The Mysterious World of German Tea

Photo: Erin Porter

I just tried to close my kitchen cabinet – thunk. Tried again – harder. Thunk! Sighing, I opened it to have an armload of tea rain down upon me. It’s just that time of year.

My husband works as an Erzieher and one of the funny little perks of the job are the Christmas presents from the kids. Sometimes he gets chocolates which is terrible for his diabetes but great for his attitude. Sometimes its candles, or homemade cookies or occasionally an art project. Unfortunately, one of the most common gifts is tea (or Tee in German).

As we live in Germany, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Germans are obsessed with tea. If you are sick, or pregnant or feeling gloomy – there is a tea for that!

That said, my husband and I don’t much care for tea. We’re from Seattle, the land of coffee, and feel completely overwhelmed with the whole tea brewing process, varieties and homegrown remedies.  And yet, I have got a cabinet full of tea and a country full of Germans to tell me what to do with them. Let me try to unlock the mysterious world of German tea.

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Drinking Kaffee in Germany

You can tell when you have crossed the frontier into Germany because of the badness of the coffee.
– Edward VII (1841-1910, son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert)*

I’m a devoted coffee drinker. I drink it wherever I am, especially in Europe. I’ve had coffee in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and even Slovenia. The Germans always rave about their coffee, but I think German coffee is highly overrated. There, I’ve said it. Now here’s why I say it.

First, there is no such thing as “German coffee.” Coffee trees don’t really flourish in northern Europe. All that Dallmayr, Hag, Jacobs and Tchibo coffee gets to Germany via Bremen, Hamburg and other European ports. That’s no different than the rest of Europe. Other than the type of bean, the main difference is the roast. (The brewing methods are pretty similar all across Europe.) The beans are usually Arabica, so that leaves the roast. And I think the roast is the problem.

A German Coffee
A “German coffee” is a type of cocktail made with Kirschwasser, coffee and whipped cream. That’s definitely not what we’re talking about here!

Germans generally like milder flavors. They really aren’t into spicy or pungent. That’s why “Mexican” food in Germany is not even close to Mexican. Foreign foods (Chinese, Indian, even Italian) get toned down for German taste buds. Continue reading

Foods that are hard to find in Germany

Kellogg's ToppasI’m inviting readers (Americans especially) to help me compile a list. It’s a list that grows shorter by the year, but is still fairly lengthy: Foods that are hard to find in Germany.

It really wasn’t that long ago that an American living in Germany had difficulty finding familiar food items such as peanut butter. Today it’s easy to find peanut butter in German grocery stores and supermarkets. (But the selection is still much more limited than in a US grocery store!) Today you can even find Mexican food in a German supermarket (although it is often a bit too Germanized for Norte Americanos). Sometimes food products are available in Germany, but are difficult to find. On the other side of the coin, Americans who used to bring jars of Nutella home from Germany can now find it on the shelves of most grocery stores in the US.

Smart American expats learn to adapt and get to like German/European fare, but every once in a while we yearn for something that is difficult or impossible to find in Germany. Continue reading