German Beverages - More than just Beer

If you think of a German drink, it is highly likely that the first beverage that comes to your mind is beer – Weizenbier, Pils, Radler, you name, we have it! In comparison with other countries, the average German seems to consume 106 litres of beer per head per year, thus ranking second after the Czech Republic (143 litres per head!!!). Such statistics always astonish me, especially when thinking about our unwritten “Kein Bier vor Vier” rule and my own lack of beer consumption... Anyway – the stereotype of Germany as the beer country exists and I will not try to convince you that this well-known fact is untrue; the approximate number of 7500 different beers speaks for itself.

Yet, I want to let you know about some other beverages that seem to be rather German, starting with the most obvious one: water. Before I moved to the UK, I did not really think that there would be anything to say about this most normal, daily-life drink. But, believe it or not, there is a lot to say about the water Germans drink.

While you, my foreign blog visitor, are reading this article, the odds are high that you are either sipping a cup of tea or some tap water. So what? We have already established that Germans are not as keen on tea as the English, but what big deal is a glass of ordinary tap water? Let me tell you – unless you are a student in Germany and want to save money, tap water is not a big thing! Instead, people buy bottled water; preferably sparkling water which is then labelled as ‘classic’ water, ‘Mineralwasser’ or ‘Sprudel’ (from the German word ‘sprudeln’ = bubbling). It never occurred to me that this might be an oddity – however, it always makes Tom giggle because classic water does not really contain carbon dioxide, does it? So in fact, labelling fizzy water as ‘classic’ water is a bit weird. But why would one buy bottled water anyway? Is German tap water not drinkable? Strangely enough, the quality of tap water in Germany is extraordinarily good, but a lot of people still prefer to buy bottled water – even if they like still water! The reason for this is inexplicable for me. But since fizzy water is more popular anyway, buying it in bottles does make sense (not to forget the sensation of returning your bottles to the Pfandautomat).

Fizzy water, sorry Mineralwasser (!), is considered more exciting than the boring still water, more refreshing and it can be mixed with juices, thus creating a so-called ‘Schorle’. It is absolutely normal to drink Apfelschorle (apple juice + soda), Weinschorle (wine + soda) or Radler (beer + sweet soda). Combining those flat still drinks with Mineralwasser gives them an extra kick, a bubbly sensation and an excuse for burping afterwards.

Beer to the left, Apfelschorle to the right! (Not to forget the Currywurst with chips)

Moreover, when you go to a German restaurant and order “Wasser”, you will most likely be given a bottle of Mineralwasser, because it is considered the ‘classic’ type of water. If you want still water, you will have to add that. Either way, still or sparkling, the water will be served in a bottle and you have to pay for it. Ordering tap water is not a thing at all, and will cause confusion or even an annoyed look on the waiting staff’s face. In fact, restaurants do not like to give tap water to guests, since they cannot charge them for it. If somebody asks for tap water, he or she will be considered tight or stingy. I must admit, that this is fairly odd, especially because it is so normal to order a glass of tap water at an English restaurant or bar. Since I am a very thirsty person, I really appreciate this possibility and will definitely miss it when moving back to Germany.

Hence, if you do not want to offend the waiting staff in a German restaurant or be judged as tight, accept the fact that you will not be able to get water for free. Therefore, it makes more sense to spend your money on something else than water. Of course, beer is a good possibility. But the non-alcoholic options should be considered as well: Apfelschorle is great! Or Johannesbeerschorle! Juices mixed with soda are amazing and very refreshing. Prefer something sweeter, maybe a coke or a fanta? Let me tell you, there is something BETTER than coke or fanta: the mix of both, sometimes called Mezzo Mix or Spezi. I have no idea how this drink has not made it to the UK – it tastes SO good! Try it once, and you will never want one without the other again.

On this note: I need to get a drink now, my cup of tea is empty. While I would normally have a tap water, I have to finish the remains of our last German visitor, my brother, first: half a bottle of fizzy spring water. Cheers! 

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