On the Western Coast, teAlchemy visited the quaint cities of Holland. We expected to see a lot more teahouses here, considering The Dutch first introduced tea to Europe in the 1600s. In Noord-Holland you can still visit authentic trading towns from this time. But it’s only recently that tea is seeing a major comeback in Holland. Traditionally, tea was served with sweets, cookies or marzipan. Today, Dutch locals might enjoy a green tea with some Hollandse Nieuwe Haring. Koffietijd, or ‘coffee time’ is a good time for a cup of tea and a biscuit at a friend’s house in Holland. Ideally, you may visit a friend just before lunch, dinner, or around 7pm, after dinner.
With its mix of chatty locals, travelers and flowing drinks, Café Heuvel is a classic ‘brown café’. In Holland, ‘brown cafes’ are casual hubs for people to stop for a drink, feel at home and chat with friends. They usually have wood paneling and walls stained by smoke. Like pubs, they’re open until 1 or 2am. These places usually have a tonne of character and a fun, laid-back atmosphere. This is one of the oldest cafés in Amsterdam and one of our favourite places for a tea. But don’t be surprised if most people are drinking beer here! This is not a typical café. And when you’ve rung up a lengthy bill at the end of the night, don’t be surprised if your local friends expect you to ‘go dutch’ on the cost.
In Amsterdam, pubs are generally as cozy as cafes. In fact, coziness is so important in Amsterdam that the Dutch even have a name for it- ‘gezellig.’ Amsterdam’s small cityscapes and intimate social hangouts make it easy to feel a sense of gezellig.
As with Holland, Belgium is also seeing a major comeback of tea, especially with the younger generation in recent years, despite being so famous for its beer. Coffee/tea houses are called Salons de The, and are similar in feel to the bars. On a rainy summer day, you might stop into a salon for a tea and a famous Belgian waffle while watching one of the many fantastically colourful carnivals.
In Brussells, we visited La Maison du The, restored to preserve some of its original charm from its founding in 1897. La Maison is a favourite of travelling tea connoisseurs and one of the oldest tea houses in Europe. Being the ‘chocolate capital of the world,’ it would be a crime not to try some of this local specialty. Leonidas is one of the oldest, and the most widespread producers around Belgium (and the world!). What better to pair with a nice cup of herbal tea than a Belgian chocolate?