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The Ostfriesen Ceremony

Posted on 04/06/2023

In past blog posts and Upton Tea Quarterly articles, we have discussed traditional tea ceremonies — from the Gong Fu Cha of China to the Chanoyu tradition of Japan. But did you know that Germany, with its rich history and tea culture, has its own variation of a tea ceremony? In 2016, the Ostfriesentee Ceremony was granted UNESCO Cultural Heritage status with recognition of its lasting importance to the community where it originated. If you would like to experience the taste of East Frisian tea at home, why not gather your friends or family and sit down to a strong cup of tea the Ostfriesentee way?

East Frisia, also known as East Friesland or Ostfriesland, is a cultural region in the northwest of Lower Saxony in Germany. Historically, this territory borders the North Sea, encompassing the coastal marshlands of the East Frisian peninsula and the surrounding islands. When the Frisians, a Germanic seafaring people, migrated to Northern Germany from Holland in the 12th century, they chose to settle on a coastline rich with resources. Tea was not introduced to the region until 1610, when the Dutch East Indian Company brought tea from the east to the seaport. Like many European countries, when tea first arrived it was treated as a medicinal beverage before it was popularized and became a common staple in every household. In fact, The German Tea Association reports that the locals of East Frisia now consume nearly 79 gallons per person a year. That’s more than England!

The emotional motivation that drives the Ostfriesentee is friendship and hospitality. As a generous gesture from host to guest, the tea serves as a symbol of good will and kindness. Each time a cup is emptied, it is refilled by the host. The more tea the guest accepts, the better — it is considered rude to drink less than three cups before declining. The idea is not to rush, but to savor the conversation and the experience of enjoying a cup of tea. East Frisian tea is very dark and strong, so this can be an invigorating experience! When the guest has drank their fill, they turn their cup upside down on their saucer, or put their spoon in it, to politely signal that they have had their last cup and wish for no more.

The two ingredients that make Ostfriesentee unique are the extras that put the cup of tea over the top with their rich flavors: kluntjes, which are little pieces of rock sugar, and cream, an indulgent alternative to milk. A kluntje is placed in each cup before the tea is poured and ideally, if the water is hot enough, the sugar will crackle, a delightful part of the sensory experience. When adding cream, the idea is to enjoy the cloud swirling and making shapes as well as the contrast of color. You are not supposed to stir, so you can savor each layer of flavor the top of the cup (dark and pleasantly bitter), the middle (creamy and rich) and the bottom (sweet and decadent from the sugar).

Over time, unique teaware has evolved for this special social occasion. When participating in Ostfriesentee in Germany, guests can be treated to ornate tea cups, beautiful dishes and cream pitchers, silver spoons and special tongs designed for sugar. While these beautiful luxuries lend additional elegance to the affair, you certainly don’t need fancy equipment to enjoy the fun of this tradition at home! 



·           The teapot of your choice (with or without an infuser)

·         Cups for your guests

·         Upton Tea Imports’ TB51: East Frisian BOP or TB52: East Frisian TGFOP

·         Kluntjes (Sugar rock candiesorder them online or find them at a European supermarket)

·         A small cream pitcher, filled with cream or half and half


1.       Warm your teapot by rinsing it with hot water over the sink, then dry it off with a towel.

2.       Bring water just to a boil (enough to fill your teapot).

3.       Add loose leaf tea to your teapot: one teaspoon for every cup your teapot holds, plus one extra (for example, with a 4-cup teapot, add 5 teaspoons of tea leaves).

4.       Pour the boiling water into the pot. You can use an infuser if you wish to remove the tea leaves after the recommended steeping time on the label, or to steep them the traditional way, spoon the leaves directly into the bottom of the pot. This allows them to flavor the tea indefinitely, causing it to gradually produce stronger cups as it sits.

5.       Before pouring the tea, place a kluntje in each cup. In the spirit of hospitality, pour your guests’ tea before your own.

6.       A careful dollop of cream will complete the cup. Try pouring it over the back of a spoon to get a perfect cloud, and do not stir!

7.       Enjoy while hot and remember: drink as many cups as you can!

Explore our East Frisian offers – a perfect way to start your day! 


Happy Tea Drinking!
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