Hamburger Schietwetter

drinking tea in Hamburg (in the Schetwetter)

Upon arriving in Hamburg last week, it looked like it’d rain and rain for the entire trip. Luckily, the sun came out, but only for a little while.

One day the weather report said it’d be clear skies all day, so I didn’t even bother taking any rain gear as I left the flat in the early morning sunlight. A decision for which I paid dearly when the skies opened up only half an hour later.

No-one’s complaining, mind you. This is one of the most beautiful places in all of Germany and the best part of a day in Hamburg?

Unlike other parts of this coffee drinking land, people really drink tea here. It’s a passion even.

One of my closest friends who I met through Tea Trade is coming to town tomorrow. Xavier and I spent time together at New Year’s and now we’re going to explore the world of norddeutschen Tee.

I assure you – blogging about out adventures is imminent.

Hamburger Schietwetter? Well, this is Plattdeutsch, which is an old form of German (heavily influenced by Dutch and English, even) that the northerners used to speak.

Many associate Platt with the sailors, as well. My mother-in-law used to teach me phrases in Platt. Wish I could remember some of it.

Abwarten und Tee trinken

Did something a bit abnormal yesterday. Not that this’ll surprise many of you. I make a habit of the less-than-normal. It’s my usp (unique selling proposition)…if I have one.

Here’s the thing: I have a teablog. You’re looking at it. I write about tea and tea-related topics. That’s rather straightforward, isn’t it? I tend to think so.

In the past, the only blog I had was a teablog, and I often found myself talking about subjects that at first glance were distantly (if at all) related to tea. It’s still part of the enjoyment I have here. To come up with a topic far, far away from tea, and to somehow find a connection.

But now I have a NonTeablog (lahikmajoe’s general and rather abnormal blog). It’s great fun. I write about a variety of things and it’s a portfolio for when someone wants to see examples of my writing. I’ve made a concerted effort to not let the quality of my teablog deteriorate just because I’m writing over there, as well as other places. For the most part, I think I’ve been successful.

Although it must be said: the topics that earlier were creatively linked to tea normally find themselves on the NonTeablog. It’s sadly a more natural fit.

What was the abnormal thing I did yesterday? Well, a topic that most likely belongs on a teablog was somehow more appropriate over there. You don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself:

wait and drink tea

So I decided to pull it over here. Even the title is screaming out to be shared on a teablog. And I know just the one. This one…the very one you’re reading. Here’s how I described the German idiom that is ‘Abwarten und Tee trinken‘:

 

‘Literally it means ‘wait and drink tea‘. Yet as with most idioms, the literal definition is only part of the story. Wait and drink tea is used specifically when adding pressure to negotiations won’t help. When the best thing to do is to do nothing at all. So, you have to wait…and while waiting, why not brew some tea? It’ll at least make the wait a bit more pleasant.’

Not  a bad phrase, is it?

So what am I drinking right now while I wait? When I was at Laifufu Teesalon last weekend, I got this wonderful Taiwanese green tea called Bi Luo Chun (2011). Want to see the leaves? Here they are:

Bi Luo Chun green

How was it? How did it taste? A bit grassy…like a Japanese Sencha. But not too much. Very light, vegetal flavour that was terribly pleasing. Not all green tea will taste as good the second time around, but this Bi Luo Chun was as good if not better.

I know Ya Ya at Tea Trade got some of the same tea, and I’m curious what he has to say about it. The story of this specific tea’s picking and processing was really quite intriguing, but I think Ya Ya understood it better. I’ll leave it to him to explain it (only if he wants, of course).

Here I am savouring the second infusion of this delicious tea directly from Taiwan. I’m waiting and tea drinking. As is my wont.

some very exhausted green tea leaves

Searching for Tea in Berlin

holding my breath till I find good tea

Not sure how to break this to you, but I’ll pull the proverbial band-aid away: I found a really nice tea shop/tearoom in Berlin. If you’ve been following my travels, you know that my prospects were not looking good. My last post was written as politely as I could manage, but I doubt I’d recommend anyone go there. Perhaps only if you were to buy tea and take it home with you.

