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Copenhagen's tiny citadel of tea.

Copenhagen's tiny citadel of tea

In the very heart of the old city, only a short stroll from Copenhagen's Christiansborg Castle is the Crown Prince Street (Kronprinsensgade), at number 5, a mere eye-blink in the quaint, crowded thoroughfare, is to be found A.C. Perch's Thehandel's. The shop itself is perfectly suited to the fairy tale location--barring the cash register, which looks comfortably full, and the electric ceiling lights the shop has not changed since it opened in 1835.

The two large friendly fellows in green aprons behind the counter are soon joined by a third large friendly fellow (actually, size inside A.C. Perch's Thehandel's is relative as the ceiling is truly low and the entire shop is about the size of an average living room in Wichita, Kansas). The third man is owner and manager, Henning Ravn, who can rather quickly let you know that what might look like a charming Victorian relic is very much a thriving business.

"We sell a ton of tea every week," explains Ravn. "Well, not quite that in the summer months, but for the rest of the year, yes." This means that A.C. Perch's may well hold the world record as to tea sales tonnage per square foot. "Of course most of our clients are Danes, but we see many tourists too, and we've become known by word of mouth in many countries," says Ravn. "We are regularly shipping tea now to private clients in the U.S., Japan and England."

The shop proffers a small array of jams, china and other teatime vestments, but 90% of business is in tea and a full two-thirds of the tea volume is in what Ravn terms `real' tea--classic black bulk teas. "We use the flavored teas mainly as a means of starting new tea drinkers, usually the young. Then we try directing them, often with success, to a selected area of classic teas. After that they're on their own." Perch's offers a full complement of tea qualities and their own house blends--a fairly large share of their business is in custom blending. The house specialty is in Ceylon, Darjeeling and the China teas. "We most certainly do our own importing and cupping," Ravn explains. "The company has been in my wife's family for 100 years and tea tasting is our tradition. I've been at it for 22 years, and my son is now learning."

According to Ravn, the shop is seeing an increase in tea drinking, or at least in the popularity of its own provision. True to its sophisticated, urban setting, Perch's has a varied clientele, in all classes, although the door opens on a number of the rich and famous. Young women and housewives are the best customers.

The Christmas season aside, business peaks come with the arrivals of the Darjeeling First Flush in spring and of the Second Flush in September/October. For the First Flush, Perch's keeps a waiting list for two months in advance, and that can grow to 200 names before the arrival notice goes up in the front window. These devotees often buy two kilos worth and not infrequently up to four, if their pockets are as deep as their thirst.

PHOTO : Perch's is now much as it was when first opened in 1835. The store ships custom blends to far away addresses and has a faithful following of tea enthusiasts.

PHOTO : Henning Ravn, owner and manager of A.C. Perch'a Thehandel's, a landmark tea emporium in the heart of Copenhagen. Ravn sells a ton of tea each week in high season, with the emphasis on classic black teas in bulk.

Jonathan Bell European Editor
COPYRIGHT 1990 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on Scandinavian green coffee imports
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Previous Article:Sweden's darkroast specialists.
Next Article:Decaf coffees enjoy increasing popularity.

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