Berlin is a city that is notoriously filled with unique and interesting store concepts. WATM tuned into the myriad and chose a few of our favorites. Jens P&T is one of the cooler of the bunch, and with such a simple concept of selling us premium and beautiful paper and tea in a museum-like fashion, we were immediately hooked. Read on to hear more about what the founder, Jens de Gruyter has to say about his shop.
We Are The Market: Why paper and tea?
Jens de Gruyter: The name of our brand is P & T, which stands for 'Paper & Tea', is an allegorical marriage of two of mankind's most important product inventions. Both originating in China thousands of year's ago and both over time being adopted around the globe and sharing a similar legacy as agents for communication, creativity, and learning.
What was the inspiration behind the store?
The first point of departure for our original retail system was the inspiration i got from my tea-related experiences traveling to traditional origin countries such as China, Taiwan and Japan. Since our approach to tea and tea-related accessories is so purist and in some ways ahead of the general public's awareness here in the West, we knew we would have to communicate differently than your traditional tea shop. From this premise we began to think away from the conventional over-the counter 'apothecary' tea shop model and more along the lines of how sophisticated fashion or cosmetics are presented.
Describe the interiors-- whats the vibe? Who designed them?
The store was designed by my friend Fabian von Ferrari. The main challenge was hitting a balance between showing our respect of Asian traditions and transporting our own modern brand identity. The design of our furniture fixtures, with the geometric hard edges takes its cue from our P & T logo but also alludes to Asian forms found for example in origami tessellation art. For the decorative lighting, traditional Chinese lanterns are hung in three-dimensional wire grids which are formal naked abstractions of Asian room design - light and airy counterpoints marking the heavy presentation islands below.
How do you go about choosing each product?
We are constantly tasting new crops as well as new varieties of tea in order to assess which ones we take up in our offering. The basic premise for any tea we consider is that it is orthodox - meaning hand-processed according to traditional practises. And the majority of our tea accessories are sourced from non-industrial production, made by artisans and artists with a passion and deep knowledge of tea culture.
What is the sourcing process like?
We source most of of our teas directly from the tea gardens where they are grown. It's important for us to personally know the makers in order to create a sense of mutual awareness and gratitude from shrub to cup and back again.
What is the scene like in the neighborhood the store is in?
We're located in the heart of Berlin Charlottenburg, just off the corner of Kantstrasse. What's interesting about our area is that while Charlottenburg is quite upmarket bourgeois, the Kantstrasse where we are is actually Berlin's little China Town, dotted with lots of traditional Asian restaurants, supermarkets, massage parlours and chinoiserie stores.
Where is a cool place to go for drinks in Berlin?
My fave after-work place in Berlin-West is the venerable Diener Tattersall; a favourite in Berlin-East is the King Size Bar. In both you're likely to drink with a certain artist-bohème, though the type will be as different as these places and the areas they are located in are.
What is your favorite thing in the store right now and why?
One of my favourite items are the Japanese Shirokuro (Black & White) tea bowls we just got in, which have this fantastic action painting-like glaze.
Where is your favorite place in the world to have a cup of tea?
As hokey as it sounds, I'd say it's definitely my armchair where, before I do anything else, i take my first tea in the morning looking out over the Spree river in Kreuzberg.
As a home-base for the store, what does Berlin, as a city, contribute?
First of all Berlin is probably the major metropolis in the western world with the least sense of urgency in terms of space and time. And so one is somewhat freer here to be creative and to experiment, which is such a blessing. And of course it's also a city with so much culture. Berliners are open-minded, well-traveled and interested. As are the increasing numbers of cultural tourists who come here.
Be sure to check out P&T at Capsule Berlin's Donut Shop.