Historically, the main beverages in Setomaa have been water, taar (kvass), herbal tea and birch sap. Taar was however the most widespread drink. It is made from sourdough rye bread or fermented birch sap, or from other sour-tasting juices.
Birch sap was fermented into a sour-tasting beverage and kept in a cool place. Fresh milk was drunk rarely; fermented milk was more common as a drink.
Tea was brewed from a number of different plants such as lingonberry stems, chamomile, linden blossoms, St. John’s wort, cowslip, caraway seeds, wild thyme etc. Coffee – primarily chicory – was introduced later.
At celebrations, home-brewed beer and vodka was served. However, beer-drinking is a relatively recent phenomenon in Setomaa. In earlier times, people favoured an alcoholic version taar. In Setomaa, homemade spirits go by the name hans´a, hansa or handsa. The beverage is made from rye flour or the blend of rye and wheat. Handsa is quite potent, about 60‒70% alcohol. Handsa is twice-distilled for purity, to remove undesired tastes and oils. Some master distillers age handsa in oak barrels, imparting a nice brownish tone and a subtle flavour.