Aarti Mehta-Kroll rediscovers an ancient tradition at one of Berlin’s classiest tea houses…
I grew up in India drinking chai: milk, water, black tea leaves, sugar and masala heated till the mixture turned the right shade of brown.
Every afternoon, my mum would lay this out along with salty snacks. When we were home, my dad and I would also engage in this tea ceremony, stopping whatever we were doing, taking a few moments to relax and chat over this hot beverage.
When I left home, I left this ritual behind. My afternoon tea time evolved into hastily preparing a cup of instant coffee or dunking a tea bag into hot water that I then carried back to my desk to continue whatever I was working on.
Yet after spending two hours in the world of tea at P & T (Paper & Tea) with the store’s Chief Tea Expert, Thomas Langnickel-Stiegler, I have decided to redefine my approach to this age old drink.
Founded by Canadian Jens de Gruyter, the store – set on Charlottenburg’s handsome Bleibtreustrasse – helps customers discover the diversity of the world of tea. Prior to establishing the store, Jens spent time traveling around Asia and Africa. Through the personal relationships he built in the course of his travels, he is now able to offer rare teas that are produced for local markets and therefore difficult to acquire abroad.
The prices range from 8-60 euros for 100 grams and are in part determined by how easy it is to export a given tea, as well as how it is produced. White tea, for example, is relatively inexpensive because it is grown in the wild. Korean teas are amongst the more expensive ones as they are mainly produced for local markets and are difficult to import.
In addition to the pure teas, one can also find a selection of teas that are hand flavored by local suppliers using natural ingredients. A third unique offering are the infusions: lavender, mint, green rooibos and ginger.
P & T likens its decor to that of a natural history museum and it is easy to see why. Handcrafted, ethically produced ceramics from Japan and Taiwan line the walls. Trays containing write ups about the origins and the unique characteristics of each tea are neatly arranged on a table.
Beside each write up you’ll find glass boxes containing samples that you can open to inhale the distinct aromas. The teas are sold in 9, 20, 45 and 95 gram portions.
Also available for purchase are paper products created by Korean artists and Berlin locals. I was told that paper and tea fit together for a number of reasons: both originated in China at around the same time, and both can be said to facilitate communication; the second point became evident when Thomas and I engaged in our own tea ceremony
I selected the lavender infusion for my taste test. Thomas took me across the store to a table with tea cups and pots neatly laid out, and once we were seated he began the process of preparing the tea, pouring hot water into the pot containing the lavender sprigs, tipping it into a small cylindrical ceramic container, and then finally into my glass.
The tea was delicious and the experience of leaving the world behind while enjoying a good conversation over a soothing drink was wonderful. This is the second part of P & T’s mission: getting people to slow down in the course of their day to savour this exotic hot beverage.
P&T also hosts occasional lectures on tea as well as workshops on how to conduct traditional tea ceremonies; check website for more info…
T: 030 95 61 54 68
Open: Mon – Sat 11am – 8pm
P & T (Mitte)
Alte Schönhauser Straße 50
T: 030 55 57 98 072
Open: Mon – Sat 11am – 8pm