Estonian Blue Tea

The tea in my cup was bright blue. The friend who gave me a herbal mixture for what she called “Estonian Blue Lagoon Tea” promised lots of color, but I still didn’t expect a shade of aquamarine. The taste was refreshing and minty, perfect as both a cooling summer drink and a morning pick me up. I wondered what the famous devotee of herbal teas, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, would make of it. What was this mysterious blue herb?

blue-mallow-tea

Poirot’s detective skills weren’t needed to discover that Estonian tea, or more properly tisane, since it contains no true tea leaves, is made of blue mallow or hollyhock. It’s the same plant that the Roman scholar Pliny recommended for so many ailments that it became known as an omnimorbia, or cure-all, while the feisty Japanese lady-in-waiting Sei Shonagon found its beautiful flowers most unsuitable if worn in frizzled hair. All of this only added to the appeal of my Estonian discovery, which I loved as much for its gorgeous color as its soft floral taste.

During my visit to Estonia, I stocked up on several packages of Blue Lagoon tea made by a local company, Põhjala Teetalu, but upon my return to Brussels, I found blue mallow, malva sylvestris, at most organic food shops and herboristeries.  A quick Google search turned up a number of US sites offering this herb such as my all time favorite Mountain Rose Herbs. As in Roman times, mallow remains a popular herb for tisanes and herbal blends. If you want a vivid hue, look for blue mallow specifically.

blue mallow

The flavor of mallow is delicate and floral, and Põhjala Teetalu added a generous dose of mint to give their tisane a bright, crisp taste.  When I replicated the recipe, I settled on a proportion of 1 cup of dried blue mallow to 1/4 cup of dried mint. Use about 2 teaspoons of herbal mixture for every 2 cups (500 ml) of water. Crumble the petals into hot water. Infuse the herbal mixture in hot water at 90°c (194°F) to 95°c (203°F) for 2 to 4 minutes. You can add more blue mallow for a richer blue shade.

If you would like to give your Estonian Lagoon tea a Moroccan flavor, add 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water. If you prefer your lagoon to be pink colored, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice and watch the blue change into fuchsia. The mixture can be brewed two or three times–increase steeping time for additional infusions, but the color won’t be as saturated.

blue-morningblue mallow tea1

I usually avoid caffeinated tea and coffee in the evening, but I love to curl up with a book and a cup of something warm and fragrant after dinner. Which is why I follow Poirot’s example with tisanes.  I haven’t ascertained if they indeed improve the functioning of my grey cells, but they taste wonderful, and this is all that matters. So do excuse me as I take a break for “my tisane, if you please.”

Extra: a selection of my other favorite Tisane Recipes

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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78 Comments

  • Sandra: I love tea!
    This color is amazing-thank you for sharing.
    This morning I am drinking MF Paris Breakfast.
    Since your article on orange blossom water awhile back I have been added that to many of my teas or plain hot water.
    Thanks for the inspiration. September 25, 2015 at 7:29am Reply

    • Victoria: Cafe blanc, water with orange blossom, is one of my favorite drinks. In the summer, a cold version is good, too. I’m very glad that you like it. September 25, 2015 at 11:49am Reply

  • Danaki: How gorgeous! I too try and live according to Hercule Poirot’s principles 😉

    Any way I can get this tea in the UK? September 25, 2015 at 7:31am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 I don’t have know how many times I have re-read some of my favorite Poirot mysteries.

      This tea seems to be sold only in Estonia, but really, it’s not a hard blend to put together–blue mallow and mint. I’d do a google search within the UK region to see which stores sell this herb. September 25, 2015 at 11:48am Reply

  • Mario: Lovely and refreshing article. September 25, 2015 at 8:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Mario! September 25, 2015 at 11:46am Reply

  • Andy: So beautiful! I’ve never had blue mallow tea, but the hue reminds me of a particular herbal tisane that comes from a plant by the name of butterfly pea flower (Clitoria ternatea). The first time I drank/saw that tea, I simply didn’t believe the color was natural! Truly amazing stuff, those anthocyanins! 🙂 September 25, 2015 at 8:36am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, they are! Amazing compounds, and you can play with shades so easily by adding something acidic like lemon. It’s similar with purple basil. If you just brew it on its own, the color is inky blue, but once you add lemon, it turns a beautiful pink shade.

