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3 March 2016 - Lea Garner

Tea traditions in Bremen

A cup of tea

I’ve got to admit I love drinking tea. I get through at least two pots a day. Maybe it’s because I’m originally from Oldenburg – not all that far from East Friesland with its tea drinking tradition. According to statistics, every East Frisian drinks more than 300 litres of tea a year – I think I can match that. There’s a drawer in my office desk that is stuffed with a huge selection of teas, usually at least ten different types. After all, if you’re going to drink that much tea, you do need a decent choice. As I simply adore tea in all its forms, I set off to find out what Bremen has to offer in terms of tea. And I soon discovered that I certainly haven’t got every type of tea in my drawer.

Various selection of teas
Kassiopeia stocks more than 300 different types of tea © WFB

Trade has a long tradition in Bremen. The city’s merchants have been trading in goods such as wheat, coffee, tobacco and fish for centuries. And also in tea. I decided to find out more, and so I visited Kassiopeia Bremen, one of Bremen’s oldest owner-managed tea trading houses. The shop in Bismarckstrasse, which also trades in precious stones, has been run by Ursula John since 1954. Together with her husband she started a mail order company selling coffee and tea across Germany. At that time there wasn’t a shop yet. They later switched their focus to tea, and now there are 300 types of tea in stock – I don’t think those would all fit into my drawer. All teas are packaged in store, and the provenance of the tea is very important to John.

The tea dispenser
You can try the teas at Kassiopeia before you buy © WFB

When you enter the shop, you’re welcomed by a member of staff and offered the opportunity to try a variety of teas. I try the ‘White Monkey’ Chinese green tea and discover that green tea doesn’t have to taste bitter. I’m also told that the reason why green tea is always bitter when I make it is that I’m not brewing it right. At Kassiopeia you’re offered advice on how to correctly prepare your chosen tea, and you can buy accessories such as teapots and teapot warmers.

Insight into the branch of the Tee-Handels-Kontor
The branch of Tee-Handels-Kontor Bremen in Domshofpassage is all set for Easter © WFB

There are other places besides Kassiopeia where you can stock up on tea. Tee-Handels-Kontor Bremen was established forty years ago, and these days the stores with the striking blue and white design can be found in many towns and cities throughout Germany, such as Berlin, Frankfurt and Greetsiel. Tee-Handels-Kontor has over 150 types of loose-leaf tea in stock, and has two further Bremen stores, in Böttcherstrasse and in the main train station. At Betty Darling Company you can buy chocolate, honey, jam – and tea, of course. The Betty Darling blends are a speciality of the store in Bremen airport. They are blended by master tea tasters, and varieties include darjeeling, green and East Frisian. Betty Darling Company also sell small taster packets. Paul Schrader has been based in Bremen since 1921 and remains a family-run business. This shop also started out with only a few types of coffee, cocoa and tea. These days, the product range at Paul Schrader includes 400 different types of tea from around the world, as well as chocolate, honey and jam. You can also buy a variety of teas from Bremen in these shops, but only Martinshof sells Bremer Senats-Tee. A variety of ‘Senat’ products are manufactured at Martinshof by around 80 people with disabilities. The range consists of typical Bremen products that have been developed specifically for Bremen’s senate. Specially made coffee, tea and jam are served at the weekly breakfast of the senate in Bremen’s Rathaus.

A nice cup of tea in a special location

Half-timbered house in the Schnoor quarter
The old timber-framed house built in 1650 in Bremen’s Schnoor quarter is a fitting venue for a nice cup of tea © WFB

Anyone who doesn’t fancy drinking their tea at home can head out to one of Bremen’s many cafés. One very special place to aim for is Teestübchen im Schnoor. The old timber-framed building, which dates back to 1650 and lies at the heart of the Schnoor quarter’s twisting lanes, has been home to Teestübchen for more than 50 years. On the ground floor you walk past the restaurant to reach the ‘Worpsweder Stube’. The room features an array of old Worpswede furniture and is the perfect place to watch the hustle and bustle in the lanes outside. A narrow staircase leads to the upper floors, where small groups can enjoy a convivial atmosphere. On the top floor is the oriental room, which was opened after the roof was renovated. I count 98 different types of tea on the menu, and settle for something from Bremen: Bremer Roland, a rooibos tea offering “a heavenly harmony of roses, corn flowers and strawberries.” I must admit that my taste buds can’t pick out the roses and corn flowers, but it’s very tasty and fruity.

Insight into an oriental tea room
Teestübchen stretches over four floors right up to the oriental room (top right). The staff are highly skilled at carrying the little teapots up and down the narrow stairs © WFB

You can enjoy more than just tea here. Teestübchen is also a restaurant – and I have to say, the food smells delicious. A look at the menu shows that local and organic produce is valued highly here. Dishes include typical Bremen specialities such as knipp, red berry compote and kükenragout. And Bremen is also well represented when it comes to beverages: there’s coffee from Lloyd and Münchhausen, Hopfenfänger beer, and soon they’ll be serving beer from the Union Brewery too.

Tea culture from ‘foreign shores’

One tea tradition that has come from ‘abroad’ is East Frisian tea. During teetied, as the East Frisian tea ceremony is called, this tea is enjoyed with cream and rock candy, which – as I discover – is a big no-no with all other types of tea. However, with East Frisian tea this is all part of the tradition and the fun of enjoying a cup of tea with friends. Many East Frisians still offer visitors a cup of tea on their arrival, and I’m sure that there are a few East Frisians in Bremen who still follow the traditions of teetied.

British tea culture can also be found in Bremen, and it’s similar to the East Frisian version. However, the British take their strong tea with milk and sugar, and sometimes with a slice of tea loaf. This is a type of cake made with fruit, dried fruit, malt or other spices. They also often eat scones with their tea. Hotel zur Post and Dorint Hotel both offer a traditional British tea.

Well? How about a nice cup of tea? I hope you enjoy it.

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