Germany’s Surprising Obsession with Tea

photo credit: yuliyabahr.com

Called “tee” in Germany, the world’s second most popular beverage (after water) is serious business, where local enthusiasts will tell you that no matter what ails you – there’s a tea for that.

A Brief History of Tea in Germany

Only the rich and elite visited coffee houses in Europe in the 1700’s, where tea was also served.

By 1778, more Germans drank tea than beer, due to the lower prices, which concerned the Prussian monarchy at the time. A policy against tea was launched, resulting in tea smuggling, but by 1780 the ban was stopped.

By the 1800’s, tea and coffee prices dropped, making them more accessible for everyone.

When WWII began, tea was considered a luxury like other basic provisions and was rationed to only half an ounce per person per month. The dedicated tea drinkers in East Frisia were allowed more, but it was still not enough.

The people became increasingly inventive, creating their own substitutes out of herbs and sugar, until the rations were lifted.

Tea Today in Germany

Even though coffee houses continue to be popular today, with coffee being the preferred hot beverage, tea drinking hit an all-time high in Germany in 2016, with black tea (schwarztee) and fruit tea (fruchttee) on the top of the list.

Popular Herbal Teas in Germany

  • Chamomile (Kamillentee)
  • Fennel (Fencheltee)
  • Rosehip (Hagebuttentee)
  • Peppermint (Pfefferminztee)

German tea sippers prefer loose tea over tea bags and they are keen about the medicinal qualities of various brews.

Seeing as the Germans and their healthcare system accept Eastern cures and homeopathy more readily than most countries like the U.S., tea is often prescribed and recommended by health workers for various ailments.

A common gift in Germany, tea continues to be a popular and growing industry.

Tea Culture in East Frisia

Nearly 25% of tea drunk in Germany is consumed in Ostfriesland in the north, with their own East Frisian black tea crafted from blends of strong Assam, Ceylon and Darjeeling.

A cup of tea (Köppke Tee) is a ritual when you visit a home in East Frisia, traditionally served in a large porcelain teapot with rock sugar and cream, which is gently poured down the side of the cup over a special spoon, creating a cloud in the cup. Stirring is forbidden.

The locals will tell you that Ostfriesentee cures stomach problems, headaches and helps reduce stress. It’s a strong brew that is consumed up to four times a day.

Healthy Teas in Germany

For pregnancyRaspberry Leaf Tea is taken to help tone the uterus and for after the birth to help it get back into shape.

For lactation – breastfeeding tea (stilltee) is consumed, which can be a blend of fennel, aniseed, caraway, verbena, lemon balm, fenugreek, nettle and red raspberry leaf tea – all considered to promote healthy lactation.

For colds and respiratory ailments – Ginger tea can be mixed with oregano, peppermint and sage to create a relaxing and bacteria fighting beverage that also builds strength and vitality.

For the nervous system and stomach aches – Chamomile and Fennel teas are drunk to help alleviate the symptoms.

The range of healthy teas in Germany is huge, with over 3,500 registered herbal medications and many pharmacists and herbalists available to point you in the right direction.

The Most Popular Teas in Germany

Different varieties of black tea, such as Darjeeling, rare pu-erh and oolong are number one in Germany, however green teas are on the rise. Other teas and styles include:

  • A strong Turkish extract that is drunk with lots of sugar infused with Persian saffron
  • Chinese green tea boiled with sugar and Moroccan mint
  • Different varieties of Japanese matcha, bancha and sencha

While milk is not as popular in tea, they do include it or use cream in its place and lemon is often added to black and herbal tea. While German tea lovers enjoy collecting accessories and tools to help brew their tea, they are not so keen on “tea-to-go” products

Finally, many people will tell you that it’s too cold to grow tea in Germany, but try telling that to Wolfgang Bucher and his wife Haeng ok Kim, who own Tschanara. The name was created from Korean words tscha – for tea and nara – for land.

Located in the Bergischer Highlands near Cologne, Tschanara was established in 1999, after bringing over 1,000 tea seeds from Korea and then planted on an acre of land.

This tea garden now produces various Korean cultivars as well as tea plants originating from India, Nepal and Japan, to name a few.

With a mild climate and good soil, they have managed to create small batches of blends with black and green teas. They continue to experiment and learn how to grow tea in snowy winters, while producing unique flavors with distinctive character.

It might be possible, one day, that Germany becomes better known for tea rather than beer and with the entrepreneurial skills exhibited by the operators of the Tschanara Teagarden, that day could be closer than you think.