      In Malaysia, I tried a dish of rice cooked with butterfly pea flowers, and it was indeed vivid blue. The dish is called nasi kerabu. I brought back a packet of these flowers and tried making the rice myself. The shade is so beautiful, and it stays bright even after cooking. September 25, 2015 at 11:45am Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: I enjoyed reading this! I am drinking my usual Chai Green Tea. September 25, 2015 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: What kind of spices does your green tea have? September 25, 2015 at 11:42am Reply

  • key change: Loved reading this! any way we can order this tea online? I am not very good at making stuff myself! September 25, 2015 at 9:18am Reply

    • Victoria: The tea is really nothing more than blue mallow and mint, and it’s going to be much easier just to buy some dried blue mallow than to try tracking down this Estonian tea brand. From what I understand, it’s not sold outside of Estonia. Blue mallow, on the other hand, is fairly common and inexpensive. September 25, 2015 at 11:41am Reply

  • Scented Salon: A gorgeous blue tea, my very favorite color, and Poirot. Victoria, you are so attuned to our favorite things. I must get my hands on this immediately. September 25, 2015 at 9:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Whenever I make tisanes, I think of Poirot saying to Miss Lemon, “and now my tisane, if you please.” 🙂

      I even discovered blue mallow in my grandmother’s herbal cupboard. It’s supposed to be good if you have a cold, but in that case, it’s combined with a few other herbs, and its color is diluted. It’s much more striking on its own. September 25, 2015 at 11:39am Reply

      • Scented Salon: I would switch to tisanes just to be like Poirot but I love black tea too much. Now, thanks to you, I will definitely add blue tisanes to my daily routine. September 25, 2015 at 11:44am Reply

        • Victoria: I also love my black and green teas too much, and since my mornings start at 6am, I need a bit of caffeine to get my grey cells going. Otherwise, tisanes are perfect. I have more than a dozen different kinds that I alternate. September 25, 2015 at 11:51am Reply

          • Scented Salon: My staple tea is a mix of Sadaf cardamom and Earl Grey. Then I drink a lot of different flavored Dogan teas: the blueberry and red berry are great with sugar. I also enjoy the very expensive Teavana teas in moderation: Singapore Sling is a mix of pineapple and other fruits with rooibos (and smells exactly like Dior Poison) and the limited edition Strawberry Creme is a dark red strawberry with a creamy feel.

            I have been wanting to try famous French teas like Mariage Freres but have not. Guerlain has teas that sorta match their perfumes but the one I wanted was sold out so I did not try them.

            As far as green tea, I am not a big fan, pretty much sticking to Japanese matcha. September 25, 2015 at 12:55pm Reply

            • Victoria: I’m not sure if Guerlain teas, apart from Shalimar, are worth their high price tags. For the same amount of money, you get several amazing blends from other renowned importers. I’ve sampled most of them at the cafe on premises, but Shalimar is the only one I’ve repurchased.

              Mariage Freres has excellent flavors! September 26, 2015 at 11:07am Reply

              • Scented Salon: I was going to get the Winter tea or the Petite Robe because it had a raspberry smell but they were out of both of them.

                I ordered a set of gourmand teas from Palais de Thes. I can’t wait to get them. Mariage Freres is next on my list. September 26, 2015 at 1:53pm Reply

                • Victoria: La Petite Robe Noire tea did taste like a raspberry macaron. So, if you don’t mind a sweet flavor, you might enjoy it. I haven’t tried the Winter Tea yet. September 28, 2015 at 2:56am Reply

  • Kat: Tea and famous detectives – wonderful combination. And of course I have to mention Mma Precious Ramotswe who hooked me on Roiboos for life. Last winter someone gave me a beautiful tin with vanilla flavored Roiboos. I kept in storage during summer but now with the arrival of autumn I think I’ll treat myself again! September 25, 2015 at 9:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Roiboos and vanilla is a wonderful combination. Le Palais des Thes has a version flavored with vanilla and almonds, and it’s almost like a dessert. September 25, 2015 at 11:36am Reply

  • Solanace: Having such things to look after on our random walks makes the world bigger, on a fractal way. Thank’so. September 25, 2015 at 10:14am Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t agree more! Little things like this make a big difference. September 25, 2015 at 11:35am Reply

  • Lucretia Trollope: Awwww!!! So sweet! I am more of an English breakfast tea girl. But I am so intrigued by your aquamarine hued tea. Love. September 25, 2015 at 10:42am Reply

