5 specialty shops that cater to Germans’ love of tea
By KARIN ZEITVOGEL | Stars and Stripes | Published: February 24, 2021
Germans are the biggest tea drinkers in Europe, outdrinking nations like Britain and Ireland, British pollsters found in a 2014 survey. Ninety percent of Germans drink tea compared with 82% of Britons and Swedes, and 77% of Americans, the poll by YouGov found.
Germans’ favorite tea is fruit infusions, while the British prefer black, English breakfast tea, the Americans green tea, and the Swedes are partial to a cup of Earl Grey, the survey said.
Germans drank 47 million cups of tea brewed from 40,000 tons of herbal and fruit infusions and around 19,200 tons of black and green tea in 2019, the German Tea Association said in its annual report. With numbers like that, it’s clear why tea is considered an essential commodity in Germany, and the country’s many tea shops have been able to remain open during coronavirus lockdowns.
They can’t, however, serve tea in-house, meaning you have to go to the shop, buy tea, bring it home and brew a cup.
Here are five specialty tea shops that will help you do that. They’re all in or near Kaiserslautern, Ramstein, Spangdahlem, Baumholder and areas like Kusel, where thousands of members of the American military community live.
This place has a “sniffing bar” where customers can inhale the aroma of the three dozen or so teas before buying — provided they’ve sanitized their hands on the way in and wear a face mask. It’s hard to smell anything through an FFP2 mask, to be honest, but surgical masks allow the bouquet through. Owner Peter Knapp is welcoming and helpful, allowing you to sniff to your nose’s content or browse other items in the store, including herbs and spices, kitchenware, chocolate, decorations, even whisky and ouzo, while he packages tea for you. A pungent pomegranate fruit mix and Mao Feng white tea — which Knapp said is green tea with flecks of white on some tips — came home with me.
Address: Kuselerstrasse 13, 66885 Altenglan. Half an hour from Ramstein, Baumholder or Kaiserslautern, 1 hour from Spangdahlem Online: genuss-laden.de
This shop is packed with teas like “Cleopatra’s Beauty” — white tea, candied pineapple pieces, rose, lavender, catspaw and mallow buds, nettle and olive leaves, aloe vera and vanilla — and “Eternal Life” — green and white teas with blackcurrant, cornflower blossoms, apricot pieces and ginseng. Both are delicious. There are also staples, such as Darjeeling or Assam. The town of Dillingen is near Saarlouis and has a long, rich history, including a witch hunt period not unlike the one in Salem, Mass., in the late 1500s and early 1600s.
Address: Herrenstrasse 24, 66763 Dillingen. Online: facebook.com/teefachhandel
I was hesitant to buy from a chain, but the service and selection in the Kaiserslautern store sold me on Tea Gschwendner. They have more than 100 shops in Germany, three in Kuwait, two in Luxembourg, two in Chicago, and one each in Austria and Saudi Arabia. The staff gave me a catalog in which hundreds of teas are described and happily opened large canisters behind the checkout counter and waved their hands over the tea inside to whip up a bouquet for my nose. A whiff of the Kaiserslautern store’s specialty Lauterer Top-Star blend — black and green teas, rose and marigold buds, fruit and Madagascar vanilla — convinced me to buy it along with a rooibos and amaretto mix, and hazelnut and chocolate tea.
Address: Riesenstrasse 5, 67655 Kaiserslautern. In Kaiserslautern’s pedestrian zone near the mall. Online: teagschwendner.com
This small shop has floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with tea, vinegar, herbs and spices, chocolate, licorice, crockery and more. On entering, the tea is on the right and stretches around to the back door. The shop, owned by English-speaking tea sommelier Souheil Rai, had a hard-to-find guayusa-chocolate tea blend, made with Pu Erh and black tea, cocoa, blackberry leaves, cinnamon, more cocoa and guayusa tea, which is said to contain almost as much caffeine as coffee. I bought that and a white and green tea blend with peach and jasmine called “Buddha’s Little Secret.”
Address: Steinstrasse 23, 67657 Kaiserslautern. In Kaiserslautern’s pedestrian zone, east of St. Martin’s Square. Online: facebook.com/teehausrai
More than 200 types of tea are available in-store or online using the “bestellformular” in the green bar on the right side of Teematik’s home page. You can sniff before you buy if you go to the shop. In mid-February, many Christmas teas, including a wonderful blend of cinnamon and burnt almond, were still available. I bought enough of that for 4-5 cups, some vanilla-enhanced Madagascar chai; Saarlouis women’s tea, which is candied pineapple, hibiscus, rosebuds and blossoms, and almonds; and kirmes, or amusement park, almond. I like almond-flavored teas and these were all delicious.
Address: Karcherstrasse 17, 66740 Saarlouis. 45 minutes from Ramstein, 1 hour from Kaiserslautern and Baumholder, 75 minutes from Spangdahlem. Online: teematik.com
Germany’s enduring tea ritual
The Dutch called tea “hay water” when they brought it to Europe in the 17th century. The Germans called it “black water” and said those who traded in it were immoral money-grabbers.
But that changed fairly quickly and, by the late 1700s, people in East Frisia, a part of present-day Germany near the Netherlands, were drinking more tea than beer.
East Frisians still drink a lot of tea — more than 79 gallons per person per year in 2019, compared with around 59 gallons per person in Ireland and just under 47 gallons in Britain, the German Tea Association says in its most recent annual report.
Ostfrieslandtee is available in supermarkets and specialty tea shops, and there’s a ritual surrounding its preparation.
First, you place a lump of rock candy sugar, called a kluntje, in a cup. Then, slowly pour hot tea that’s steeped at least five minutes over it, without stirring. If the kluntje makes a cracking noise, the tea is hot enough.
Next, add a teaspoonful of cream, pouring it slowly down the inside edge of the cup.
Do not stir.
The cream should sink down to the kluntje and then rise up like a cloud.
Still, no stirring.
“Empty your mind of your daily problems. Meditate on the microcosm in your teacup,” East Frisian Menna Hennsmann writes on a web post describing how to conduct the tea ceremony.
At this point, you can drink the tea, without stirring, of course, so that the flavor of each layer can be savored.
Etiquette dictates that the ritual should be repeated three times. This might explain why East Frisians drink so much tea.
Although it’s not stirred, Ostfrieslandtee is served with a teaspoon. You’re supposed to place it in the cup when you’ve had your fill of tea.
East Frisians won’t admonish those unfamiliar with their tea ceremony, who “barbarically” stir their tea. They just won’t invite them back a second time, Hennsmann says.
A selection of teas available at specialty shops in and around Kaiserslautern, Germany, clockwise from top: Rooibos Amarettini, Chai of Madagascar, Buddha's Little Secret, Cleopatra Beauty, Blue Pomegranate, Lauterer Top-Star, Saarlouis Lady, China Mao Feng, Cinnamon Swirl and, in the center, Guayusa Cocoa, a personal favorite.
KARIN ZEITVOGEL/STARS AND STRIPES