History and heritage in the castle that a tea practitioner calls home.
Mette Marie Kjær, founder of the first tea house in Denmark focusing on Japanese tea culture, dreamed of escaping the city and found herself in the 450 square-meter south wing of Gjorslev castle. After turning away from her career as an art photographer, she became a practitioner of the art of tea. She opened her business “Sing Tehus” and 12 years later, she moved into the castle where she now lives and holds spiritual tea ceremonies. Gjorslev castle dates back to 1400 when the castle was built for the Bishop of Roskilde, a close confidant of the Danish Queen. In and out of crown ownership, the estate, which is situated on the Stevns Peninsula, 40 km south of Copenhagen, is now privately owned.
For Kjær, tea is performance art – a way to share insights and possibly change people’s perspectives on life. It is the history and heritage that binds Mette and her tea practice to Gjorslev. “It’s probably not a coincidence that I ended up here, bringing in this more than 2000-year-old culture and traditions and using this atmospheric space to communicate these ideas and share these experiences.” Educated in Prague and New York, she has a Master of Fine Arts and Photography but gave that up after realising tea was her medium. When asked do you still do any art?” she replies, “Yes, I do tea.” “It’s not that I don’t appreciate art and its emotional effects on people, it’s just that I felt it was not my role. I saw the tearoom as something I could do to try to bring a feeling of: ‘let’s cultivate together.’ It was during her early days of discovery that she introduced the Skagerak Collection at her first tea shop in Copenhagen and hosted events for the brand.
“It takes patience to build work relationships and we just really liked each other and enjoyed doing things together,” says Mette. Hosting the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Drachmann series was a way of showing how much the relationship means to her. “That’s why we are here, we started with respecting each other and helping each other out,” says Mette. The Drachmann series is named after the Danish writer and painter Holger Drachmann, a leading figure in the Skagen artists’ colony of the late 19th and early 20th century. Launched in 1982, the series is a modern expression of outdoor furniture that had originally been designed for Drachmann in the early 1900s.