    • Lucretia Trollope: And oh I used to read Christie in my childhood. My favorites: Endless Night; And Then There were none. Wikipedia describes both as “nihilistic”. What utter bollocks. They are spine-tingling. September 25, 2015 at 10:46am Reply

      • Victoria: I was just watching Endless Night on Youtube during my lunch break! The film version is not nearly as good as the novel, but it was still spine-tingling. September 25, 2015 at 11:34am Reply

    • Victoria: I love blue color, and this shade is so pretty. When you make a light infusion, you get a topaz. Go stronger and you’ll end up with sapphires. It’s just enchanting. September 25, 2015 at 11:35am Reply

  • limegreen: Such a beautiful color, I can only imagine how fragrant it must smell! It has inspired me to take out my “blue tea” frosted bottle of Thé Bleu for a spin. September 25, 2015 at 11:43am Reply

    • Victoria: It smells mostly mint, since mallow on its own is mild. But dried mint has such a great scent. And with some orange blossom water or even rosewater, it can be its own perfume.

      The color of The Bleu bottle is exactly the shade of this tea, come to think of it. September 25, 2015 at 11:50am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: How wonderful. I must try to find these blue petals. And on black tea: I really enjoy Kusmi’s delicately flavoured violet tea. It’s as delicious as a Kir with a drop of violet liqueur… September 25, 2015 at 12:41pm Reply

    • Annikky: The black one? I love it, too. And Mariage Freres has a green one called Iskandar, also good. September 25, 2015 at 2:18pm Reply

      • OnWingsofSaffron: Yes, it’s black Chinese tea and comes in — what else? — a violet coloured tin: quite wonderful. And their Detox tisane with maté and green tea flavoured with grapefruit is Pampleune in a tea cup … (BTW, I do not work for them 😉 September 25, 2015 at 3:38pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’ve disregarded the Detox tisane, because the name seemed silly to me, but you’ve made me reconsider. September 26, 2015 at 11:40am Reply

      • Victoria: Thank you! Iskandar is so good. I wouldn’t have tried it if it weren’t for you. September 26, 2015 at 11:34am Reply

    • Victoria: I like Kusmi’s violet tea too, and that tin alone is worth the purchase. Have you tried Zubrowka? I know that I can get the same result with another black tea and tonka bean, but I still like Kusmi’s version. September 26, 2015 at 10:46am Reply

      • WingsOfSaffron: Yes, indeed, I know it. And you know what: I never made the link from bison grass or sweet grass to tonka bean. I adore these associations and sensual links! It reminds me of that other association—did I read it on your blog, I’m sure I did?—on the similarity between fig and coconut. September 27, 2015 at 4:25am Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, the link are the lactones, and figs are especially rich in them when they’re green. When they ripen, other aromatics dominate, but if you cut open unripe fig, you get a strong scent of milky lactones and green, leafy notes. A perfume in its own right. September 28, 2015 at 3:02am Reply

  • Lucy: What a lovely post. Inspired me to search out this blue tea, and it seems to have beneficial qualities too. September 25, 2015 at 1:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: And delicious! But the color is my favorite part. September 26, 2015 at 11:07am Reply

  • rickyrebarco: This tea sounds wonderful and it is so beautiful. I must get some of these lovely flowers and make my own tea. I’ve always wanted to go to Estonia and Latvia, too. Now I really want to go if they have food as fabulous as this lovely blue tea… Thanks for sharing. I love your tea, food and spice notes that you share with us. Much appreciated! September 25, 2015 at 1:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve only been to Estonia, but Latvia and Lithuania are on my list to visit. Food in Tallinn was great. It was fairly simple–fish, potatoes, rye bread, but everything was impeccably fresh and cooked to order. Dill ice cream was another favorite discovery as was Roosamanna or semolina mousse with lingonberry juice. It’s interesting and rewarding to discover these smaller countries, because they have such a rich cultural heritage. September 26, 2015 at 11:29am Reply

      • Scented Salon: Latvia has some beautiful old buildings like most of Europe and wonderful nature. You can buy freshly picked berries and mushrooms on the street or the bazaar.

        I know their shopping is quite good but I am not sure of the food and culture. September 26, 2015 at 2:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: My mom remembers lots of Art Noveau architecture, something I like very much.

