Austria versus Tea:
Why You Should opt for Coffee in Vienna

In case you are English and you have ever gone to Austria, you might have noticed that tea in the Alps barely deserves to be called tea. After having lived in England for quite a while myself, I feel qualified to investigate the issue of "Austria versus Tea" in more detail. To start with a declaration: Firstly, there ARE tea drinkers in Austria so there is reason to hope. Secondly, if you are in Rome, do it like the Romans - in other words: If you are in Vienna, drink coffee!

Only in major cities you will find shops specialising in teas

Nonetheless, I have wondered myself many times why it is virtually impossible to get a nice cup of tea in cafes and restaurants in Austria, despite of a high number of international (including British) tourists and a cuisine that becomes increasingly international. I think there are several reasons for this.

You will often hear that the water in England is more suitable for making tea than the water anywhere else in the World - that′s rubbish, since a.) England is geologically diverse and so is its water and b.) the water in many areas of the UK is utterly horrible for anything, including tea. Personally, I think that the reasons for Austria′s poor tea have to do with the lower quality of the tea leaves that are sold on the continent compared to Britain.

Bring you own leaves…

If you buy tea of the major brand in the UK and compare it with a sample of the same brand in Austria, you will note a difference - I suspect the tea mafia of the World to ship the best quality to the most rigorous market - countries with a pronounced tea culture such as England - and sell the not-so-high-quality leaves to countries with no sense of what constitutes good tea at all. Such as Austria. Note that this applies to tea sold in supermarkets only and not to specialised tea-shops!

Never order tea in a Cafe

Since there is little you can do to eliminate that problem, I recommend to bring your own teabags, accept moderately high quality in Austria or go for "boutique teas", high-quality blends that are sold in trendy cafes or by specialist tea merchants. The second big problem is that many Austrians simply don′t grasp that artificially flavoured chunks of dried fruits are NOT tea.

You will be amazed to notice how resistant Austrians are in accepting the idea of an actual plant that you can make tea from - what English refer to as simple "tea" is called black or Russian tea in Austria. Austrians typically drink it when they have colds, and, to make things worse, rape the beverage by adding lemon juice and sugar.

To avoid this, simply ask for milk instead of lemon and sugar - at least waiters should know that this is the proper way of having tea and won′t bother you with any citrus fruits. However, even if you have managed to find quality tea leaves and kept all lemon juice away from you cup, there is a third obstacle to get around - and I think it might be the most crucial one.

Boil your Alpine Spring Water properly

The making of a nice cup of tea requires boiling (bubbling) hot water - which happens at around 100 degree Celsius in low-altitude countries like England. In Austria, with its high altitudes, it boils at slightly lower temperatures.

To make things worse, I have noticed on several occasions that water was added to the cup before it was boiling properly - which doesn′t help to extract the tea the way it should. It is fairly easy to avoid that by instructing the waiter that you want the water heated really, really hot and not just "almost boiling".

Finally, so-called condensed milk is often served in Austrian cafes, which is great for coffees, but a bit too dense for tea. Ask for simple milk. If all that is too much of a hassle for you, take Austria the way it is and try some other drink; caffeine-containing local goodies include a large range of different coffees and since 1987 the energy drink "Red Bull".

Further Reading

Austrian Drinks

An Introduction to Austria Wine

Austrian Lifestyle & Culture

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