German Tea Time: Kaffee und Kuchen as the peak of social culture

For immigrants freshly arriving to the UK, one source of confusion is the use of terms like “lunch”, “dinner”, “supper” and “tea time”. Germans face a special challenge in this department. When English people, especially in the North, refer to “having tea”, they often mean they are having dinner, at a time so early in the afternoon that Germans would not think of it as the last big meal of the day (big doesn’t necessarily mean hot – sometimes it is just bread with a selection of meats, cheese and salad).

In general, Germans like to have their dinner later in the evening, after the activities of the day have concluded. Between three and five in the afternoon however, they might have an extra meal – especially on weekends or holidays.

“Kaffee und Kuchen” is an essential German family ritual. It resembles the posh “afternoon tea” that English ladies and gentlemen stereotypically enjoy with scones, small sandwiches and pastries. In Germany, it offers cake, usually with sweet whipped cream, and a cup of coffee. When visiting grandparents, there’s no way to escape the tasty treat in the afternoon. It helps replenish lost energy after a brisk walk in a nice forest, for example, or is a nice way of getting together in one of Germany’s lovely traditional street cafés.

The closer you are to the coasts of North Germany, the more English you might feel about this afternoon meal, because tea is the favourite choice of drink here, rather than coffee. “Ostfriesentee”, the tea of the East Friesians in the state of Lower Saxony, is very famous, although it really doesn’t grow in the area at all. Like Yorkshire tea, it is imported from countries that are more suitable to grow tea plants.

East Friesians like their tea with candied sugar and cream, served in delicate China with cutlery made of silver. If you order tea in Germany, be sure to specify that you want “Schwarzen Tee” (black tea). With a wide variety of fruit and herbal teas, the British “regular” tea, is not regular at all here, but just one choice out of many.

Further to the South, coffee is more likely to be served, and hot cocoa for the kids, often topped with whipped cream. Visiting even further South, in Austria, the “Kaffeehaus” is the centre of an own culture of hospitality and enjoyment. The intellectual avantgarde of the last centuries established itself around these fancy places, where they discussed and argued while enjoying sweet treats and coffee.

The cake, by the way, is often homemade or at least freshly produced in a local bakery. The choice is endless – from fruity cakes to creamy tarts everything is possible. If you visit Germany, don’t miss out on spending some afternoons in cafés. If you want to start right away, try our recipe. There’s nothing but a selfmade cake, but whatever you do, don’t forget to add whipped cream.

If you would like to try it out and get baking, download our free e-book with “A German 3-course dinner”, where you find an easy recipe for an apple-cheese crumble.

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