tea depends on a combination of factors like multifunctional use, mild taste and attributed medicinal properties. The variety of medicinal properties attributed toteetaimedin folk medicine allowed herbal tea drinking to be considered as mild disease prevention. Hence, the roots of the Estonian tea tradition lie in the medicinal use of the plants, not oriental ceremonial tea drinking.
• Wild plants were widely used in Estonia for making social beverages. • Multifunctional plants used: all are used as medicine and a majority for food. • Plants were selected based on the combination of a few influential factors. • Herbal teas functioned as mild preventative medicine in their users’ opinion. • Popular literature mostly supported the use of already existing tea-plants.
Acknowledgments:The authors acknowledge the Governmental Research and Development programme “Estonian Language and Cultural Memory” (EKKM09-84) for supporting the digitalization of Estonian herbal lore. The research has been supported by ESF Grants ETF9419 and SF0030181s08. The authors thank Ingvar Svanberg for substantial comments on the manuscript and suggested references, Ulrike Plath for suggested references and Ilmar Part for language editing.