Tee Tea Thé in the early evening

I should say that I did find Tee Tea Thé (Goltzstraße 2, 10781 Berlin 030/21752240) in Berlin-Schöneberg the first evening I arrived. They sell a variety of tea brands including Ronnefeldt and Pure Tea, even Celestial Seasonings, as well as a handful of others.

the shelves at Tee Tea Thé

When I stayed in a nice hotel in Stuttgart, I thought a bit about Ronnefeldt Tee when I wrote In defence of a brand of teabags. Up until then, I’d only had the tea-bagged version, but here was row after row of this loose-leaf tea on offer.

Most German tea companies that’ve been around for more than a century are located in harbour cities such as Hamburg or Bremen. The fact that Ronnefeldt was founded in 1823 in Frankfurt am Main (far away from the coast) is both curious and impressive to me, and this brand appears to be the tea that many good hotels worldwide choose to serve. I’ve asked it before: How did that come about?

I’d certainly like to get to know this tea brand even better. Frankfurt’s not so far away. Maybe the next time I’m there, I’ll arrange to visit Ronnefeldt’s headquarters.


Was even more curious about Pure Tea. This was also a brand I’d heard of, but not yet tried. I like the concept of all pure, unadulturated tea, so I got a package of their White Downy Oolong Longkou. I brewed it as Gong Fu as I could in a conventional glass pot, but I can’t wait to get home and try it in my Gaiwan. Huge light brown and green leaves with plenty of white tips, this Oolong has a both vegetal notes, as well as a taste of honey.

Tee Tea Thé isn’t only a tea shop, though. It’s a proper tearoom, as well. Plenty of reading material strewn about and people either chatting or studying diligently. If I lived near here, I could see this place becoming my second living room.

Teehandelshaus Benjowski



If rare tea is your thing, you really should consider going to the northern side of Berlin. It’s a bit odd for me to recommend Teehandelshaus Benjowski (Danziger Straße 3, 10435 Berlin 030/4403 ext. 7571), since when I went to visit the shop, they’d already closed for the weekend.




Nevertheless, I’d heard so many good things. If one can tell anything from peering in the window right after closing time, I can assure you that they have an astonishing collection of Yixing teapots. Everyone I talked to about this shop said the selection of tea was similarly impressive. 

Berliner Teesalon
But the experience that saved my tea search in the German capital was the Berliner Teesalon (Invalidenstraße 160, 10115 Berlin 030/2804 ext. 0660). The people running this shop clearly know what they’re doing. It’s not only a tea shop with quite an unbelievable selection of loose-leaf tea, but there are tables and plush chairs where you can sit  and really savour your time drinking tea. It’s an incredibly inviting atmosphere, and had I not shown up there half an hour before closing time, I’m positive I could’ve sat there the better part of an afternoon.
There’s all of the typical tea you’d expect: a few nice Keemuns, quite a selection of both Chinese and Japanese green tea. Yunnans, Darjeelings, Ceylons and Assams…I could go on, but instead I’ll link to their website here, and you can go look for yourself. It’s quite a list.
the salon of Berliner Teesalon
It was when I started chatting with the young woman running the shop that I found out about the good stuff. I’m often looking for a good way to get deeper into Pu-erh, so imagine my delight when I happened upon their Pu-erh cabinet. Gorgeous stuff in there.
the bar at Berliner Teesalon

Partially because I wouldn’t shut up about my Taiwanese Oolong obsession, she also showed me some Lagertee (stored tea) that I desperately wanted to try. There was also talk of Oolongs grown in Thailand – this is something I’d like to learn more about. I’ve certainly heard/read about Thai Oolongs, but not yet tried any.

