What a strange title isn’t it? It was inspired by Norway in a nutshell, a wonderful trip you can do near Bergen with trains, boat and bus and where you get to see a lot of wonderful things.
You are wondering if I lost my mind somewhere in the northern parts of Norway or what has all this to do with tea and/or economics.
Well, I can insure you that my mind is right where it should be and that you will learn everything I found out about tea and Norway.
First of all, Norway is a coffee drinker country, perhaps even more than Germany.
This is quite obvious as soon as you get in the streets of any town, big or small.
I knew it but I am not easily discouraged and so before going there, I asked people on Twitter if they knew anything.
I got no answer and I thought that perhaps this was a bad omen of a sort but since I had just received the Devotea’s tea samples, I was under no stress since I had my own stock (but nothing to make tea except my good old Thermos).
This was it until I went to the Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian folkloric museum) and found out in the Kolonial (a kind of grocery store of old if I understood it well) this.
This is why I looked once more over the Internet and in the streets and found out a couple of things: a place that claims to have “initiated the trend”, what looked like a tea house (but I always too early or too late) and a tea shop but that was undergoing works until the 14th of July (perhaps a good omen this time).
Not bad for a first look in a non tea drinking country.
One afternoon, I went to the Tea Lounge (http://www.tealounge.no/) and I had some troubles finding it since its address is Thorvald Meyersgate 33c and I had forgotten about this small letter at the end.
As one would have guessed from the name, it was a lounge open on the street with music being played (I expected any minute to hear Leonard Cohen being played).
The place was not full (far from it) but I was perhaps a bit too early (I left at 7PM and the place is open until 1 or 3AM).
The orders were to be made at the bar, which allowed me to look at the jars with the different herbal things in it and I saw they were made of glass.
The list was okay with around 13 unblended teas, around the same number of blended ones, a couple of tea and alcohol mixes (not really my cup of tea so to say) and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
What was a bit strange in it was the way it was presented as it mixed origins and types in a strange way (for example a Nepal tea in the Sri Lanka – Ceylon section) and with double accounts (this happened a lot with the Chinese and green teas).
From what I saw, I was the only one drinking tea there but I decided to just “keep on my shoes, lean back and just enjoy the melody” (who knows what I am talking about?) and drank two of them, a Pai Mu Tan and a Golden Nepal TGFOP 2nd Flush.
The final result was teas that were too strong and bitter, not because of the steeping time but because they put too many tea in the cups.
Perhaps I was unlucky because the waitress behind the bar didn’t know how to prepare tea or perhaps this is something common in Norway (strong black coffee for everyone?).
As someone later told me, “it is a pub with tea in it” but if only for this strange association between both concept, it is worth a try and perhaps one later in the evening?
And the smoothies were quite good.
Next stop was Bergen.
This time, I really had no luck with tea shops and/or salons but I still managed to have some interesting tea oriented experiences.
While looking in the basket full of morning drinks given by the hostess, I found this and gave it a try. It was an honest green tea but unfortunately the leaves had not enough room in their container to give their full flavour.
I looked at the box and found out that they have 5 other flavours.
I went on the Internet and didn’t find them. If anyone knows or finds them out somewhere…
It is also in Bergen that I managed to experiment the Devotea’s samples under some extreme conditions for some as you will soon see (I must confess that the conditions to make them were not the best I ever had and I will have to taste them again).
The Duchess was taken in a perfect high tea environment. I steeped it with different times and strength and never found it to become too strong. I can only say it was a round tea with a hint of Assam in it.
I am probably the man or woman who has drunk Lord Pettersham in the biggest slope (see http://www.norwaynutshell.com/ and you will understand what I mean). I thought this tea would be a good companion for such an interesting trip. The verdict? An interesting blend with different tastes emerging as you drink it (including a hint of fruit, which puzzled me).
Two Tigers was perfect to hunt the Trolls in the “hills” near Bergen and I think it scared them as I didn’t see any during the hiking time. It was stronger than the two previous ones and in spite of drinking it several times, I couldn’t find a hint of the teas in it, the blend was perfect.
As you might see from the picture, Finbarr’s Revenge was drunk in an Irish-London atmosphere in a really foggy day in the hills. I found a slight malty after-taste in it but it was really enjoyable as a good breakfast tea (even if I drank it all day long).
The next tea stop was Ålesund, a few kilometres up in the North.
Strange place to find hints about tea, no? I found tea in three places : an advertisement for a company, a furniture shop (yes I know it is rather strange) and a chocolate/coffee/tea salon/shop.
