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The history of Dutch tea

Love a cup of tea? Then you’re not alone – tea has remained a popular drink in China for thousands of years, and today the Dutch simply cannot live without it. To discover how tea became one of the most favoured drinks in the Netherlands over the last four hundred years, read on!

Dutch tea

Dutch tea: from exclusive drink to nation’s favourite

Although a best-loved drink in the Netherlands, tea is not of Dutch origin – indeed, the first tea wasn’t imported to the Netherlands (from China via Batavia) until 1610. At first the hot drink was predominantly a curiosity for the wealthy, who treated it rather like a medicine. Yet, once the VOC began to ship tea to the Netherlands on a large scale, the Dutch became more and more familiar with the prized Asian drink. To satisfy the growing demand for tea in the Netherlands, the Dutch started to cultivate tea plantations in Java and Sumatra. However, it remained an expensive brew, and one that was predominantly reserved for those with deep pockets, right up until the eighteenth century. Rich, well-to-do ladies in particular, loved to flaunt their tea and even constructed special tearooms in their gardens, in which they held regular tea parties. Ultimately, by the beginning of the eighteenth century, tea was affordable for ‘ordinary’ Dutch people, and it rapidly evolved into one of the nation’s favourite drinks.

Dutch tea blends

English tea (a black tea blend) is the tea of choice in the Netherlands, although Ceylon tea (from Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon) and Earl Grey tea (an aromatic blend of black tea and bergamot) are also much-loved. Most Dutch supermarkets additionally stock Darjeeling tea (from the Darjeeling region of India), Assam Tea (from the Assam region of India), Lapsang Souchong tea (which boasts a distinctive smoky flavour, as its leaves are dried over pinewood fires) and green tea (made from steamed tea leaves). These days, typical Dutch tea blends, such as Pickwick Dutch Tea Blend, are available for purchase too.

Herbal tea is increasingly popular in the Netherlands, albeit that many (including rooibos tea, sterrenmix tea, liquorice tea, chamomile tea and mint tea) are not strictly teas, but rather infusions or extracts of flowers and/or leaves).

Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants.

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