tea gear at the Berliner Teesalon
Looking back at what I’ve written so far, I don’t think I’ve done justice to Berliner Teesalon‘s Japanese green tea selection. It was notably extensive. There’s also plenty of tea gear if you want to get into Matcha. That in addition to Yixing teapots, as well as more conventional Western teapots and tea cups. If I had a tea shop/tearoom, I hope I’d have such a nice selection. I couldn’t recommend this place more highly.
Finally, after quite a bit of walking over the several days I was in Berlin, I saved the Tadschikische Teehaus  ‎for last (Am Festungsgraben 1, 10117 Berlin 030/2041112). It’s centrally located, but you’d never know it was there unless you were looking for it. You can find it inside the Palais am Festungsgraben right off of Unter den Linden  – just a few hundred metres from the Museum Insel.
in the Tadschikische Teehaus
Until you go up the staircase and locate the room outside the tearoom where everyone’s taken off and left their shoes – until then, you can’t actually believe there’s a place here to drink tea. But there really is. Please persevere in your search. Finding the Tadschikische Teehaus a nice reward. No idea how authentic it is, but to me it looks like what a tea house in Tajikistan might.
sipping at the samovar

Although they have several tables, be prepared to sit on pillows on the floor. The tea is not only served in an assortment of funky teapots,  I had the Lommonossow-Tee (something purportedly from the ‘eastern banks of the Black Sea‘), but you can also order what’s called a Russian Teezeremonie (tea ceremony), which appear to be not only tea served in a samovar, but a selection of delicious things to munch on. Actually, there was a full menu that I didn’t even glance at, but I’m sure I would check it out if I were in Berlin more often.
ahhh…hot, delicious tea

reunify around one sort of black tea blend


You know I can't let German Reunification Day go by without at least touching on it a little bit, right?  Those of you who read this blog even semi-regularly must've expected some mention of this one.

 

Not only is it a very important historical moment, but I have the day off tomorrow. I posted this on Sunday, but German Reunification Day is 3 October. 


‘Wait, you always have the day off.  Are you even employed?’, I hear you asking.


Definitely employed.  I’m so gainfully employed that I’m already relishing the wild and limitless impending celebrations.  Celebrations that every last German will be participating in with enthusiasm and fervour.  Well, maybe not.


Actually not at all.  Many Germans I talk to say they can’t imagine a Germany still divided.  But that doesn’t mean these Germans are actually celebrating reunification.  They’re speechless when they hear surveys cited where some former East Germans even say that they wish they could go back to the time of the Berlin Wall.


The response to this from the people who’ve been paying a Solidaritätszuschlag, which is a tax levied on many West Germans to help ease the transition of East Germany to a modern economy, is that it’d be nice to let those unhappy with the present situation go back to the old ways (if you really want to know more about this Solidarity surcharge, look at this Wikipedia article on Taxation in Germany).


But I’m getting far too deep into history and/or politics for a teablog.  My obvious question is:


What tea does one drink for German Reunification Day?


I refer you to my middle of the road blend post from the summer.  The perfect tea for bothEast and West Germany is an Ostfriesen Blend.  No matter what one thinks about the politics or the Solidarity surcharge, all can agree that this sort of blend is somethingGermans can be proud of.





and I don’t care how disgusting it tastes

One of the only reasons I ever bother wandering over to facebook anymore is because of this fantastic tea group there called Teefreunde (tea friends). Although it’s primarily in German, there are a handful of English posts and these people are properly obsessed with all things tea.

So one post earlier today was written as such:

Gerade eben: “Ich hätt gern n grünen Tee, der darf auch fies schmecken. Hauptsache er ist gesund und nicht so teuer.” (Immer nett lächeln) (My translation – just a moment ago: ‘I’d like a green tea and I don’t care how disgusting it tastes. All that matters to me is that it’s very healthy and not too expensive.’ I continue to smile nicely.)

What a funny interchange, right?

