I'm not kidding myself. I'm very well aware that few, if any, of you are ever going to visit these German tea shops that I report on. Maybe I want to tell you about them because I love the sensory overload I get when I walk into one. When I know I'm travelling somewhere, one of the first things I do is scout out the tea shops. Along with searching in the online maps for exactly where the hotel is, I locate the different tea shops and salons. I purposely pack much less tea than I'll need for the number of days. That way I'm sure I'll need more tea and be forced to try something new. It doesn't take much convincing for me to storm into a tea shop and soon walk out with far more tea than I'll need for the trip. Today it was a Milky Oolong (don't have a more specific name unfortunately) and black Java Santosa.
So the tea shop I happily visited was the Stuttgarter Teeladen Robert Lang. It was a beautiful little establishment. The picture shows you the signs that say they've been in business since 1985. They're clearly doing something right. It's not a large shop, but they're doing well with the limited space. I felt really sorry for the woman behind the counter. If every day is so stressful and busy, I'm surprised there aren't more people working there. Maybe it's because yesterday was a holiday and the crowds of restless tea customers were stocking up for the weekend. She handled it well. She didn't rush me in the least. Had I been the only customer, and had I not had a line of thirsty tea freaks rustling behind me, I'd have asked her many more questions about the tea they offer.
Unfortunately, there were no brochures. I didn't have a price list, which I normally like to look at when I'm in line. I got the feeling that the prices were up to her whim and whether she liked you. Could almost imagine her saying to me, 'I like the cut of your jib. Today the tea is free.' Didn't happen. But a boy can dream, right?
The Milky Oolong was a milky Oolong. Nothing special. I do like almost every Oolong I've ever tried. One Oolong I had months ago was a bit bland, but that's periodically to be expected when one tries such a variety of tea.
The Java Santosa is a different story. This might not be an excellent tea, but it's certainly very good. The shopkeeper said it was dark 'like Assam' but not nearly as bitter. I agree. Had not yet tried any black teas from Indonesia. The blurb on the tea said that there are no bad teas grown in Indonesia. Sounds like advertising, but based upon this tea, I'd have to agree. It's certainly not boring and also not unpleasing.
It has enough kick that I'm buzzing along right now, when I should really be going to bed. You lot probably already know about Java Santosa. You don't need my review.
If there is anyone who knows this tea well, please say something in the comments.
Enjoy your weekend!
the next day
I had an hour for lunch yesterday, wasn't hungry and wanted to explore a bit of the city I was briefly in. Didn't see much of interest for the first three quarters of an hour, but I was wandering and enjoying myself. Told myself I needed to start heading back, and decided I would walk a parallel street to the one I came down. I was a bit out of the way, but I could see an entire row of architecture and shops. As soon as I rounded the corner, I knew I'd made a great decision. Here's what I saw:
They sell yarn and tea. All in the same little shop. Now for some countries, this sort of entrepeneurism or creative blending of related products is almost to be expected, but not here. Here in Germany, most things are done in a prescribed way. Not all people are like that, but I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to do something just a bit differently and the person across from me, whether at the post office or in a private conversation, would practically react in horror at my suggestion. There are ways of doing things. And you have a yarn shop and a tea shop. But you don't sell yarn where you sell tea. What if the tea got on the yarn. Or some yarn got in your tea? Unacceptable. Inconceivable.
Well, it's been done. In Germany no less. Every little old lady's nirvana in one little 60 cubic metre establishment. To be clear, they don't serve tea in the shop. At least not while I was there. Maybe she'll make you a cup if you ask. And it's not actually a German shop. The Inhaberin is actually a French woman called Madame Roche, and she's very helpful and informative on both subjects. The woman in front of me had a list of questions that were dealt with with aplomb. She wanted to give me the same service and go into great detail about the tea I wanted, but I was late by now (the yarn discussion ate my remaining fifteen minutes).
If you're ever in Stuttgart, you have to see this place. It's at Sophien Straße 24 and not far from the Stadtmitte Underground station. If you're nice, Mme. Roche might let you call her Isabelle.