Monday, 12 March 2012

Searching for Tea in Berlin

holding my breath till I find good tea
Not sure how to break this to you, but I'll pull the proverbial band-aid away: I found a really nice tea shop/tearoom in Berlin. If you've been following my travels, you know that my prospects were not looking good. My last post was written as politely as I could manage, but I doubt I'd recommend anyone go there. Perhaps only if you were to buy tea and take it home with you.

Tee Tea Thé in the early evening
I should say that I did find Tee Tea Thé (Goltzstraße 2, 10781 Berlin 030/21752240) in Berlin-Schöneberg the first evening I arrived. They sell a variety of tea brands including Ronnefeldt and Pure Tea, even Celestial Seasonings, as well as a handful of others.

the shelves at Tee Tea Thé

When I stayed in a nice hotel in Stuttgart, I thought a bit about Ronnefeldt Tee when I wrote In defence of a brand of teabags. Up until then, I'd only had the tea-bagged version, but here was row after row of this loose-leaf tea on offer.

Most German tea companies that've been around for more than a century are located in harbour cities such as Hamburg or Bremen. The fact that Ronnefeldt was founded in 1823 in Frankfurt am Main (far away from the coast) is both curious and impressive to me, and this brand appears to be the tea that many good hotels worldwide choose to serve. I've asked it before: How did that come about?

I'd certainly like to get to know this tea brand even better. Frankfurt's not so far away. Maybe the next time I'm there, I'll arrange to visit Ronnefeldt's headquarters.

Was even more curious about Pure Tea. This was also a brand I'd heard of, but not yet tried. I like the concept of all pure, unadulturated tea, so I got a package of their White Downy Oolong Longkou. I brewed it as Gong Fu as I could in a conventional glass pot, but I can't wait to get home and try it in my Gaiwan. Huge light brown and green leaves with plenty of white tips, this Oolong has a both vegetal notes, as well as a taste of honey.

Tee Tea Thé isn't only a tea shop, though. It's a proper tearoom, as well. Plenty of reading material strewn about and people either chatting or studying diligently. If I lived near here, I could see this place becoming my second living room.

Teehandelshaus Benjowski

If rare tea is your thing, you really should consider going to the northern side of Berlin. It's a bit odd for me to recommend Teehandelshaus Benjowski (Danziger Straße 3, 10435 Berlin 030/4403 ext. 7571), since when I went to visit the shop, they'd already closed for the weekend.

Nevertheless, I'd heard so many good things. If one can tell anything from peering in the window right after closing time, I can assure you that they have an astonishing collection of Yixing teapots. Everyone I talked to about this shop said the selection of tea was similarly impressive. 

Berliner Teesalon

But the experience that saved my tea search in the German capital was the Berliner Teesalon (Invalidenstraße 160, 10115 Berlin 030/2804 ext. 0660). The people running this shop clearly know what they're doing. It's not only a tea shop with quite an unbelievable selection of loose-leaf tea, but there are tables and plush chairs where you can sit  and really savour your time drinking tea. It's an incredibly inviting atmosphere, and had I not shown up there half an hour before closing time, I'm positive I could've sat there the better part of an afternoon. 

There's all of the typical tea you'd expect: a few nice Keemuns, quite a selection of both Chinese and Japanese green tea. Yunnans, Darjeelings, Ceylons and Assams...I could go on, but instead I'll link to their website here, and you can go look for yourself. It's quite a list.

the salon of Berliner Teesalon
It was when I started chatting with the young woman running the shop that I found out about the good stuff. I'm often looking for a good way to get deeper into Pu-erh, so imagine my delight when I happened upon their Pu-erh cabinet. Gorgeous stuff in there. 

the bar at Berliner Teesalon

Partially because I wouldn't shut up about my Taiwanese Oolong obsession, she also showed me some Lagertee (stored tea) that I desperately wanted to try. There was also talk of Oolongs grown in Thailand - this is something I'd like to learn more about. I've certainly heard/read about Thai Oolongs, but not yet tried any. 

tea gear at the Berliner Teesalon
Looking back at what I've written so far, I don't think I've done justice to Berliner Teesalon's Japanese green tea selection. It was notably extensive. There's also plenty of tea gear if you want to get into Matcha. That in addition to Yixing teapots, as well as more conventional Western teapots and tea cups. If I had a tea shop/tearoom, I hope I'd have such a nice selection. I couldn't recommend this place more highly.

Finally, after quite a bit of walking over the several days I was in Berlin, I saved the Tadschikische Teehaus  ‎for last (Am Festungsgraben 1, 10117 Berlin 030/2041112). It's centrally located, but you'd never know it was there unless you were looking for it. You can find it inside the Palais am Festungsgraben right off of Unter den Linden  - just a few hundred metres from the Museum Insel.

in the Tadschikische Teehaus
Until you go up the staircase and locate the room outside the tearoom where everyone's taken off and left their shoes - until then, you can't actually believe there's a place here to drink tea. But there really is. Please persevere in your search. Finding the Tadschikische Teehaus a nice reward. No idea how authentic it is, but to me it looks like what a tea house in Tajikistan might.

sipping at the samovar

Although they have several tables, be prepared to sit on pillows on the floor. The tea is not only served in an assortment of funky teapots,  I had the Lommonossow-Tee (something purportedly from the 'eastern banks of the Black Sea'), but you can also order what's called a Russian Teezeremonie (tea ceremony), which appear to be not only tea served in a samovar, but a selection of delicious things to munch on. Actually, there was a full menu that I didn't even glance at, but I'm sure I would check it out if I were in Berlin more often., delicious tea


  1. I'd be curious to hear more about what you think of Ronnefeldt. I've now sampled nine of their tea bags, and my impression of them was widely varied, from their Assam Irish Breakfast, which really impressed me for such a simple tea bag, to their "Organic Japan Classic Green Tea", which was one of the worst things I've ever tried from a tea bag. Most of their blends though were above average quality, when compared to mainstream American tea bag brands.

    I'd be curious to try their loose-leaf teas too. They are not really available here in the U.S. though, it's a virtually unheard of brand here. I only tried them when one of my friends brought me back a smattering of different European tea bags on her recent trip to Europe.

  2. Well Alex,

    I really need to write more about this brand. For the most part, I've also been quite impressed with the blends, whether loose-leaf or bagged.

    As long as I'm in a place where it's readily available, it'd be a missed opportunity if I neglected to write more about Ronnefeldt. I'm definitely eager to hear what you think of what I find.