Thursday, July 8, 2010

Europe: Tea in Amsterdam's Red Light District

Before we took off for our recent vacation in northern Europe, I made a note of some tea shops worth tracking down. I'd read a little something about the Geels & Co. coffee and tea shop. What I failed to realize is that it's smack dab in the middle of Amsterdam's infamous Red Light District.

And I wasn't even looking for it the afternoon we stumbled through that perfectly tame neighborhood of quaint sins. Suddenly, after sex shops and prostitutes and "coffee" houses (which, I discovered, also serve tea — marijuana steeped in hot milk), there was my own primary vice: a crusty-looking tea shop. Geels & Co. has been run by the Geels family for 150 years. The tea canisters stacked behind the counter look about that old ...

This being The Netherlands, with a long history of trade with (and colonies in) Indonesia and Malaysia, I inquired about the teas available from those places. They had two black teas from Java, hardy-looking stuff in big plastic bags of a few hundred grams. At the shopkeeper's recommendation, I went with a black tea from Goalpara, a tea garden in Sukabumi, West Java. I've been enjoying it since. It doesn't leap out of the cup or dance on my tongue, but it's a sturdy, reliable and even in brief brews a strong black tea. Sometimes you need that.

The other reason to drop by Geels & Co., maybe the chief reason, is because on the second floor is the Coffee and Tea Museum. I'd like to describe for you the wonders contained therein, but we were there on Tuesday and the museum — run as it by volunteers — is only open for two and a half hours on Saturday afternoons. Believe me, I tried to convince the clerk to let me at least peek inside. She was having none of it. The notes I had say it's a "collection of old coffee trade artifacts, like coffee grinders, tins, burners and traditional appliances has been arranged by passionate coffee and tea lovers." I had to settle for a glimpse at the upstairs window ...

A couple of other intriguing tea options for the Amsterdam visitor:

  • Seeing a rock show at De Melkweg? This famous venue has several extra intriguing rooms, including a movie theater and the Tea Room, full of couches and hookahs.
  • You're in Amsterdam, you'll take a canal cruise. Don't argue, it's worth it. There's a tea option for these, too: the English High Tea Cruise, which you can board at Rederij Lovers near the train station. It's not cheap: starts at 38 euro.

My patient traveling companions,
waiting for me outside Geels & Co.

No comments:

Post a Comment