Magical Lithuanian Herbal Teas
You know me and my interest in botanicals and how different cultures interact with whats around them. And even though its 102 degrees here in Florence, I feel like chatting Lithuanian herbal teas, particularly those with known health benefits.
Though I've said before that Lithuania runs on coffee and have written a ton on coffee culture in Lithuania, its heritage has long been focused on medicinal, herbal teas. So, even if it is 100 degrees where you are, please grab your favorite cub of herbal tea and sit down in front of a fan because this is a long one. :)
Fireweed / Chamaenerion angustifolium
So, let's delve into a magical Lithuanian tea made from Chamaenerion angustifolium, commonly known as fireweed.
Fireweed is a perennial, flowering herb with lovely purple flowers that grow widely in northern North America and Europe and is commonly used as an edible plant. The young leaves can be eaten in salads, but in Lithuania and Russia (and I'm guessing in Latvia and Estonia as well), Fireweed is commonly used as a tea -- a very special, tasty tea.
In Lithuania, fireweed leaves are harvested and allowed to wilt overnight. The tea leaves should are rolled up and allowed to dry, oxidize, and ferment a bit (but without molding). Dry leaves can be stored in a Tupperware container. In Lithuania, fireweed tea (just like most other teas) are enjoyed with quite a bit of honey for sweetening and health benefits. I actually learned about fireweed tea when my husband's assistant teacher gave it to him and he brought some home for me to try.
The delicious fireweed tea is caffeine free and is good for upset stomachs, colds, and overall health. I've brewed fireweed tea with and without honey, but I really needed the honey to take away a bit of the dirt flavor and enhance the fruitiness. It also tastes a bit like black tea but with more dirt and fruit flavors.
Teas are amazing, flavorful ways to care for your body, but medicinal herbs were never my main interest in ethnobotany due to the fine line you could walk with biopiracy. What really got me interested in fireweed tea was J's comment that supposedly Lithuanians were feared by Russians when they were drinking this tea, as they were believed to become fortified with extra strength. Now, I don't know how accurate that is, but it is something to look into more for sure.
Sea buckthorn Tea / Hippophae rhamnoides
Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) are shrubs that are found in northern China, Russia, and the Baltics. These shrubs grow bright yellow fruits borne in clusters that are frequently used in food products in northern European countries.
Unlike fireweed tea, sea buckthorn is prepared as a tea by mixing sea buckthorn jam with hot water. This sweet, fruity tea is prepared by mashing bright yellow sea buckthorn fruits. Sea buckthorn is known to be high in vitamin C and E and is very good for the skin. In Lithuania, it is also frequently used in sweets, pastries, and chocolates, but in my experience, is predominately enjoyed as a tea made from jam.
In Vilnius, sea buckthorn jam tea can be enjoyed at Pilies Kepyklele on Pilies g. or purchased by the jar at Senamiesčio Krautuvė on Literatu g. and at retailers selling Nordic Berry mashies, which is a company owned by one of my friends. Nordic Berry sea buckthorn (also called seaberry) can be enjoyed at a really delicious Portuguese bakery called Uogienė on Asros Vartu g. that is really awesome.
Though not an herbal tea, honey tea is a very popular in Lithuania and is a product made from honey often infused with herbs. In Vilnius, you can find honey teas created with ginger (my favorite), thyme, and lemon balm (I think). These teas are solid honey and are meant to be mixed with hot water. I've written a bunch more about Lithuanian honey and myths in this post.
http://nordicfoodlab.org/blog/2016/3/23/tea-but-not **this is a really good site.
**Please note that herbals should not be harvested from nature unless you are with someone trained in plant identification for numerous reasons. Certain herbals can also interact with medicines, so before using a tea or herbal, please consult with your doctor and pharmacist. In Search Of does not take responsibility for use of herbals, this blog is simply meant to share my interest in how people use and interact with plants around the world. Refer to the disclaimer page for further details**