          In Tallinn’s markets I saw berries and mushrooms too, and I even brought some back with me. Unfortunately, we weren’t there for the cloudberry season, and that’s one of the most intriguing flavors. A northern berry with a tropical taste. September 28, 2015 at 2:58am Reply

  • Claire: I look forward to making my own Blue tea with Blu Mallow and mint. The color of this tea is really remarkable! I love tea, especially once the weather cools. I almost always have a cup sometime after dinner and always at bedtime. I find herbal teas are a more flavorful way to keep hydrated when cold water just doesn’t appeal. My favorites are Traditional Medicinal’s Eater’s Digest, a wonderful, soothing mint blend; and Yogi Chai Rooibos when I want something with more heft. September 25, 2015 at 2:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: I remember Yogi Chai blend with almonds. I must have drank gallons of it as a college student. 🙂 September 26, 2015 at 11:30am Reply

  • Annikky: Thank you for this post, Victoria. I know it has been said many times before, but you do have a wonderful talent for turning a cup of tea (or anything else) into a beautiful adventure.

    I was quite stunned by this tea as well, the first time I tried it. I’d be curious to try a blue mallow-only version. September 25, 2015 at 2:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for a nice compliment, Annikky. The mallow only version is pretty mild, so an addition of mint makes a nice difference. I have a feeling that you can play with other herbs too, but I’m very happy with the Pohjala Teetalu’s minty touch, and that’s how I make my own blend. September 26, 2015 at 11:33am Reply

  • Toni: What a wonderful post. I’m overwhelmed by all of your articles. I look forward to these every day . . . and I do have things to do! I never heard of blue tea, but I’m now ready to try the tisanes. My favorite tea shop is Spicely Organic in San Francisco.
    I discovered it on my self guided chocolate tour. Mayan pepper chai chocolate is delicious. And now for afternoon tea! September 25, 2015 at 2:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Toni. A self-guide chocolate tour sounds wonderful, and I will have to look for the store when I visit SF. The idea of chocolate, spices and pepper sounds very good. September 26, 2015 at 11:35am Reply

  • Aurora: The photos are a symphony in blue, thank you Victoria for making me discover this tisane, I’ll try to get the ingredients here in the UK. When I want something pretty and refreshing in a soothing way I use hibiscus, which I discovered as a teenager in Portugal.

    Wouldn’t it be fun if Guerlain followed Bulgari’s example and change the hue of L’Heure Bleue? And while they are at it reverted to a less cotton candy, puff like formulation – although by no means bad, it’s lost its mystery, this is what I feel every time I smell my current bottle side to side with the parfum de toilette I have. September 25, 2015 at 2:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love hibiscus too, and it’s great either hot or cold. I’ve learned from a Mexican friend to infuse it in cold water overnight, and this makes for a really bright color (and smoother flavor), but you need more hibiscus than you’d use with the usual hot infusion.

      I agree, it would be striking! The only thing is that L’Heure Bleue is hard to color. The shade of the juice is yellow, and if you add anything blue, it turns into a very unattractive greenish shade. I think they’ve tried to do it with some of the flankers, like L’Heure de Nuit. But of course, it’s not L’Heure Bleue. September 26, 2015 at 11:39am Reply

  • Karen: Too fun! I am inspired to find some dried mallow flowers, I used to grow lots but haven’t for a few years – a good reason to plant some seeds next spring. September 25, 2015 at 3:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: They’re beautiful plants. My MIL grows some impressively large specimens. I’m not sure if all mallows are good for teas, but all have beautiful flowers. September 26, 2015 at 11:39am Reply

  • AndreaR: Love tea, tisane, Hercule Poirot and Precious Ramotswe. At the moment I am brewing a pot of tea I bought in Iceland. It has birch bark and moss in it. Don’t know what else because I lost the label. It’s quite cozy. Always fun to try something new and this gorgeous tea from Estonia is on my “to taste” list. September 25, 2015 at 7:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: Wow! This Icelandic tea with moss and birch bark sounds fascinating. September 26, 2015 at 11:44am Reply

      • AndreaR: I had Icelandic rye bread( yum) and this moss and birch bark tea for breakfast at Cafe Loki in Reykjavik. It’s difficult for me to describe the tea, but it was a scented and tangible memory of Iceland. We would go back in a flash! September 26, 2015 at 10:31pm Reply

        • Victoria: Moss is also used as a spice in Indian cooking, and I’m smelling some right now and trying to imagine it in tea. But I’m sure the Icelandic moss must be a different variety. September 28, 2015 at 3:00am Reply

          • Lavanya: I had no idea what you were referring to when you said moss in Indian cooking. So I googled it..lol. Were you referring to dagad phool? I haven’t ever used it though, have you? Just realized you probably have since it is an ingredient of goda masala 🙂 September 28, 2015 at 5:38am Reply

            • Victoria: Yes, dagad phool. I used it in goda masala and in some specific blends for meat. When my husband’s aunt visited his family, she found some dagad phool on pine trees in the forest. My MIL was a bit apprehensive about cooking with it, although it looked exactly like the stuff I buy from the Indian stores. In India, it’s sold in huge heaps, and the smell is just wonderful (if you can smell through the fog of chili and cinnamon that usually overtakes the market lanes on a warm day).

