A Berlin Courtyard with Art from, a Vending Machine & a Tea Samovar

Would you like an adventure now or shall we have a cup of tea first? - Alice in Wonderland

Saturday afternoon, the sun is shining and half of Berlin seems to be out and about. During this time  I am on a mission to discover and rediscover how the face of Berlin has changed over the last  years.

I've always loved a good cuppa tea, as it is said in England if there is something a cup of tea cannot solve, then you are in serious trouble. The natural reaction was to find out more about the tea   culture in Berlin. After some research my choice was made – the Tadshikische Teahouse in Oranienburger Straße, not my normal stopping ground but what better place to start with and meet with friends than between the beautiful Jewish Synagogue and the impressive brick facade of the Old Post Office.

The address turned out to be an interesting courtyard from the end of the 18th century, the famous KunstHof with galleries and shops such as Berlin Decor Store whose owner's personality matches the beautiful colours and creatures in her paintings. She trained as a porcelain painter at the famous Meissner.Manufactory. Seeing a curios „Kunstautomat” various questions popped into my head as to why somebody would buy a painting from a machine, in the end it remained yet another unanswered question.

With the option of sitting inside or out we opted for inside and after removing our shoes we sat down on some beautifully coloured low sofas between elaborately carved columns and lamps. The exquisite interior came from the Russian pavilion at the Leipziger Trade Fair in 1974. It was like stepping into a scene of 1001 Nights, the gini bottle, however, was missing. I realised that in other cultures tea houses are still mainly reserved for men to do business and I was pleased that in Berlin I was able to enjoy this experience.

Not knowing what to expect we ordered the Russian afternoon tea. It arrived in an authentic Russian samovar with a silver kettle on top which contained the black tea, together with some small bowls containing marzipan, sugar cubes, sweet raisins, jam, lemon and candied orange as well as some biscuits and the obligatory glass of vodka. We had a short instruction from the waitress and then we embarked on the journey. The strong tea was to fill a quarter of the cup topped with water from the samovar. A cube of sugar between your teeth and sipping the tea, in-between eating some of the sweets. The lemon and vodka was to act as a pallet cleanser before taking the next sip. The tea, sweets and vodka turned out to compliment each other very well.
It was an experience in beautiful surroundings and great company soon to be repeated once the days start getting cooler.

Yes, that's it! said the Hatter with a sigh, it's always tea time - Lewis Carroll

By Ruth-Louise Zehetner

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