Inside Estonia’s Artisan Cider Scene
This tiny Baltic country has eyes towards the future. In this case, choosing cider over traditional wine and vodka.
Strategically located at the crossroads of Scandinavia, Central Europe, and Russia, Estonia is the northern gateway to the Baltic countries. A region that fuses tradition and modernity, it’s known for its technological prowess; Estonia the first to implement online voting in 2005, and now home to tech start-ups ranging from Skype to TransferWise.
The tiny Baltic enclave has also gained a reputation for its quirky character, with a mother-tongue so complex it inspired the Dothraki language. Influenced by the style of its Scandinavian neighbors, a legacy of brutalist and socialist architecture left by prolonged Soviet occupation, and a global perspective fueled by inclusion in the European Union—Estonians are a true European hybrid; Tallinn one of the continent’s most exciting capitals.
When I visited the city recently, I was seduced by its beauty and chicness, not to mention its relative calm (“why isn’t the capital swarmed with tourists?”) and people’s warmth despite subzero temperatures. I was also surprised that most bars and restaurants, in addition to staples of vodka and the traditional Vana Tallinn liqueur, offered a comprehensive assortment of craft ciders; great news for those with gluten allergies or locals merely seeking a fruity, refreshing alternative to heavier beers and spirits.
In the old town and newer districts of Kalamaja and Telliskivi, decaying factories were in recent decades converted into artisanal ateliers (like the excellent Tali design shop). Meanwhile, boho boutiques like Jooks Bikes delight and cultural institutions like the Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center are leading a cultural charge. Among this thriving area, there’s a nascent cider scene that’s taking the city by storm.