Here’s the tea: Dutchies have no idea how to drink it

When I first arrived in the Netherlands, I was surprised — nee, shocked — to discover the questionable way that Dutchies drink tea. 

Strong brew with a dash of milk and some sugar? Hell no, more like: “Let’s reuse the same tea bag 10 times and drink it out of a glass”. 

Coming from Zimbabwe, a former British colony, it’s safe to say that I fully subscribe to the British tea culture — it’s a way of life.

For me, and millions of other people, drinking tea is a ritual involving a big homey mug (or china if you’re fancy), a strong brew, a little milk, and a prolonged amount of time to enjoy it. In the Netherlands, this is not the case.

READ MORE | 11 best places for high tea in Amsterdam: the deluxe guide

Half-hearted dunking 

The British way of making tea involves strict rules of procedure:

  1. Place the teabag in a cup (or teapot) 
  2. Pour boiling water over it
  3. Leave it to steep for a couple of minutes
  4. Remove the teabag
  5. Add a slosh of milk

Perfection! 🍵

English-black-tea-in-cup-with-milk
The perfect cuppa tea! Image: Pexels

In the Netherlands, it goes more like this: 

  1. Hot water is poured into a glass (often from IKEA)
  2. A tea bag is then dunked into the glass a few times
  3. This process is repeated over several glasses (yep, using the same teabag)

The result? We don’t even know if we can even call this tea … more like hot leaf juice than anything else. Queen Elizabeth would be having a seizure if she could see this.

READ MORE | Three very big differences between Britain and the Netherlands

Unfortunately, it seems that even if you were to leave the teabag in the glass for 10 minutes, it still wouldn’t get any stronger, because Dutch tea bags are inherently weak.

So, if you want a proper cup of tea, you’re gonna have to import your own teabags. 😉

A hug in a mug  

Another major difference in the British way of making tea compared to how the Dutchies do it is the way they drink the tea out of the cup.

woman-with-red-finger-nails-holding-cup-of-tea
There’s nothing better to cheer you up! Image: Pexels

When you drink that full-bodied brew with milk, it becomes a special part of your day — something that you have to take time out for. Feeling down? Your cup of tea will cheer you up. 🥳

In the Netherlands, however, the economy is everything, and that extends to drinking tea as well.

READ MORE | 14 downright stingy things Dutch people do

There’s no time for dawdling over small talk and a big steaming cuppa, which means there’s definitely no time for the dawdling that comes with drinking multiple cups of tea poured straight from the pot. 🫖

Tiny shots of super sterk (super strong) black coffee that taste like the earth’s core are more the Dutch way. 

Much like Dutch windows, teacups are also transparent

While drinking tea out of a glass cup may not seem all that bad, I experienced the disadvantages of transparent cups once when I had to have an awkward conversation with someone. 

Tea-in-glass-mug-with-tea-bag
How the Dutch drink their tea! Image: Pexels

When the conversation was over, I gulped down my peppermint tea, eager to leave. He, on the other hand, savoured his drink ponderously. Since my empty glass was transparent, I couldn’t even pretend to sip my tea to avoid the uncomfortable small talk. 😳

It’s not all bad: there’s one redeeming quality

Although I will always be a loyal supporter of drinking tea the British way, I will admit that four years down the line, my go-to order at cafés has become verse muntthee (fresh mint tea) in a glass — I know. 😅 

fresh-mint-tea-in-glass-cups-on-wooden-background-in-Netherlands
So refreshing! Image: Depositphotos

If there’s one tea-related thing the Dutch are good at, it’s their mint and gember (ginger) teas. There’s no settling for a simple teabag — you wanted mint, so you’re getting mint (the actual plant. The same goes for ginger). 

READ MORE | 5 personality traits that the Brits could learn from the Dutch

However, while the freshness is second to none, a full-bodied black tea will always have my heart. Sorry, not sorry. 😉

What are your thoughts on the way Dutchies drink their tea? Tell us in the comments below!

