Tee Salon. Photo by Riku Vejander
You don't have to be a Brit to be a fanatic about tea. Bavarian Kristine Mager is such a passionate tea-lover that, since 2006, she's been holding monthly tastings at her Mitte shop, introducing Berliners to the many subtleties of a culture that spans continents, hundreds of varieties, and a nuanced sense of etiquette.
On arrival you're greeted by tables topped with delicate teacups and ceramic teapots, plates of fruit and biscuits and blankets in case you get cold (the shop is lined with ceramic tiles which don't retain the heat). Silver tea caddies holding distinct fragrant tea leaves line the wooden shelves, and bright oriental carpets cover the floor.
Before starting the tasting, Mager goes into detail about the teas she's chosen and the utensils she's using (usually a tea table, wooden tweezers, an array of cups, teapots and spatulas). Then the actual tasting starts: first, the smelling of the dry tea leaves, before the pouring of the hot water (a more complex art than one might imagine) and finally the tasting and discussing of each new brew.
When Mager pours hot water into a glass teapot to display "the dance of the leaves", a feeling of awe fills the air (or was that just a draft from between the tiles?). Not only is Mager a tea expert, she's a storyteller and a wordsmith, weaving wonderful stories of far-away lands.
Filled with rituals, traditions, and fun facts, the tastings are special occasions that offer insight into a wide range of different teas. Two hours and 13 teas later you'll feel refreshed, vibrant and infected by Mager's enthusiasm, ready to seize the day.