111 Places in Berlin – Nr 101: Die Tadschikische Teestube

Good News Everybody! The Tadschikische Teestube is Opening its doors again in a New Location on the 24th of November 2012!  They are now located in the Oranienburger Str. 27

 Check out my new revisited post about the Teestube -> Here

ATTENTION! As with everything nice and unique in Berlin- THE TADSCHIKISCHE TEESTUBE IS CLOSING its doors on the 30th of April2012

 

In front of the Palais am Festungsgraben in Berlin

In front of the Palais am Festungsgraben which houses the Tadschikische Teestube

It seems like this place has been gathering quite some interest over the past few weeks (I’ve noticed it being shared on pinterest and on some other blogs) so I guess now is probably a good time as any to finally publish this post.

I’ve heard about the Tadschikische Teestube even before I moved to Berlin, but having lived here for over 3 years, I still hadn’t managed to actually go and try it out until last month.

Here is a bit of a back story for those who don’t know much about this curious Tea Room.

After being exhibited in the 1976 Exposition in Leipzig – The whole Tadschikische Teestube (including the carpets and wooden paneling) was given as a present to the Chairman of the Council of State Erich Honecker (you know – the head of state of the DDR) by the USSR. Not having a better place to set this room up – he had it installed in the wonderfully named „House of German- Soviet Friendship” now known as the Palais am Festungsgraben.

Coat Check(?) on the Ground Floor

The Coat Check on the Ground Floor of the Theater

*Warning – Historical info about the Tadschikische Teestube*

The original building was given as a gift to Johann Gottfried Donner by King Fredrick II of Prussia in 1751 – and bore the name Palais Donner (Donner meaning thunder – and not döner as in Turkish kebab). It changed ownership several times and was subsequently modified and refurbished until it was bought back by the Prussian government and was set up as the Headquarters of the Prussian Finance Ministry in 1808. Having been damaged during the Second World War, the Russians seized the building in the subsequent allied occupation of Germany and installed the “House of the Soviet Cultures” in it in 1947. Realizing this was probably a crap name, they changed it into “The House of German and Soviet Friendship” in 1950 (most likely for propaganda purposes to bolster the ego of the newly created DDR). It retained this name until 1990 – when East Germany decided to implode under the weight of socialist bullshit. The newly unified Germany took ownership of the building and *again* renamed it into Palais am Festungsgraben.  Today the Building not only houses the Tajik Tearoom – Tadschikische Teestube, but also a Theater and the Saarländische Galerie – a culture forum to promote art exchanges between European countries.

Stairway to the first floor of the Palais am Festungsgraben

Stairway to the first floor of the Palais am Festungsgraben

Now back to the Tadschikische Teestube.

If you read that long block of Text you will have spotted that I mentioned that there is a Theater in the Building as well – Once you enter the building you encounter something which resembles a ticket booth. I was a bit startled at first as I wasn’t sure that I was in the right place, so I asked the watchman if I was in the right building for the Tadschikische Teestube - He pointed at the stairs and mumbled that I should go to Room 117. Content that I wasn’t lost – or about to walk into some Theater performance the misses and we marched upstairs through eerily empty mirror paneled rooms and stumbled upon a massive queue of people.

Queue at the Entrance of the Tadschikische Teestube

Queue at the Entrance of the Tadschikische Teestube

Now this is where I start dispelling some common myths floating around about this place.

The Tadschikische Teestube is often touted as some little urban secret, a tranquil haven – devoid of tourists and such sort. I’m sure that if you ask one of your friends (if you live in Berlin) “have you been to the Tadschikische Teestube?” His eyes will probably burn through your skull (you know – it’s that look you get when you ask S-Bahn Staff for help).  So it seems like most of the “mainstream” havent really heard of this place but stop right there – just because none or hardly any of your friends have been or heard about it, doesn’t mean that nobody else knows about it. Just google it – its listed in almost every online Tourist Guide.

Inside The Tadschikische Teestube

Inside The Tadschikische Teestube

This place is packed. Always.

As huge and as empty as the rest of the building is – the Tadschikische Teestube is not. There is limited seating inside the small room (Official Seating capacity: 64), and it’s on a 1 Person Leaves – 1 Person Enters Basis. So we stood there in the foyer gauging if getting into the queue was worth it when we spotted the huge pile of shoes in front of the door. I realized – dam! You need to take your shoes off before you go inside. Thank god that I put on a pair of fresh socks….

We lined up in the queue and I must say it moved quite quickly – probably due to the fact that the small group of impatient foreigners in front of us decided that the wait was too long – or one of them had trench foot, either way it put us to the front of the line.

We took one step into the room and were pleasantly surprised – I anticipated an evil smell like some sadistic mixture of tea and feet, but there was just some faint Tea Aroma in the air.

Decorative Lights hanging inside the Tadschikische Teestube

Decorative Lights hanging inside the Tadschikische Teestube

 

So there we stood – in our socks with the old carpet underneath our feet, waiting to be seated. It seems like the reason why this place has such a long queue is because only 2 people work in the Tadschikische Teestube and both of them are busy walking back and forth between customers and the kitchen (which is located in a separate room opposite of the tea room).

