Afternoon Tea Service

For more than 400 years, tea has been a civilized respite from the workaday world. For Holland America Line, tea time is as much about time as it is about tea -- time to sit with friends, time to talk, and time to savor.

We offer several types of tea services onboard our cruises: daily casual tea, Royal Dutch High Tea, and Indonesian Afternoon Tea. Tea schedules vary for each sailing, so your cruise could include a combination of some or all of these types of tea.

Our Cup of Tea
By Sarah Rose, published in Holland America Line’s award-winning Mariner Magazine

All Tea Lovers are familiar with Indonesian teas—even if they don’t realize it. A component of tea blends, bagged teas, and iced tea, Indonesian tea is consumed worldwide. But as a whole-leaf brew on its own, Indonesian teas are almost impossible to find—a rare treat.

Holland America Line's Black Tea Sample

At sea, it’s a different story. Fortunately for discerning tea drinkers, in spring 2011 Holland America Line debuted Indonesian teas on board as part of its authentic Indonesian tea and coffee ceremony. Hot beverages and delicacies are now served by the Indonesian crew, dressed in traditional batik and headdress.

Sampling Indonesian teas is not just a novelty; these teas offer a taste of history. The world recently celebrated the 400th anniversary of tea’s introduction to the West, in 1610. Tea is now the second-most popular beverage on earth, next to water, and it owes its global popularity to Holland and Indonesia. “Europe’s first tea chests—as well as the very name we call it—actually arrived from the Dutch East India Company’s factory in Bantam, Java,” Pratt explains.

Indonesia’s tea quickly became a favorite of the nobility, a morning pick-me-up and an after-dinner delicacy so expensive and rare it came to signify taste and status. Tea was included as part of the dowry of Catherine de Braganza of Portugal when she married King Charles II of England in 1662. (Also included in the dowry: the port cities of Tangier and Bombay—quite a wedding present.) Following the royal wedding festivities, tea was such a hit in England that the British Empire expanded in India and Hong Kong just to meet the growing demand. The popularity of Indonesian teas continued until around 1800, when the Dutch East India Company was dissolved.

Primarily known for the black variety, Indonesian teas are noted for a marked briskness in taste, with the same sweet and smooth notes that first made them popular with royalty 400 years ago, Debbie Chang, a certified tea sommelier in Toronto, says. The black teas are known to brew a clear and pretty liquor (“liquor” is the actual liquid produced as tea leaves steep—it’s what most people think of as tea), with golden-orange color and hints of rich red.

“For those who are interested in trying Indonesian tea, I recommend starting off with the black teas,” Chang says. Holland America Line offers an organic black tea, a spiced black tea, a crisp green tea, and a green jasmine tea as part of the onboard ceremony.

To the tea connoisseur, Indonesia’s teas will taste familiar, as they come from the tropics, much like Ceylon, or Sri Lankan, teas. Indonesia’s very finest teas hail from estates on the islands of Java and Sumatra, where the mountains are high and lush with jungles, with enough rainfall to water the bushes and enough misty cloud cover to prevent leaves from being scorched in the tropical sun.

To accompany the teas, which are served on board once during a 7- or 10-Day itinerary (twice, up to 16 days), Holland America Line offers a selection of traditional Indonesian pastries, including banana and mango fritters, coconut rice crepes, and chocolate rice sponge cake. (In addition, two Indonesian coffees, Sumatra and Celebes, are available in French-press-style.)

In the past 25 years, Indonesian teas have staged a world comeback, and now make appearances at luxury tea retailers such as Le Palais des Thés and Mariage Frères in Paris. And of course, Holland America Line is doing its part to restore Indonesian tea to the exalted status it held when it was gifted to Catherine of Portugal’s lucky royal groom.