Text by Kerry Vincent • Photography Courtesy of Hotel Des Indes
The Fine Art of Afternoon Tea at Hotel Des Indes
The magnificent Hotel Des Indes is an old friend, a landmark establishment on the swank Lange Voorhout Avenue at the center of The Hague in southern Holland. If you are lucky enough to visit in late winter, walking to the hotel has its own rewards, with a unique chance to traipse through magnificent carpets of yellow-throated indigo and white crocuses that magically emerge through blankets of soft snow. Such a beautiful vision, it’s enough to make one want to pirouette.
Approaching the antique ochre hotel exterior and the gabled gray façade, guests are welcomed by the liveried porter. Inside, furnishings exude a sense of the palatial, fit for royalty. It is easy to observe that there is a retained sense of history with walls that surely have stories to tell.
Hotel Des Indes was once a palace built for Baron van Brienen van Groot-Lind en Dortmonde, who was an advisor to King Willem III of the Netherlands. During his ownership, the baron lived elsewhere on the fringes of The Hague, but he needed a stately downtown reception palace within reach of the political hub of day-to-day royal affairs and a place to host standout aristocratic soirées and galas. In the 1880s, the baron’s heirs sold the palace, which began a new chapter for the venue as the luxury Hotel Des Indes, serving wealthy colonial Dutch-Indonesian families.
Because the tea ritual is so ingrained in British culture, it may be a surprise to learn that the first to introduce tea to Europeans was the Dutch East India Company (officially the United East India Company). Drawn by the mystical aromatics of the Far East Spice Islands, Dutch explorers sailed the oceans blue with the prime objective of discovering culinary treasures to bring home to their trading center, Amsterdam. Fierce competitors, the Dutch and their British counterparts coveted gold, precious gems, textiles, nutmeg, pepper, cardamom, tea, and coffee, combing the vast markets in China and the Indian Ocean rim: Indonesia (once Batavia), Mughal India, and Sri Lanka, among others. Because of its entrepreneurial spirit, the Dutch East India Company is considered the first multinational consortium, eventually claiming sovereignty over much of the Indonesian archipelago, the jewel in the Dutch crown.