21.11.2005 21:15 - A Decent Cup of Tea.
Not the best thing to be seen carrying on-board a commercial flight.
Germany has only, comparatively recently, been introduced to the delights of a nice cup of tea, and then by Turkish immigrants. Turkish/Iranian/Iraqi tea is usually made in a large Samovar, diluted to taste and served in a small glass as part of a meal, or when having your hair cut. (Only germans will get that last joke, so don't bother wondering about it).
It comes as no surprise then, that the tea that is served in Germany is largely, from an english viewpoint, shite. There are three options left open to the humble expatriate. The first, difficult option, is to import the teabags yourself. This relies on you either making frequent journeys to the UK, or ganging up on people who are going to the UK and threatening them. The second option is to find an outlet that sells tea. In Cologne this isn't a problem, as there are numerous English, Chinese and Indian specialist stores, such as the English shop, or the Asian shop in Neumarkt U-bahn. Elsewhere, it may be a problem, and so you will be forced to use domestic supplies of tea.
In Germany, there are two main places you can buy tea. The first is a tea shop. Tea shops are usually emporiums filled with tin boxes containing a hundred and one different flavours of tea. Be very careful in these shops. They are owned by people who like to think that they are tea connoisseurs, and so will attempt to complicate things. You do not want green tea. Green tea tastes like piss. I don't care how good it is for you, it tastes like piss, full stop. Do not be fooled into buying "aromatised" green teas. Green tea with lemon tastes like piss diluted with lemon juice. The same goes for vanilla, although it must be said, it is slightly more palatable, if you must. What you want is plain, Indian, black tea, often referred to as 'gunpowder', which can lead to unusual delays at airports whilst you are subject to questioning by members of the anti-terrorist police squad, who are all wearing bulletproof jackets and exhibiting a pronounced nervous twitch. If you do not care to face the tea shop, there is a final alternative, although I have seen English people, near to tears, storm into a tea emporium and scream "TEA!" at the shop assistant, who calmly, and without speaking, hands them a large plastic bag.
This final alternative is to buy domestic brands of tea at the local supermarket.
Do not do this.
It is a sad fact of life that since Marks and Spencers pulled out of Germany, the quality of tea available in local german supermarkets can only be described as "floor-sweepings". The reasoning goes something like this : The makers of tea start off by keeping all the best tea for themselves. The next-best tea they export to England and the other tea-drinking countries - basically, the people who know when they're drinking tea, and when they're drinking cunningly-disguised sawdust.1 What remains on the floor after all this is swept into bags and sold to german supermarkets.
If you really, really must drink this tea, and then only in dire emergencies, then try the "Westcliffe" tea that is sold in Aldi. They do a passable Earl Grey as well. Do not buy Liptons. Liptons is a French brand. It is normally only good for making iced tea, but if you come across it in a German supermarket, remember the contempt in which the French hold the Germans and the English.
The remainder of german supermarket tea should be left on the shelves. It is overpriced floor-sweepings, dressed-up in individual sachets to make it look poncey, so they can justify the ridiculous price they charge pseud tea-snobs for it.
1Note: Who gets the cunningly-disguised sawdust? Think about a certain event in Boston,USA about 200 years ago, and you will realise why no-one wants to waste good tea on these people.