Have been in Hamburg now for several days and had a list of tea shops/salons I wanted to visit. There was quite a variety of the latter, from the Four Seasons tearoom to the tea stand near the Hohe Luft Brücke Hochbahn Station, and even the types of tea shops were impressive. Monday was a holiday (in Germany only the police and the nuthouse staff work on Easter Monday), so I had to wait until Tuesday to get started. That means I have three days to report to you.
Tried to start with Tea Embassy, which is allegedly near the main train station. I say allegedly, because I still haven’t managed to locate where this shop is. I spent an inappropriate amount of time searching, before I finally gave up and took the train to Wandsbek. Am so glad I did.
There’s a tea shop in this less-than-upscale neighborhood of Hamburg called Teehaus Shila. The owner has been in business for nearly three decades and was selling tea at fairs and conventions in West Germany/Western Europe even before that. Their specialty seems to be Ayurveda/Yogi teas, but they have an extensive selection of loose-leaf tea as well.
Before I arrived, I’d read about a special “Flugtee” (airplane tea) that the owner brings back from the plantations of Darjeeling. The other tea shops in Hamburg are promising that the first of the 2010 first flush teas should arrive in the next several weeks, while Teehaus Shila already has some on offer. It’s definitely an advantage. I tried some of this year’s crop of Darjeeling and am over the moon. This is definitely going to be a good year for tea and us tea lovers.
I also visited a tea shop nearer where my hotel is and was similarly impressed with his selection. He’s in the Colonnaden (Neustadt) and his shop is called Colonnaden Tee Contor. If you ever go there, talk to Peter. He’s incredibly helpful and knows his tea.
That was enough for one day.
Day two was the day I went to my favorite teashop. It’s in Hamburg-Altona and is called Claus Kröger Tee. He’s been doing it multiple decades, much like Teehaus Shila, but this guy is NOT a yogi tea specialist. Don’t remember seeing any Ayurveda tea there at all.
He’s clearly a northerner. Probably speaks Plattdeutsch, and wasn’t necessarily cold per se, but definitely reserved. My talk of tea blogging and www.steepster.com was utterly lost on him. In these situations I try to describe steepster as facebook for tea lovers. He could truly care less. Oh well. To each his own. He’s aged anyway.
But today was my tea salon day. I visited two exquisite tearooms, and they were nearly perfect for entirely different reasons. I knew my wife would like the Four Seasons, so we started there. It was everything you’d think it’d be. Very stately and reserved. The Halle where we took our tea was enormous and noticeably calm and quiet. A few times I laughed aloud and almost felt the need to apologize to the other patrons. No need. We were the only ones there. At some point some business men hurried through the tearoom to one of the adjacent conference rooms, but otherwise we were entirely alone.
You could see from their selection, which was impressive, that tea was a British endeavor. They had all the right gear for perfect High Tea. My Lapsang Souchong was served on his own little tea stand with a tea light and everything. There were digestive biscuits and they asked if I’d like lemon or cream, which I declined. The whole experience was exactly like something out of a Merchant/Ivory film. We talked of rebel uprisings in Central Asia and the dollar/euro exchange rate, which I suppose are the sorts of things one talks about in these surroundings.
In the late afternoon, I walked a short way up Rothenbaum Chausee to the Völkermuseum and turned right. Behind the Museum is a perfect copy of the oldest tea house in Shanghai. The sister cities of Hamburg and Shanghai arranged this collaboration in 2004. Although I’ve not yet been to China’s booming second city, now that I’ve been to this place I feel as if I’ve seen the very best of Shanghai.
It’s called the Teehaus Hu Xing Ting, and they’ve created such a truly beautiful place. They do tea ceremonies there, and have an impressive selection of both excellent teas and quite a few tea books to peruse if you’re there on your own, which I was. The woman serving tea, Ms. Huang, was a very helpful Taiwanese lady. She recommended an Oolong from Formosa (Taiwan) that I’d never heard of. Can’t wait to find and taste it.
This might have been the nicest tea-related day so far. These two salons really reminded me why I started this blog lark in the first place. I’m normally so stressed running here and there. Feel I need to accomplish years’ worth of work in a short time. I can really get myself worked up. Then I have a cup of tea, breathe deeply, and all is wieder in Ordnung.
Thank you all for reading this and other posts. I feel very fortunate.