I wrote about the curious way that green tea is seen by the general public in: why does green tea taste like dirt?. It continues to astound me that people think green tea has to taste horrible. What an uphill battle to change this supposition.

But here we are again. Fighting the good fight. There were plenty of positive and helpful comments that you’d expect about water temperature and green tea of questionable quality (Gunpowder tea was the one that got the worst treatment), but my question is

Why does green tea continue to be so derided?

Is there something more that we can be doing?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

drinking tea out of jam jars

Found an interesting article in the print edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Wednesday 24 August 2011), but unfortunately I wasn’t able to locate it on their website. You’ll have to rely on my questionable retelling of it.

There’s not actually much to it. It’s an article telling the stories of three different Turkish people living in Germany, and the headline of the first one is ‘Tee tranken sie aus Marmaladengläsern’ (They drank tea out of jam jars).

Mehmet Kaymaksiz talks of what it was like when he first arrived in Germany in 1964:

‘Es gab nicht so wie heute in jeder Stadt Dönerladen oder türkische Einkaufmärkte, die ersten Monate haben wir unseren Tee aus Marmaladengläsern getrunken.’

(It wasn’t like it is now. There weren’t Kebab stands or Turkish shops in every city or town. The first month we drank our tea out of jam jars)

I thought all three stories were fascinating, but this one glimpse of what it was like to be a guest worker in a strange land stuck out for me. And that no matter how difficult it might’ve got later, he could always look back and say to himself, ‘Well, at least I never had to drink tea out of a jam jar again.’

Maybe not. Tea out of any receptacle seems like it’d still be tea. Delicious and refreshing nevertheless. Might have to go polish off some of my favourite jam jars.

tippling at the Japanese Teahouse

Finally did something today which I’d been planning for months. See, the Japanese Teahouse in the Englischer Garten in the heart of Munich has very limited opening hours. It’s not a teashop actually, so I guess it’s not so odd. Nevertheless, they’re only open on the second weekend of each month (and I’m doubtful that they open through the winter).

I kept intending to go, and then promptly forgetting that it was the second weekend of the month till Monday morning. Too late. So each time this happened, I had to wait roughly another four weeks.

Before I go into my impressions, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it in the middle of their article about the Englischer Garten:

Japanese teahouse/Japanisches Teehaus KanShoAn

In April 1972, to celebrate the Summer Olympics of that year, which were held in Munich, a Japanese teahouse and a Japanese garden were created on a small island at the south end of the Englischer Garten, behind the Haus der Kunst. The pond in which the island is set had been created only a few years earlier, in 1969. The teahouse was a gift to Bavaria by Soshitsu Sen, head of the Urasenke tea school in Kyoto. Its designers were Soshitsu Sen and Mitsuo Nomura. A traditional Japanese tea ceremony takes place here regularly.

Here’s what it looked like inside. My experiences in Japan were so intriguing. I only wish I’d been more into tea back then.

The overall sparseness and simplicity of everything is appealing to me. It’s no accident. It’s a crucial aspect of the tea ceremony in general.

The four principles of the tea ceremony are: wa-kei-sei-jaku, or harmony, respect, purity and tranquility respectively.

The tea we were served was a simple Matcha (what else?) and as much as I enjoyed it, I got the impression that some of the others there weren’t terribly impressed.

The whole experience was like being magically transported to Japan. Although there was a German introduction and explanation about what we were soon to witness, the actual tea ceremony was entirely in Japanese. It was exotic as well as somehow calming.

As much as I’m a Westerner on the outside looking in at this, I’m undeniably intrigued and would like to know much more about tea ceremony. It’s something I thought I’d get around to blogging about much earlier back when I started blogging about tea. Instead I was preoccupied with such important topics such as which tea I might drink with former French leaders like I did in Tea with Charles de Gaulle or even better what tea the infamous drink in Celebrity tea drinkers.

But here I am buckling down and attempting some serious tea blogging topics. Don’t worry loyal readers. I’ll get back to the frivolous soon enough.