The quaint Dutch town of Franeker hides an aromatic secret: a beautifully atmospheric tea and coffee house with a façade dating back to 1745. Cabana takes a tour of this silent sentinel whose walls tell tales of craft and commerce.


Frozen in time, the tea shop is a silent sentinel to centuries of progress © Isabel Bronts

Over the last century, the Hendrick de Keyser Association has preserved some of the Netherlands' most extraordinary buildings. One such property, a former coffee and tea house with a façade dating back to 1745, can be found in the quaint Dutch town of Franeker, adjacent to the oldest planetarium in the world. Frozen in time, a silent sentinel to centuries of progress, its walls tell tales of craft, commerce, and aromatic blends; architectural marvels bearing witness to the ebb and flow of trade.

In 1880, a vibrant chapter in the building's story began with the establishment of a wholesale business in colonial and grocery goods. A coffee roastery constructed within the confines of a small building in the rear yard was overseen by the skilled hands of Bouwe Bölger - and so began a tale entwined with the aromatic allure of sugar, spice, chocolate, tea and coffee, all 19th century delights.

Sybren Gerrits van Balen, an enterprising trader in tobacco, bought the building in 1882 and embarked on a journey to expand and enhance its legacy. In the consecutive years business flourished and, as a testament to its success, Van Balen commissioned architect N.J. Adema to bestow upon the building a new rear house and façade reminiscent of Neo-Renaissance opulence. With a keen eye for detail and penchant for elegance, Adema wove a refined tapestry, adorning the space with hardwood counters, brass ornamentation and Art Nouveau flourishes.

Intricate tile tableaus on the display window, crafted by Van Hulst in Harlingen, depict distant lands and exotic flavors, picturesque reminders of the Dutch East India Company and its monopoly on Dutch trade, which played a pivotal role in the global tea and coffee industry. The historic space also features stained glass, gold-plated embellishments, and materials imported from Belgium, Germany and Canada; no expense was spared and Adema was free to weave his magic.


A connoisseur of fine blends, Van Balen crafted his own tea compositions. Behind the storefront, a cozy room served as his sanctuary, where he meticulously blended and sampled. As the years unfurled, the building evolved: from the crackle of coke-fired machines to the later hum of gas, then electricity, each era brought new advancements. The turmoil of WWII brought the business to a standstill, but it was soon revived by Van Balen Junior, who continued his father's legacy until 1985 when the building was purchased by Hendrick de Keijser Association.

And so, the art of the tea and coffee sold here to customers over centuries, whether in moments of quiet repose or as cues to lively conversation, is saturated within the walls of this shop. An art-nouveau treasure, it stands as a monument to the enduring spirit of craftsmanship, commerce, and Franeker community.



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