Subculture of Tea-Drinking in the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is known for its world-famous beer, but it also has a thriving subculture of tea-drinking. Czechs are among the top five tea-drinking countries in Europe, with an average consumption of 270-280 grams per year. Tea distributors and shops in the country bought 3,662 tons of leaves from China, India, Japan, and Vietnam from December 2012 to November 2013, generating around 2.06 billion crowns in revenue.

Čajovna: A Unique Experience

The appreciation for tea in the Czech Republic is not just a fad but a reality that has been thriving for over twenty years. This is evident in the high and growing number of tearooms and professionals in the industry. The Čajovna, or tea-room, is a peaceful and quiet meeting place, often hidden in a side street, with Asian-style furnishings, soft lighting, and pictures of Indian, Chinese deities, mandala, or plant cultivations in faraway Asia. The atmosphere of music, Tibetan bells, and other exotic instruments makes time seem to flow more slowly, filled with the aroma of spices, and lulled by the clink of ceramic cups and sound of water inside cast-iron or earthenware teapots.

A Growing Culture

Horák, one of the leading Czech tea experts, explains that frequenting these Čajovny at first were mainly young people who sought an alternative to the classic restaurants and Czech “hospody”. Nowadays, they consist of people of all ages and walks of life, including businessmen and managers who choose the relaxing atmosphere of this place to meet clients and discuss business. It is not surprising that Richard Branson, the British billionaire entrepreneur, founder of Virgin, wrote in his bestseller “Business without secrets” (2008) that “face-to-face conversations are much more effective, and video conferencing is always a sort of makeshift solution compared to a nice cup of tea together”.

No Ordinary Tea

In these temples of tea, the classic tea bags commonly used at home are not permitted. The types of teas found in these Čajovny include dozens or hundreds of varieties, but you will not find the classic bags of tea. These teas are called “dust” in slang and are looked down upon by connoisseurs, because of their low-quality content and fragments of dried leaves.

The Origin of Czech Passion for Tea

It is hard to find a single reason for the Czech passion and interest in tea and its culture, but it is true that during communism, little was known of the East, and as a consequence, Czechs were fascinated by it. With the fall of communism, the trend of travelling to the East caught on, and consequently, that of oriental-style Čajovny. The first Prague Čajovna was opened in 1908 by the writer, traveller, and collector of Japanese art, Joe Hloucha. Other tea-rooms, shops, and Czech import companies of the drink have been established since then.

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