Friday, 9 July 2010

Refuge in the midst of the Arabica-addled

A few days ago, I mentioned that Vienna is well-known as a coffee-drinking mecca. The history of the coffeehouse is unquestionably entwined with this city. That's why I'm pleasantly surprised by a phenomenon that I'd never noticed the many times I've been here. I think it's because I thought, 'When in Vienna, you're obligated to drink the sticky, dark java.' Assumed that if they had any tea at all, it'd be simple, boring tea bags.

I was very mistaken.

The Viennese know their tea. And nearly every single cafe I've been in (And I've been making the rounds I assure you) has an impressive array of loose-leaf tea. Sometimes multiple choices of Darjeeling and at least one Ceylon and Assam. The green tea selection is also admirable. Wrote about one shop yesterday that had so many good tea books to flip through. Not that every citizen here is as tea-obsessed as we are, but they at least have far more opportunities to learn about it than I would've ever expected.

The best tea cities I've experienced so far are Hamburg, London, San Francisco (though it's been years since I've been there) and Tokyo. All of them have some connection to a port and/or trade. This place doesn't fit either category.

But it was the capital of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire at the time when tea was making it's way from Asia to the West. The diplomatic significance then and now of this city means that tea drinkers, however small in comparison to their Arabica-addled brethren, are still a sizeable and vocal minority.

In the last few days, I've had a variety of Darjeelings, an excellent Matcha, two Chinese and one Japanese green. And a Jun Chiyabari Oolong, which always seems to delight me whether I have it at home or while travelling. If you're coming to Vienna anytime soon, no need to despair about the state of tea drinking.

There's plenty for those of us on the leaf side in this city of coffeehouses.


  1. Don't forget that some trade routes were also on the ground (the Silk road).
    But I would have been as surprised as you were since for most people, Vienna is coffee.

  2. I'm impressed - multiple choices of Darjeeling even. Unthinkable in most places I've had tea recently. Let's just say; it's more a question of this bag of black, or that bag of herbal. How wonderful you got to sip your way around town.