UKRAINE: Coffee, tea, and herbal teas

Ukraine is mainly a tea country, with the strong traditional black tea culture, but coffee and other tea drinks are popular too. Taya Ukraine has a bit of an explanation of contemporary caffeine culture in Ukraine from Jan 2020 (the before times!). Those seasonal winter coffee and mulled wine stalls look really lovely.

There’s also a lot of herbal teas drunk in Ukraine, including made from local ingredients. I picked up a few from imports from Lakomka Deli – really just picking ones at random from Ukraine that look interested. Let’s see what I got!

Chicory with rosehip – Roasted chicory root has been used as a coffee substitute for centuries – the taste is similar, though there’s no caffeine. I’ve had it blended with coffee before (makes a nuttier coffee) but this is straight chicory, with some rosehip in it. I’m having it black – it tastes like a lighter coffee, with a bit of a citrusy tang from the rosehip. It’s quite pleasant, and nice for coffee flavour in the evenings.

Naturalis Uro-Natur – Meant to be good for your urinary system, this herbal tea is a mix of birch and bearberry leaves, knotweed, nettle, yarrow, and a bit of green tea in for good measure. Birch grows all over the northern hemisphere, and can be tapped like maple trees. I’ve had birch syrup and birch water, but I’ve never tried the leaves for tea. Very mild tasting tea, slightly bitter and herbal, but doesn’t taste like much. Birch leaves do have a long history as part of traditional medicine, as it can be a diuretic (hence the brand) and contains a mild amount of salicylates, which are a precursor to painkillers like aspirin.

Naturalis Seagull – Why seagull? No idea, it’s not a translation error, there’s one also on the box. It’s a herbal tea violet, licorice, and marshmallow root, plus some eucalyptus and chamomile, with another dusting of green tea. It’s very nice, the licorice and eucalyptus gives it a stronger, slightly medicinal taste but in a good way. Some brief googling shows that sometimes violet roots are edible and sometimes …poisonous? These ones are fine, though!

Liktravy Pine Buds – A lot of people aren’t aware that conifers are edible – and tasty! You can make tea year-round from the needles of almost all species of pine, spruce, and fir (not yew or hemlock, though, so make sure to ID correctly) and even eat the needle shoots raw in the early spring. This tea made from the buds of a Scotch Pine, which grows in Eurasia and is invasive in Canada. The buds take a while to steep, but they release this wonderful strong pine resin flavour. I absolutely love this, it’s like a walk in the woods in a cup. I think once I’m done this box, I’ll do my civic duty to stop invasive species by pilfering more buds from the woods.

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