Posted in Kafevend Blog

Tea time in East Frisia

Earlier this spring we took you on a tour of the Japanese tea ceremony. Of course, not every tea ceremony is quite that intricate or time consuming. It's one of the simpler varieties that we're going to be looking at today, and it's found in a region of Germany.

East Frisia

Germany as a whole isn't known for being a great fan base of tea. There's a reason for that- it isn't! However, up in its north western corner is the region of East Frisia where tea is even more popular than here in the UK or over in Ireland. So, when did tea make its debut in that part of the world? If we point out that while East Frisia is part of Germany, West Frisia is part of the Netherlands, any regular visitors to the Kafevend blog will immediately put two and two together and correctly surmise that tea was introduced to the East Frisians by the Dutch, or more specifically by the Dutch East India Company.

Once tea had made its debut there, it gradually began to increase in popularity until it had surpassed beer as the premier drink. Then, when coffee became the drink of choice in the rest of Germany during the 1800s, East Frisians remained loyal to tea. During the Second World War, when tea was rationed in Germany, the people of East Frisia were even allocated extra rations.

Tea time

As one might expect in a region fully committed to tea drinking, a ceremony has grown up around it. Local tea blends contain plenty of Assam and the region's water is very soft, meaning that tea can be brewed for several minutes without causing the scum associated with tea brewed in hard water. Boiling water is first poured into the teapot so that it covers the loose tea and left to brew for at least three minutes, then the pot is topped up with more hot water. As an alternative to a tea cosy, the teapot is placed on top of a stövchen, which is basically a teapot warmer with a recess for a tealight; it's the heat from the candle that keeps the tea warm. This is an important feature as the East Frisian tea ceremony tends to involve drinking at least three cups.

Before the tea is poured, a kluntjes (lump of rock sugar) is placed in the bottom of each cup; traditionally, the cups are often decorated with an East Frisian rose. Then, once the tea has been poured over the kluntjes via a tea strainer, a rohmlepel (cream spoon) is used to carefully add cream which spreads like a cloud over the top. The spoon isn't used for stirring; instead it's a triple layered drink, first a smooth, creamy layer, next a strong hit of tea, followed by the sweetness at the bottom. As the tea isn't stirred the hard sugar crystal at the bottom acts as a sweetener for successive cups. The spoon is placed in the cup to let the host know when you've had your fill.

It's possible to buy East Frisian tea blends online, but if your area has hard water it's unlikely to do it proper justice. If you ever get the opportunity to partake of the Frisian tea ceremony in East Frisia itself you might want to include a visit to the town of Norden, home to the East Frisian Tea Museum and the perfect place to soak up the region's tea heritage.


East Frisian tea
German tea culture

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