When you think of Crete, you may think of the incredible architecture, long history, and beautiful sights to see. But beyond what lies on the surface, the island of Crete is also a unique ecological phenomenon, with hundreds of types of flora, including herbs and other plants, growing across this one-of-a-kind location. One such plant is known locally as Malotira, tsai tou vounou, or Cretan Mountain Tea. With the Latin name of Sideritis syriaca, this brewed tea has been consumed by Cretan natives for generations, dating back to antiquity. What makes Malotira special, and why does it continue to form a staple of Crete hospitality and natural medicine? Read on to find out more about what Cretan Mountain Tea is, what it does, and why you should consider introducing it into your day-to-day routine:
What is Malotira?
Malotira is a plant within the Sideritis, or ironwort, family. Found in western Crete, and consumed both as a drink and as a medicine, Malotira has long been considered to have healing properties. The oil produced from Malotira is also rich in antibacterials and antioxidants. While the wild version of the Malotira plant is now rare, domestic versions of the plant continue to be farmed to this day, providing benefit to people from all over the world. These plants also have almost grey-green leaves and downy stems, and while they are rarer than they once were, they are still considered a delicacy in Crete and beyond.
Where does Sideritis Syriaca come from?
Sideritis plants exclusively grew wild on Crete’s beautiful mountain ranges. With the best growth between 800 and 2,000 metres above sea level, Cretans have long harvested and used Malotira plants in a range of recipes and medicinal applications. The White Mountains of Crete are where these unique, yellow-flowered plants are most abundant. As an endemic plant to the region, malotira harvesting and usage has been perfected over centuries. Sideritis syriaca plants were once considered a remedy for wounds caused by iron weapons in ancient times, proving just how long and interesting a history Malotira forms a part of.
How is it used?
Malotira has had many applications and purposes over the years, the primary of which is medicine. The European Medical Agency recognizes the Sideritis species as a natural treatment from gastrointestinal problems, colds with coughs, and any inflammation, and Cretan people have used this Mountain Tea for generations for these reasons. The word ‘Malotira’ itself originates from the Latin words ‘male’ and ‘tirade’, which means pushing away illness, proving just how powerful these small plants were considered to be. For medicinal purposes, Cretan Mountain Tea has been consumed as an enjoyable herbal tea for nearly as many years.
How is Cretan Mountain Tea grown?
Long ago, Cretan Mountain Tea was harvested from the wild on an as-needed basis. But as the benefits of this unique tea became known outside of western Crete, there was more of a need to cultivate and care for these unique plants. Like other Cretan herbs, a declining population due to overcrowding and human intervention means less to go around. Utilizing healthy Malotira populations, not over-farming, and drying and cleaning seeds ready to plant is an essential part of the process for Malotira farming. At Tofillo, that’s exactly what we do to ensure a thriving population of Malotira, we collected wild malotira seeds and started their cultivation in our organic farm located at Omalos plateau – allowing us to offer its incredible benefits to even more people without the risk of destroying existing populations.
What are the health benefits of Cretan Mountain Tea?
Malotira has a range of different medicinal benefits and properties, many of which were picked up in ancient times by Crete’s native population. The part of the Malotira plant that holds the most benefit is the dried flowers, which are used alongside other parts of the plant in healing teas. Not only is Malotira said to heal those suffering from heart issues and digestion problems, but it is also used to fight common colds, and even heal wounds. Antibacterial and antioxidant properties make Cretan Mountain Tea good for you whether you suffer from health problems or not. Often, Malotira is also combined with other herbs and ingredients that promote healing. Honey, for example, will help ease a sore throat if you have a cough. Dittany, sage, and marjoram are often used in Cretan Mountain Tea, providing flavor and additional benefit to the drinker. Overall, Malotira has shown evidence of helping strengthen the immune system – and with thousands of years of history in medicine, tsai tou vounou continues to be a favorite natural remedy for the people of Crete. While research is still underway, German researchers have discovered that Greek mountain teas, including Malotira, may positively affect the memory of individuals with dementia. This, combined with all the other benefits that this unique plant brings, makes it the ideal addition to a daily routine, or a worthwhile option for those considering herbal or natural medicinal treatments for the first time.
How can you get the benefits of Malotira?
As a herbal tea, Malotira is simply drunk in the same way you would drink any other herbal tea. That ease of use makes it the ideal choice to quickly improve the health and healing of those who want to get all the benefits of natural medicine. Cretan Mountain Tea is both an experience and natural medicine, providing benefits while also offering a delicious, unique herbal drink.
Cretan Mountain Tea at tofillo
At tofillo, we take our Cretan products seriously. We know and love the land and the herbs and plants that we use to create incredible products. If you’re interested in discovering Cretan Herbal Tea, our high-quality blends sourced from our own farms are the ideal way to get a taste of Cretan’s extensive and diverse history. Find out more about what we do by taking a look at our history now.