Stop the time - tea in Eastfriesland

In northwestern Germany on the border with the Netherlands is an area called Ostfriesland with a strong tea culture. The Dutch were the first to import tea into Europe, and here on the German side of the border, tea drinking took off to such an extent that the king wanted to stop the flow of money by banning the inhabitants from drinking tea. That didn't work, of course, and to this day copious amounts of tea are drunk here. According to the Guinness Book of Records, this is the most tea-drinking area in the world. But how do you drink your tea? Here we tell you about the East Frisian tea ceremony.

Basic Recipe

First brew your tea, black and strong. For East Frisian tea, a strong variety is chosen, often based on tea from Indian Assam. A particularly suitable tea is Morning Kick. Preheat the pot and add 1-2 teaspoons of tea leaves per cup. If you don't have a tea warmer, do this: Pour in half the water. After it has brewed for a couple of minutes, add the rest of the water that has been kept hot, and let it brew for another minute.

Candy sugar, locally called "kluntje" is compulsory. Put a big piece in the cup. The cups are not that big, it works well with coffee cups.

"Of course" you use tongs, so that you don't damage the precious porcelain. (We bought our tea set at Tradera for SEK 75... you don't want to scratch that unnecessarily.)

Time to pour the tea. You pour alongside, not on the sugar. Otherwise it will melt and the tea will be too sweet too soon.

The tea can be allowed to cool for a minute in the cup before the next step. If there are a lot of guests, it will of course take care of itself.

So, it was time for the cream! According to tradition, it should be at least 30% fat. Real traditionalists do it in a special way: first you heat the cream spoon briefly in the tea. This makes it easier for the cream to slide off in the next step. Then you take some cream in the spoon and carefully pour it along the edge of the cup. Ideally, you should do it anti-clockwise  - it symbolizes stopping time. A bit of a hassle, but it can be worth it!

When the cream reaches the bottom, it turns upwards and a little "tea cloud" forms in the cup, so beautiful!

Did you not get a spoon to stir it? No, you shouldn't do that, because you'll ruin the experience, which comes in three stages: First the mild cream. Then the rough and slightly bitter tea, and finally the sweetness of the candy. Ahhh!

If you don't want to seem rude, the guests drink at least three cups in the same way. If the candy has not disappeared, get another piece, but normally it may last for a few cups.

You put the spoon in the cup when you have finished; it means thank you very much, I have had enough.




I can recommend a visit to one of the tea museums in Ostfriesland, including one in Leer and one in Norden. There is a lot of interesting information about tea in general, and East Frisian tea culture in particular.

There is also a small book by Hanne Klöver, "Tee in Ostfriesland".