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Tea time

Germany is not known to be a nation of tea-drinkers. In fact, the country consumes a great deal more coffee than tea. Despite this, tea is becoming increasingly popular, and the East Frisians who live along the North Sea Coast are even world champions in tea drinking.

It took a long time for tea to come to Germany. But then it arrived with a flourish. In the 17th century the court physician of the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg recommended drinking 100 cups of tea a day. Only the aristocracy could afford what was then a luxury beverage. It came in the form of green tea, following an eight-month voyage by ship to Germany, and was correspondingly expensive. Today, of course, transport is much faster and tea is affordable for everyone. The East Frisians are the world champions in tea drinking – each consuming an average of 290 litres a year. This puts Germany’s coast dwellers well ahead of the traditional tea drinkers in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The average consumption per head in Germany is 26 litres a year – but there is a clear upward trend. Coffee consumption, on the other hand, achieves quite different levels, with the mean consumption currently 165 litres a year. That amounts to about four cups a day for every inhabitant of Germany, from baby to centenarian.

Where do the teas come from?

The best-known and most widely sold tea is black tea, produced by drying and rolling the leaves and then allowing them to oxidise. The teas used for the full-flavoured East Frisian blends are grown in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Assam in the east of India and the area around the city of Darjeeling at the foot of the Himalayas, one of the most famous tea cultivation regions in the world. Many green tea varieties are also cultivated in India, though they originated in China, which alongside Japan is where most types of tea were first grown. A further speciality is white tea, which is cultivated in south China, Sri Lanka and Kenya. This is gained from the still unopened leaf buds at the tips of the tea bush shoots. They are covered in fine silvery-white hairs, which is where white tea gets its name. The tea is very costly, as 30,000 leaf buds are needed to produce one kilogram of tea. Rooibos or redbush tea grows exclusively in the hills around the Western Cape in South Africa. The needle-like leaves of the redbush are harvested once a year, crushed, fermented and dried in the sun. This tea contains many vitamins, minerals and trace elements and is caffeine-free.

Germany too has its own tea ceremony

Not only the Japanese celebrate the preparation of tea. However, while in Japan the ritual of preparation is valued in itself, in Germany the focus is on achieving optimal taste. What both cultures agree on is that making tea takes time. In East Frisia tea is first placed in the teapot; a minimum of about 20 grams per litre of water. The East Frisians swear by one teaspoonful per cup and one for the pot. The first water added to the pot should just barely cover the leaves. It is then left to brew for three to five minutes. After this the pot is filled up with hot (not boiling) water. The tea is then transferred through a sieve into a pre-heated teapot for serving. ‘Kluntjes’ (white rock sugar) is first placed in the teacup and as the tea is poured over the crystals and the sugar dissolves, you can hear it crackling slightly. Then a spoonful of cream is poured slowly into the full cup from the edge. The East Frisians don’t stir their tea – they let the cream swirl around in the cup so that it produces ‘Wulkje’, little white clouds. The cream is trickled in anti-clockwise. The East Frisians say that this makes time stand still – a lovely idea, as these moments of tranquillity are few and far between in our busy lives and should be enjoyed to the full!

What about your country? Do people drink a lot of tea, or do they prefer another drink? Which kinds of tea are especially popular? Is their a certain ceremony to be followed when preparing tea in your country? Share your stories with us in the community group KULTUR-CULTURE!

Community

September 2011

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