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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Estonia

Culinary Influences

Estonian food is based on the local rural diet, which was based on pork, whatever vegetables could be grown in Estonia's short growing season, particularly potatoes (after they were introduced), basic root vegetables, and hearty grains like barley and rye.

The Germans took over the region and spread their culinary influence on Estonia, but without much headway. Still today the Estonian diet is simple and has yet to introduce much international flair or exotic spices or ingredients.

Staple Foods

Leib: this local black bread is served with nearly every meal

Regional Variations & Specialties

Kotlet: ground beef (minced meat) patty with onions
Verivorst: blood sausage

Dining Etiquette

Estonian Food - Fish
Fish

To prepare for a meal with locals in Estonia, dress conservatively, bring a gift like chocolates, and arrive on time. Estonians are fairly private people so they will probably take you straight to their dining room without showing you any other part of their house. Instead of trying to look into adjoining rooms, offer to help your host prepare the meal, an offer which may be accepted.

As you sit down your host will show you your seat, but don't actually sit until everyone sits. The meal will typically consist of a number of dishes, like cold appetizers, a soup, and the main course, which is often served with bread. Eat in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left) and once finished, leave nothing on your plate. Conversation over a meal should be conservative like the dress; politics, business (even if at a business dinner), and any controversial subject is off limits.

When eating at a sit down restaurant with a server, you should round up or tip about 10% of the bill. In bars a tip is appreciated but not necessary.

Drinks

The most common non-alcoholic drinks in Estonia are milk and fruit drinks like juices, but all drinks are available including soft drinks, coffee, and tea.

Alcoholic drinks in Estonia include all the internationally popular drinks like beer and vodka, but also include some more unique beverages like kali, an alcohol fermented from rye bread crusts. However, nearly everywhere beer is the drink of choice, both local and imported beers. Wines and other alcoholic drinks are also available in the country, most of which are imported.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Estonia, but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: March, 2013