Package type: half day
Season: January – December
For whom: groups (min. 10 – max. 20 pers.)
Services included: workshops
Duration of the programme: 3 hours
Type of transport: tour bus
Public transportation: bus Tartu-Varnja


Address: Samovarimaja (Samovar House), Kesk 21, Varnja, Peipsiääre vald, Tartumaa
Distance from the capital: Tallinn 220 km
Hosts: Ms. Herling Mesi
T.:  +372 518 1125

This area has been populated for 350 years by Russian Old Believers – orthodox Christians who fled from Russia due to persecution. Today the area surprises with its authentic customs and traditions, one of the most important of which is tea drinking. Traditional samovar, a predecessor of the modern kettle, is used to brew and serve tea. Tea rituals take time, so people slow down, sit back, enjoy company, and have a chat. Making tea in samovar is a social event.

The hostess, Herling Mesi, moved from Estonia’s capital Tallinn to this remote area of Lake Peipsi shore, 45km from Tartu, Estonia’s second largest city. She got fascinated by the local lifestyle, learned a lot about Russian Old Believers everyday life and now shares it enthusiastically with her guests. She has collected more than 100 samovars that are exhibited in a special building – the Samovar House.

The Mesi family offers visitors an experience of the lifestyle of the local Russian Old Believers. In the workshop guests learn about local tea drinking history, how a samovar works, the sizes and the shapes of samovars, and they can enjoy the very special Ivan’s tea made from Fireweed. Guests can also learn how to decorate the traditional gingerbread that goes with the tea. The workshop has an EHE (Genuine and Interesting Estonia) ecotourism quality label for maintaining authentic traditions, skills and atmosphere.

  • Arrival and welcome. The hostess gives a guided Samovar House tour.
  • Samovar and Ivan Chai workshop. In the workshop, the hostess guides her guests through the process – starting the samovar, finding out how fast the samovar starts boiling the water and how to actually make tea. While drinking tea with her guests, she will talk about the history of Ivan Chai – Ivan’s tea, why it has that name and why not many people know about this tea anymore. Depending on the season (end of June to beginning of August), guests can learn outdoors about the tea plant Fireweed, pick the leaves and learn about how to prepare the leaves for Ivan’s tea.
  • Gingerbread decorating workshop. The second part of the day is dedicated to decorating the local specialty gingerbread that is traditionally on the tea table. The best Estonian gingerbread master from the neighbouring Kolkja village will come to the Samovar House to teach the technology and secrets of grandmothers.  Guests will decorate the gingerbread and take it with them as a souvenir.