German tea culture

Imagine a coldish day in spring, the sky more grey than anything blue. The wind blows slightly and a crisp breeze tickles your nose. Luckily you are welcomed into a friend’s home and greeted with a table, set with fine porcelain and a freshly brewed pot of black tea. Your friend gently places a diamond-like piece of sugar in each of your cups and serves that strong steep carefully on top of it. A little spoon of cream is smoothly added onto the tea as the final step, none of it will be stirred. Finally, you hold that cup full of warmth and hospitality in your hands, ready to be enjoyed layer by layer. Suddenly, the sky isn’t that dull anymore and all chills are gone...

This act of hospitality is quite common, maybe even unique to a small coastal area in northern Germany, East Frisia. The Frisian community created and preserved Germany’s only true tea culture until today. In the mids of the 17th-century tea made its way from the Netherlands to East Frisia for the first time and won over the locals rather quickly. The tea which arrived in the ports usually was assorted of black teas from India and Sri Lanka. That’s why even today a real East Frisian Blend consists mostly of strong, robust Assam and sometimes Ceylon tea.

Over time German tea culture had to face some struggles: Drinking tea was forbidden at one point and another by king Friedrich II and then tea was also hard to get hands-on all along the Continental Blockade of Napoleon Bonaparte’s foreign policy and both World Wars. But those events only amplified the need for tea by the Frisian and the creativity to get it into their country. The fact that the Netherlands have already been confronted with an embargo by the Brits in 1780 may lay the foundation of these successful smuggling activities, as nearly 300 dutch ships sailed under an East Frisian flag at that time. From a greater perspective, this even started the first centre for tea trading in Germany, which produced a lot of companies and brands still existing in the present day.

Drinking tea isn't as popular in the rest of Germany as it is in East Frisia. In 2016 Frisian people consumed more tea per person than anywhere else in the world; which in figures means 300 litres of their very own black tea concoction per tea enthusiast.

If you want to get a taste of East Frisia you only need a few things: A voluminous serving pot in which the tea is also brewed, a teapot warmer (a “Stövchen” in German), cups of course and the perfect blend of black tea, as well some cream and white rock sugar. At P & T our Dark & Stormy N°521 has a great body and bold flavour. It is an ode to East Frisian tea culture and holds up beautifully when combined with sugar and cream. Dark & Stormy is made from various Assam teas to ensure malty and astringent notes with a subtle smokiness. 

The brewed tea is poured into your cup on top of a “kluntje”, which means a generously sized piece of white rock sugar in the Frisian dialect. If the tea is hot enough, you will notice a cracking noise as the sugar breaks. For the full Frisian fantasy, our Kluntje provides the rockiest of rock sugars. The same piece of sugar will be used for the following pours and slowly dissolve cup by cup. As a last embellishment and necessity, cream is laid kindly into the cup and eventually creates a perfect little cloud, a “wulkje”. This unique set up creates different gustatory levels. At first, you experience a brightened black tea flavour with a smooth and luscious mouthfeel, slowly supplanted by the rich aroma of the blended black tea. And with the last sips, your tongue is hit with a sugary sweetness tapering the bold Assam flavour. Time for a second round and third or until your teapot is emptied.

Looking at German tea culture from another angle and taking the term tea afar from its correlation to the tea plant, one would say that Germans are great tea drinkers. They like their infusions with all sorts of greenery, fruits and flowers. Herbal tea is so common and popular that you’ll probably get one subscribed by your doctor at one point in your life. The use and also cultivation of herbs in Germany is documented as early as 800 AD. One intriguing person to be named here is Hildegard von Bingen, who produced numerous works amidst the 2th-century concentrating on the effect that medicinal plants have on the human body and mind. The apothecary use of pharmaceutic botany is still reflected in German “tea” culture today, as a lot of infusions and blends are focussed on effect rather than flavour. In other words, there is a perfect herbal tea for every occasion.

Out of all of them, peppermint tea is the most consumed concoction among the Germans. The mint plant has more than one variety which, not only flourishes in local gardens and most areas in Germany, is also to be found worldwide. A classic mint infusion has a lot of benefits for our body. It boosts your metabolism, has antimicrobial properties and helps to ease the mind. Our Moroccan Mint N°804 is no exception here. Made from organic spearmint the flavour of this herbal is much more rounded with a subtle sweetness and tang. This steep feels cool and refreshing on your palate and so will you after you enjoyed a cup of it.

Another herbal you find in most German households is chamomile tea. This well-known plant soothes upset stomachs and minds. In P & T’s Golden Chamomile N°813 you will discover only the entire blossoms and buds of this medicinal plant, contributing to a smooth steep of a golden yellow hue. This organic herbal is perfect to calm anxieties and any unease in your body. 

If you seek something more invigorating, yet gentle, a herbal blend with fruit may do the trick. A combination of linden tree blossoms, elderflower, lemon myrtle and sunflower petals, as well as bits of apple, makes up our happy and healthy Unter Den Linden N°818. The floral herbs used in this Master Blend have a positive effect on your body’s water balance, which produces a great beverage to be enjoyed all year round, hot or cold.

Apples are not the only fruit that is commonly processed for infusions. In fact, local plants and their fruiting bodies found their way into tea-like preparations ever since but especially during times of crisis, when coffee and tea were hard to get. Since the 1950s fruit blends have gained popularity and become a favoured drink considering they’re low-calorie and much milder compared to fruit juices without lacking any flavour. With our Berry Pomp N°819 we present a flamboyant, caffeine-free fruit tea made of dark berries and delicate flowers. Each cup of this P & T  Master Blend bursts with flavour and will surely put a smile on your face - not only because all ingredients are organic.

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