Most of the tables in the Tadschikische Teestube are pretty low to the ground, but you get to sit on some comfortable cushions. For clumsy or unflexible people this is the perfect recipe for trouble as your first instinct is to get in some sort of comfortable seating position and put your feet under the table. Every time someone moves to adjust themselves, they’ll have the tendency to knock the table. On the opposite side of the room next to the windows you have higher tables and proper chairs, which give you a lovely view over the square down below.

Sitting by the  window with a Samovar

Sitting by the window with a Samovar inside the Tadschikische Teestube

One of the “waiters” walked over to us and in a Spanish accent directed us over to one of the larger tables where 2 other couples had already taken their place.  I was disappointed. A) Because I wanted to sit at the empty table at the window and B) it turned out that both the waiters were Spanish. There are at least 200,000 Russians and Post-Soviet citizens living in Berlin – I’m sure they could have found at least 2 to work at this place.  It’s like going to LEGOLAND and suddenly you find out it’s all just shitty Duplo blocks. It kind of ruined the image in my head that I had formed about this place.

We mulled over the Menu slightly overwhelmed by choice.  The Menu Boasts something around 20 (and more) choices of Teas from the standard Black Tea, to Chinese Green Tea and some even Russian varieties (even though Russians only drink black Lipton tea) Prices start off at about 2,80€ per pot. Some teas actually consist of a small menu – meaning that you will get some biscuits, jam and even a small shot of vodka with it.

You can order a Tee ceremony (not sure what that actually includes) for 2 people which costs about 7,50€ pp. – and for large groups you can order a large charcoal Samovar (meaning 20 people – needs to be reserved in advance)  – which will set you back a hefty 9,80€ pp.  That’s a whopping 200 euros – for some hot water. Totally incomprehensible price in my opinion.

The Tajik Tearoom not only offers a wide assortment of teas to choose from, but you can also order some “Russian” food with prices ranging between 3€ and 10€.

My family spent 3 years living in Russia – I’ve had my share of Russian food so we passed on that option.

 

A Pot of Darjeeling first flush in the Tadschikische Teestube

A Pot of Darjeeling first flush

 

The room exhibits a strange charm – a mixed feeling of sitting in a Russian subway (probably because of the lights) and a tacky Indian restaurant (attributed to the wonky, badly painted art on the wall). Not entirely unpleasant.

We tried ordering two pots of Darjeeling first flush, but one of the Spanish waiters was busy giving the couple in front of us the wrong order (3 times) and the other waiter was too occupied drinking his own tea across the room to deal with anything work related.

 

Wood Panneling and a Giant Samovar

Wood Panneling and a Giant Samovar

Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had troubles ordering as the other people at our table were sharing similar stories. We did finally manage ordering our Tea but I must say – it’s somewhat of a turn off when the people serving you clearly don’t want to be working and have no shame in openly demonstrating this.

We did get our tea relatively quickly though – which can’t be said for the other two couples on our table. Both of them received the wrong orders, but settled for what they got as it seemed too much effort to complain about it.

Mirrored Room with a giant chandelier on the first floor

Mirrored Room with a giant chandelier on the first floor

The Tea wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t great either. I was expecting more from a place that touts itself as a Tea Room – especially a place thats called the Tadschikische Teestube. I don’t drink coffee, so I take my tea quite seriously – so I was excited to go to a place which serves tea as its main product (unlike coffee shops which just dump a tea bag into hot water /done ).  There are plenty of blogs/bloggers out there who take their coffee (and the search of good coffee shops in Berlin) quite seriously and I’m sure they would come to a similar conclusion if this place served coffee.  If you want a good tea (/service) – I doubt this is the place to go.

My verdict of this place: It’s a tourist trap.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go and visit it. There are plenty of reasons to head over to the Tadschikische Teestube.  For one – the building is amazing. I have a feeling that many people will just simply trot on through and just go to the tea room. Don’t. Take your time and wander through the empty rooms, it’s seriously worth it.

Don’t go to the Die Tadschikische Teestube for the Tea – go because it’s a wonderfully random and unique place, one of many which make Berlin so awesome. Despite the tea being mediocre and the staff being totally disinterested I would go there again, and I would probably drag some friends along to join me as well.

 

Palais am Festungsgraben, Fernsehturm, Berliner Dom and the Deutsches Historisches Museum

Palais am Festungsgraben, Fernsehturm, Berliner Dom and the Deutsches Historisches Museum

Tadschikische Teestube

Am Festungsgraben 1

10117 Berlin (Mitte)

Tel: (030) 204 11 12 – Reservations possible

 Mo-Fr 17-24

Sa+So 15-24

Kitchen until 22.30

Drinks from 2€, Food from 3€

 

**A few weeks ago I bought the wonderful book “111 Orte in Berlin Die Man Gesehen Haben Muss” (*Achtung Deutsch!) by Lucia Jay von Seldeneck, Carolin Huder, and Verena Eidel in the hopes that it would offer me some new curious places to visit in Berlin. The Tittle of this post (and subsequent post) stems from the tittle of the aforementioned book. Over time I will hopefully visit all 111 (and more) of these places in Berlin.