Monday, 27 July 2015

The use of teetaimed in Estonia, 1880s–1990s

Volume 59, Issue 2, October 2012, Pages 523–530
The 36th annual meeting of the British Feeding and Drinking Group, March 29th and 30th 2012, Brighton, UK
Research report

The use of teetaimed in Estonia, 1880s–1990s 


This research contributes to a better understanding of the criteria used for the selection of plants for making beverages. Worldwide, not only the leaves of Camellia sinensis, but also various other plants are used for making tea. We argue that the selection of plants for making tea (in Estonian teetaimed) 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 to teetaimed in 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.


  • Herbal tea; 
  • Historical ethnobotany; 
  • Archival sources; 
  • Medicinal plants; 
  • Food culture;
  • Herbal landscape; 
  • Multifunctional plants; 
  • Food 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.

Corresponding author.