The most beautiful and most horrible place to drink tea – Tromsø, Norway

Last week I posted a blog with my Tea New Year Resolutions and more nature brewing was one of them. Now am I the now-or-never kind of guy when it comes to resolutions. If I want to exercise more and after two weeks I haven’t, the resolution ends pretty much there.

So when a few days in 2017 I, together with my girlfriend Janne, sat on a plane towards Tromsø in the northern part of Norway, I was totally ready for brewing in nature at a place where nature is at his best. I packed a gong fu cha travel kit, a 1,5 liter thermos and a range of tea samples to bring to the fjords. I would spend the few hours of twilight a day (the sun doesn’t come up in winter) enjoying the spectacular views which would let me enjoy the taste of tea even more. That was the plan…

Day 2. Exploring day. When we arrived on the southern tip of the island the view was breathtaking. The sun that never came up was setting and shined a fire red color over the fjord. The deep dark sea was smashing into the rocks with the white mountains being seemingly undisturbed about it. It was a memorable sight I’ve never seen before and I decided this was the time to start up a session. But it turned out to be a horrible, a truly horrible place for tea.


The place of doom.

Imagine winds blowing so strong that you are barely able to stay on your feet. Waves being smashed so violently against the island that it rains cold sea water. Feel temperature of what must be minus 25 degrees Celcius. Imagine deciding to do a gong fu cha session right there, right then. Lunatic.


Operation Tea.

I put my outer gloves in my backpack, and try to set up the set on a picnic table nearby. The winds are so strong that I have to secure the gaiwan and cups by digging them into the layer of ice and snow on the table. I bring out a bag of Mei Leaf’s Purple Bud but I wasn’t able to open the bag and if I would have, the purple buds would now be in the ocean, floating towards Svalbard. So I grabbed a white tea ball, threw it in the gaiwan, opened the thermos and tried to pour. As the water left the thermos the wind blew it everywhere but in the gaiwan.

I tried a few times and finally, with the right angle of pouring, the water went into the gaiwan. Boom. Tea ready in a matter of seconds. But the ball showed no sign of life. It was just floating there doing nothing. After a minute I tried to pour from gaiwan to fairness cup. Wind. Tea gone. Another attempt. Same result. Janne is laughing by now and starts taking pictures of my complete failure. Finally another one minute steep finds his way into the fairness cup, but even for a white tea the liquor turns out to be very light in color. I look at the ball and it is still… a ball. I take a sip of the cup and the water is icy cold. No way, Sherlock. Digging in your gaiwan in a pile of ice. That’s gonna keep those cups and the tea warm…

Fighting and being defeated by the elements.

Fighting and being defeated by the elements.

Lucky shot.

Lucky shot.

Even I now realize this is not the place to drink tea. I pack everything and start running for a little barn where I can find shelter from the wind. My hands are freezing as I haven’t been wearing my outer gloves for quite a while now. So, hot tea beats cold weather? No. Not 350 kilometers above the arctic circle in a gong fu cha session. I think any of you knew that, except for me.

Hotel session with Purple Bud.

Safe and warm. Hotel session with Purple Bud.

If you by now think I had a horrible week up north… It was incredible. In between the hotel brewing we led our pack of huskies on a sled through the hills and mountains around Tromsø. We stepped on a boat in stormy weather towards the open ocean and encountered 6 humpback whales and 3 groups of orcas at the end of a fjord in a feeding frenzy with herring all over the place. And yes, we saw the Northern Lights. Twice. Once even going all the way to the Finnish border to have some clear skies, because we had quite bad ‘Northern Light weather’ the days we were there.

It is as good and better as I ever imagined, even though we haven’t seen the best of it yet. The magical dance, waves of light, rolling curtains of green going from left to right on the horizon. Stripes of grey-green appearing and disappearing in the sky. Sometimes it even looked like there was greenish powder thrown from the skies towards earth (Matcha, is that you?). You will never see the Northern Lights as bright as on some of the pictures you’ll see online, because those colors most of us just cannot see. And yes, it can be a long wait, and yes, it’s cold, and yes, sometimes the light comes and goes so fast, but it’s a spectacle that tests the limit of your imagination and that is so worth it, even if you just see it for 10 seconds. We were so very impressed we didn’t tick off the Northern Light on our Bucket List. We moved it up again.

Some photos are made by Janne. She has a travel blog in Dutch (Pack Less See More) and has 2 lovely photogalleries on China and Russia up on 

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