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Estonian distiller to make tonic water from town’s Christmas tree

An Estonian distiller will turn a local town’s Christmas tree into tonic water – the latest move in an industry-wide effort to reduce usable waste.

The 55-foot festive spruce has been on display in the town of Kuressaare, on Estonia’s western island of Saaremaa, for the past two months. Now the local distiller Lahhentagge, which is also based on the island, will use the tree’s needles and branches throughout 2019 to make its spruce and cardamom tonic water, first launched last June.

It’s a similar scheme to the Dutch brewer Lowlander, which FoodBev revealed yesterday was turning discarded Christmas trees into its Winter IPA.

Company founder Maarit Pöör said: “We had been thinking about the dried Christmas trees for quite a while when I had the Eureka moment: the town’s Christmas tree is big enough and stays outside in the cold, so it does not dry. We are lucky enough to live in a place where they leap at ideas that might seem totally crazy at first.

“Taking into account the minerals and the vitamins that you can find in a spruce tree, and the number of spruce trees that are cut every Christmas, this is a massive opportunity.”

Lahhentagge calls itself one of the few local tonic makers in Estonia. As well as providing a much-needed ingredient for its spruce and cardamom tonic, the company’s latest initiative also proffers a novel solution – in the same spirit as ‘wonky’ beverage brands like Dash Water – to the vast quantity of Christmas trees discarded every year worldwide.

In the US alone, estimates suggest that between 25 million and 30 million real trees are bought each year.

The Christmas tree tradition runs deep in Estonia, which was the first place in the world to put up a public Christmas tree back in 1441.

Madis Kallas, the mayor of Kuressaare, said: “For the first time the journey for Kuressaare’s Christmas tree will continue beyond the holidays, as it becomes part of a local product and reaches many more people.

“The product has a unique and far-reaching story, telling us about a spruce tree grown on a green island, about Christmas magic in the central square of the town, and about a wish to give the tree a new circle of life.”

As well as the tonic water, Lahhentagge also distils a dry gin to go with it, using herbs and roots handpicked from around Saaremaa’s coastline. The gin is described as “fragrant and smooth, while being bracing and rich in flavour”.




 

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