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in November 2021 and was fully updated in September 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Freepik
Jen Lorimer 🇿🇼
Jen Lorimer 🇿🇼
An avid tea drinker, Jen was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She moved to Utrecht in 2017 to pursue her history degree. She loves people-watching, canoeing the Utrecht canals, and observing how the Dutch come alive in summer. Having been traumatised by a Dutch circle party, Jen wants to help equip other internationals with tips and tricks to survive and thrive in this wonderful flat country.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Agreed, the cultural difference is significant. Albert Heijn teabags (“Engels Melange”) are decent if you leave ’em in the mug for long enough…like maybe up to 5 minutes. Milk & Sugar? Argh…thanks, but no thanks. Tea in my house is “as Black as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat” and s.t.r.o.n.g.
    Thanks – in no small measure to Brexit I guess – importing ACTUAL “English Tea” has become absurdly expensive.

  2. Depends on how you like i guess. I am not Dutch but I like the way Dutch people drink teas. English way of drinking tea was pretty different and shocking to me

  3. Firstly, I don’t know if the regular way of making English tea is really the proper way to make English tea – I doubt that the Queen of England has ever had tea made out of a teabag, lol! Also, whilst it may be strong in flavour I doubt it’s because it’s loaded up with tea leaves or because the tea has been left a stew for a long time – it’s more likely a high quality tea leaf.
    Coming from a country area of Australia, my husband and I love tea and we have a ritual of drinking tea everyday, together. My husband has become so fussy he will only drink TWG from Singapore and if desperate Twinings.🙄😀
    We always make a pot of tea having warmed the pot first. Add in the tea leaves or teabag, which is perfectly acceptable especially if they’re the cloth ones from TWG, or looseleaf by Twinings, which would appeal to the Dutch as it is cheaper to buy, so perhaps they could save money that way and drink better tea! We like a medium strength so we can taste all the flavours in the tea. My husband drinks it black and I top up with some milk only in Black or White Tea of course, obviously never in an Oolong, Green or Herbal.

  4. I’m a Dutchie living in Scotland and the people make tea the same as in NL, they only add milk and sugar at the end… They dunk the tea bag in there as well until it’s nearly black.

  5. Ha! My mother in-law is Dutch and she would do this! She would never want her own tea bag. After her husbands (who was from Chile) teabag had steeped a bit, she would dunk it into her cup a couple of times and return it to his. She also prefers instant coffee over fresh coffee.

    I am an American who grew up in Pakistan where they boil black tea for a while, pour in some milk, bring back to a boil, then add sugar. AMAZING. It tastes completely different than if you just let the tea steep. It becomes incredibly rich and creamy and the flavor is really deep in there. That’s how I make my tea 🙂

  6. My Dutch family have always drunk tea without milk, my mother never tolerated tea with milk in the 60y she lived in the UK. She says there was no milk to put in tea in the 1940s war years , In the ‘50s the milkman came round with his milk cart – a horse drawn metal lined tank with a dipper, we rushed out with a jug for our milk. It tasted horrible to my UK fresh TT-tested milk palate. Most families I knew had beer-bottle topped bottles of Hollandia processed milk ‘koffee melk’

  7. As a Dutch person I have to say that the Dutch did bring the thea to England so you wouldnt have that nice way of drinking it without them. Also I would like to advice you to pay a bit more and go to special stores if you dont want the watered down version. Most Dutch people like flavours in the thea and since the dark thea has a very bitter tone its not the common drink here. It is available for sale tho. I never share my thea bag with others and the thea cups I use are not transparant. Its also kinda rude to pretend your drinking while you had a appointment to have a awkward talk. Just my two cents on it.

  8. Serving tea in a glass is not a uniquely Dutch faux pas, unfortunately. Even worse is serving piping hot something, like your favourite muntthee in a glass without a handle. And yes, everywhere on the Continent tea tends to be weak.
    Never understood why the Brits ruin their tea with milk, though.

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