8 Things to Know About the Dutch and Tea

As I had pointed out in a previous article on this blog, the Dutch were pioneers in bringing tea to Europe and the Western Hemisphere. They and France were at one time the top tea drinkers there. And then Britain got into the act, with tea rooms eventually edging out pubs as the most popular places to go for some liquid refreshment. Today, the Dutch continue to imbibe that beautiful brew (tea) and in their own inimitable fashion. Time for a look at some details, just in case you’re planning to pop over there for a cuppa some day.

Delicate Dutch tea tables with marquetry and storage drawers. (Yahoo! Images)
Delicate Dutch tea tables with marquetry and storage drawers. (Yahoo! Images)

1 They don’t call it a “cuppa”

“Having a cuppa” is a very British expression. The Dutch, being Dutch, tend to have some thee (a French word pronounced “tay”, even though they started out in their early history of tea drinking using the Cantonese word cha). A common Dutch expression is: Boven zijn theewater zijn which means literally “To be above his tea water” and more figuratively is used to say someone is agitated, angry, or drunk.

2 “Orange Pekoe” tea grading came from the Dutch

The Orange Pekoe grading system originated with the Dutch. (See info about the system in my article here.) According to Dutch legend, peddlers from the Lower Derlandse were the ones who discovered tea in China and brought it back to the Netherlands. They presented it to the House of Orange and called it “pecco” – the word is supposedly from the Amoy (Xiamen) dialect word for a tea in China called peh-ho (“white down”). Thus the name “Orange Pekoe,” and giving it the regard of being a “royal” tea.

3 Tea time outdoors is an “any chance you can get” affair

The Netherlands being a fairly northern country has the climate to match, meaning that sunshine isn’t as plentiful as in such locations as Miami, Florida, or Phoenix, Arizona. So when the sun does deign to shine, they move en masse to the outdoors for their tea time. The teapots tend to be the more sturdy, thick-sided kind that help hold in the heat, keeping the tea warmer. They also have loads of coffee shops where you can get tea (if you’re that desperate for a cuppa after all that sightseeing) – it will be the bagged kind served in a typical coffee shop cup with plastic lid. Tea is available in restaurants, too, and is usually served like the British do, with scones and other traditional foods.

Hellema Volkoren Speculaas (Wholegrain) (via Yahoo! Images)
Hellema Volkoren Speculaas (Wholegrain) (via Yahoo! Images)

4 They waffle on their tea treats – literally!

The quick break for afternoon tea often includes a treat known as stroopwafel (a thin, crispy waffle “sandwich” with syrup in the middle) – it is served atop your cup of hot tea so the filling can be softened. And yes that tea is already steeped and ready when served to you. Plus, there are cute little cookies, such as the windmill shaped cookies shown here.

5 Unlike the British, the Dutch favor tea without milk but with flavorings added

Although the Dutch tend to drink more coffee, they love good tea and go in big for flavored teas. Most of these just don’t taste right with milk added, so they never acquired a taste for that milky style of tea the British drink. They also tend to steep them up lighter than the British do. The flavors are mainly ones we’re familiar with, such as Earl Grey, Strawberry, Cinnamon, Mango, Raspberry, Blackcurrant, and Orange.

A couple of top tea brands in The Netherlands:

  • Pickwick Tea – A smooth, aromatic Dutch tea offered in a variety of popular Dutch flavors. Warm up a room and then your senses with the smells and tastes of the Netherlands. Available in several varieties of teas with flavorings such as caramel or licorice added (the Dutch love licorice about as much as chocolate!). Herbal rooibos also available.
  • Lipton – Available in numerous flavors, including jasmine green, mint green, white tea with raspberry, peach/mango, pomegranate/cranberry, Russian Earl Grey, vanilla/caramel, etc.

6 Tea and chocolate? Of course!

Chocoholics, rejoice! There is plenty of chocolate to be found in The Netherlands. The Dutch love chocolate and are world-renowned for the quality of theirs. So, tea time with a bit of chocolate is very doable. Their chocolate is processed in a way developed in the early 19th century by Dutch chocolate maker Coenraad Johannes van Houten; it is treated with an alkalizing agent that modifies its color and gives it a milder taste than those made using the Broma process. This style of chocolate is the basis for modern chocolate used in ice cream, hot cocoa, and baking.

7 High-class tea time is definitely doable

Stop in at Sofitel Legend The Grand in Amsterdam for a high-class tea served with wonderful treats and quality teas. A choice of several varieties of tea, freshly baked scones, jam and clotted cream and a range of delicate pastries, combine to make for an unforgettable afternoon tea time. This hotel stands out as a top 5-star luxury hotel in Amsterdam and is located by two gentle canals and the Royal Palace in the heart of the city. They have an acclaimed restaurant called Bridges as well as a spa and banquet facilities. Their staff reinvents Dutch hospitality à la française.

8 Vintage Dutch tea storage containers are quite collectible

Not having plastic pouches and machines that could vacuum-seal them, the Dutch stored their teas in tea tins and wooden tea caddies that were as attractive as they were practical. Wood marquetry was common in these caddies as well as delicate tea tables (often with locking drawers to keep various tea implements). Now these items are for collectors.

Dutch Tea Tins and Wooden Caddy (Yahoo! Images composite)
Dutch Tea Tins and Wooden Caddy (Yahoo! Images composite)

Final note: Take a trip to the Netherlands for the tulip viewing, a visit to the Delft factory, some sun and fun on their beaches (they have a few and love to enjoy time there), and oh yes, have a lot of tea!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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