The advertisement was in the local magazine and was a presentation in Norwegian of the company (don’t expect me to translate all of it as my Norwegian was never good at all and closer to non-existent but I understood a lot of what they wrote in this small article if not all of it) Eqology (http://www.eqology.com/) and two pages with their products (life-style and beauty ones), among them 6 small boxes of tea (green, cranberry, blueberry, livex, rooibos and tropical tea). I didn’t buy them or really looked at them but the packaging is kind of intriguing, it looks like a beauty product.
The furniture shop (in Ålesund store centre) had 5 different brands : Pukka (a tea bags one that I later found in Germany in a bio shop), Traktør (the shop brand but I don’t know who makes it, if you can buy it or only drink it in the shop), Kusmi, Løv Organic and Solberg & Hansen (a coffee company that seems to make a couple of teas).
The chocolate/coffee/tea salon/shop (also in Ålesund store centre) named Chocolatte (http://www.chocolatte.no) is not that big but is quite cosy and they also sell ice creams (rather good ones from what I heard), pralines and stuff like that. They are selling Jeeves & Jericho teas and some others without brand (from what I saw, they were the typical stuff).
The Jeeves & Jericho are stored in their nice looking little boxes or in the big plastic/metal bags with the transparent plastic stuff in the front to display the leaves inside it. The other unbranded teas are stored in glass jars (once more).
Since I could have any tea I wanted for the same price, I had two different ones from Jeeves & Jericho: the Dragon Well and the Girlie Grey. Once again, they were too strong (this time I had the tea eggs in the cups and I looked at them, they were more than full) with the Dragon Well being quite herbal and the Girlie Grey tasting and smelling more citrus than vanilla.
The staff was really friendly and did not hurry me to buy or drink anything and the cups were quite big (I was really impressed by how much tea they gave you at once).
Another important thing (but I saw it again in another place) is that tea cost less than coffee, which amazes me as in France, it costs more (my analysis always being that it had to do with the water needed to make it).
There was also on the other side of the street a tea/coffee salon but they were closed in July and said they work with the Chocolatte store.
This brings us back to Oslo where I went to Grensen 3, the address of the tea store I had seen, the Black Cat (http://www.black-cat.no), the oldest tea shop in Oslo (starting in 1905) where they sell tea and coffee (they wrote kaffe og tehus, which means coffee and tea house).
They have a lot of teas (they claim to have more than 200 but I wasn’t able to check that) sold under their own brand and that are stored in big metal jars, transparent in the front.
The saleswoman was really helpful, allowing me to smell and check different teas while asking what I preferred (spicy, “pure”, green,…) to better suits her selection of teas.
In spite of some translation problems with some terms, she answered the questions regarding the flavours of the different teas, if they were artificial, made with fruits/flowers…
We even talked a little about the tea scene in Oslo and she recommended the tea salon I had seen in my previous stay and where I wanted to go before leaving Norway.
Before leaving, I bought a Chinese Moon Palace (perhaps a Chun Mee tea, I have to look deeper into it).
The final place I visited during my trip is the Tehuset (http://www.norges-tehus.no/), located in Lille Grensen, Karl Johans gate 25.
On the door, you could see an article from Aftenposten (a Norwegian newspaper), ranking this place n°1 for ice tea in Oslo.
This shop had probably the most modern design of all the tea places I found in Norway but not too modern.
The waiter allowed me to take my time to decide what I would drink (or eat as you can also find pastries and sandwiches there) and answered questions about the tea he had there or the tea market in Oslo (according to him, his was the only true tea salon in Oslo but this is just his opinion).
Once again, I took two teas another Dragon Well and an Iron Goddess of Mercy. And once again, they were both too strong for my tastes (but more on this a little later).
I then went back inside and looked at the jars containing the teas trying to see what they had in this shop and how they had classified it. It was a rather simple and easy to read system with colours.
As for their origins, I saw Assam, Ceylon, blacks or green teas with some classical blends, a couple of white teas and some rooibos or infusions.
They seemed rather Chinese and green teas oriented with a lot of those being fair trade certified.
I had to leave in a kind of hurry because the ship had to leave and I still had to check in and since I had still about half my teas available, I put them into my Thermos and thought that I would taste this unorthodox mix later.
The final result was a tea that smelled more like a Dragon Well, looked like an Iron Goddess of Mercy and tasted first like a Dragon Well then like a mix of both and that left me with an after-taste of Iron Goddess of Mercy
This improvised Dragon Goddess of Mercy was another interesting experiment.