              When I make goda masala, the roasting of moss is my favorite part. On the other hand, the recipe includes more than 20 spices, and I usually just wait till my MIL sends me a care package. 🙂 September 28, 2015 at 5:52am Reply

  • Lavanya: How beautiful. I’ve only come across a blue mallow face serum but never tea. What a gorgeous color! I will have to try this sometime and I love the idea of adding lemon juice and watching the liquid turn pink 🙂 September 25, 2015 at 8:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: Who makes the face serum? I understand that blue mallow is a very beneficial skincare ingredient, although I’m not sure exactly what it does. September 26, 2015 at 11:45am Reply

      • Lavanya: It’s a small company called garden of wisdom. According to their website, blue mallow is anti-inflammatory and soothing for irritated skin, with skin softening properties, great for dry/dehydrated skin etc. September 28, 2015 at 5:33am Reply

        • Victoria: Interesting! Maybe I should the the tea as a face toner. 🙂 September 28, 2015 at 5:43am Reply

  • Mer: I love tisanes and drink every day. I do also mix my own sometimes, but have never tried blue mallow, it sounds great, I’ll try to find some 🙂 September 27, 2015 at 5:41am Reply

    • Victoria: It was a discovery for me too. I like that the flavor is very delicate and you can play with other additions. September 28, 2015 at 3:04am Reply

  • Katherine: So inspiring and fun Victoria. I’m off to find mallow and mint to make some of this for my daughter and husband (they’re the two who love all kinds of tisane – mallow would be a first). I think they’ll be surprised and intrigued by the color 🙂 Thanks for your inspiration and finding little joys to share with us all… September 27, 2015 at 3:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! 🙂 Since we have many tea and tisane lovers here, I wanted to share this unusual blend ever since I came across it. Hope that you like it! September 28, 2015 at 3:06am Reply

  • Aisha: LOVE this post! The fact you mentioned Hercule Poirot made me smile, as I just finished a Poirot mystery. 🙂 I’m going to have to seek out the ingredients to make this tisane. September 29, 2015 at 10:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: Which mystery did you just finish? 🙂 September 30, 2015 at 11:48am Reply

      • Aisha: The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Her first Poirot. 🙂 September 30, 2015 at 12:02pm Reply

        • Victoria: One of my favorites! September 30, 2015 at 12:09pm Reply

  • cloudywings: love this !! never heard of blue mallow, but i’m from the region of the blue pea flower 🙂
    my current favourite teas are Marks & Spencer English mint & Strawberry which i think was a limited edition over summer (such a shame, hope it comes back !), and Pukka’s 3 tulsi tea. Some of my all-time favourites include mariage frères’ casablanca and thé sur le nil, as well as dammann frères’ jardin bleu. i’ve also been making my own combination of mint and rosella which is the only tea i drink cold. as for books, i also love Ms Christie’s poirot !! the ones i remember tend to have him enjoying hot chocolate in the mornings & a drop of “sirop” at other times.. October 2, 2015 at 12:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: Mariage Frères’s flavored blends are so good they could make wonderful perfumes. I need to try Thé sur le Nil at long last. Thank you for the reminder. October 2, 2015 at 2:51pm Reply

  • Neyon: How profoundly wonderful! It literally looks like a portion of turquoise sea with refreshing bits of algae floating around! October 20, 2015 at 6:13am Reply

  • Lisa: Hi Victoria, thank you so much for the tip! I just got my blue organic mallow tea from https://bluechai.com/shop/organic-blue-mallow-flower-tea/ and it’s so fabulous!! thank you!! July 20, 2017 at 5:11am Reply

    • Victoria: I bought from the same store in the past! July 21, 2017 at 7:21am Reply

      • Lisa: Oh coool, the world is ineed small! How did you like their tea? I just went back there to order another tube 😉 July 24, 2017 at 4:10am Reply

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