If you had to guess which region of the world consumes the most tea, you’d probably overlook the obscure northern German region of East Frisia. And yet, according to the 2021 Tea Report by the German Tea Association, East Frisian tea consumption outpaces the tea consumption of famously steeped-leaf-loving destinations such as the UK, Turkey, Iran, Morocco, and all five major tea regions in Asia.
Per capita, the report states that East Frisians drank 300 liters of black tea in 2020 compared to Ireland’s 222 liters and Great Britain’s 177 liters. This may come as a surprise to non-Germans, but the region’s tea tradition is so well known domestically that the German Commission for UNESCO listed East Frisian tea culture on the Nationwide Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016.
To lean into an obvious pun, East Frisia’s love of black tea is steeped in history. Tea was first brought to Europe by Dutch East India Trading Company sailors in the 17th century. Coffee made it to the continent around the same time, and both goods became widespread by the 19th century. Yet while the majority of Germany leaned into the burgeoning coffee culture, East Frisia, which is relatively isolated in far-north Germany near the Dutch border, took its cultural cues from the Netherlands and England and developed a more economical tea habit.
The habit stuck, and with it came a specific ritual. According to UNESCO, East Frisians drink loose-leaf black tea, primarily Assam, that’s poured over a chunk of rock sugar called “kluntje” after it’s brewed. A small amount of cream is then added slowly, creating a cloud-like effect known as “wulkje.” Once the cream is poured, it’s time to drink — without stirring. This allows each ingredient to be the focal flavor in succession: first the cream, then the tea, then the sugar.
If you ever find yourself traveling through northern Germany, and all of a sudden locals start offering you bottomless cups of creamy, strong, and sweet tea, you’ve probably landed in East Frisia. While there, make a point to visit the tea museums in Norden or Leer to learn more about the region’s intangible cultural heritage. But even if you never make it there in person, at least you’ve got a fun fact about East Frisia’s world-record tea consumption for your next trivia night.