First Tea in The Netherlands

“Een lekker kopje thee”?

We can agree that in the Netherlands, a cup of tea means a moment to relax and take some time for yourself or your loved ones. Dutch people drink tea everywhere, throughout the day and for the most part of the year hot cup of tea is always welcomed. Tea is an inevitable part of our everyday life now, but here is how the essential drink reached the Dutch shores.

One of the first European records of tea comes from the famous Marco Polo in 1285. He describes how Kublai Khan Emperor of Mongolia and Yuan dynasty, taxed profits over tea trade. 

In 1557, Portugal established a trading port in Macau, and word of the Chinese drink "chá" spread quickly, but there is no evidence of them bringing any samples home. 

All until the early XVII century, a ship of the Dutch East India Company brought the first green tea leaves to Amsterdam from China. Yes, the Netherlands, was the first country in Europe to introduce tea.

All until the XVIII century, tea was only Dutch. The first official recorded trade contract for tea cargo import is from 1606 (Osaka to Amsterdam). For reference, the earliest record for tea trade in Britain is 1658. 

The drink rapidly became fashionable among Amsterdam's upper-class circles. Tea was first sold in apothecaries, and within a few years, tea houses spread across all major cities.

The sizeable Dutch flotilla by the trading companies managed to establish tea market monopoly and set up naval bases and trading stations across Asia. The Netherlands was also the first to ship porcelain from China and developed its own Delft ceramics.

The Dutch dominance was secured by the Charles II of England who vigorously opposed tea. He banned its sale in private houses, on the curious grounds of countering sedition and impose ultra-high taxation in his country.

During that time was introduced the tea leaf grading system, which is the process of evaluating products based on quality and condition of tea leaves.The highest grades of tea are referred to as "orange pekoe", and the lowest as "dust", which are determined primarily by leaf wholeness and size.

One permanent legacy of the Dutch tea marker leadership until today is “orange pekoe” grade. “Orange” has nothing to do with colour or orange fruit. The general consensus is that it refers to the House of Orange-Nassau, the ruling family of The Netherlands and that it was used by traders and growers to imply a Royal Warrant certification of quality. The best tea, with “orange pekoe” classification was always reserver for the royal family

During that time tea business flourished, and many companies were established one example being Douwe Egberts. The company has its origins in De Witte Os, a general grocery shop that Egbert Douwes found in 1753 in Joure, Netherlands.

At the beginning of XVIII century, drinking tea became a social ritual. Tea had become an everyday beverage drank by a large part of the Dutch population. The Dutch word for tea is "thee", and an invitation for friends, family and neighbours is "kopje thee?" , "a cup of tea?"