Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tea in Paris - An Elegant Affair at Mariage Frères

The Parisian taste for fine foods applies to teas as well -- during my 2 week visit to Paris, I was in tea heaven.  Tea is available everywhere.  While even the smallest bars and bistros display signage declaring themselves "Salon de Thé," I mostly checked out the specialty shops.  My favorite is Mariage Frères, a sophisticated tea company with an unparalleled history in the French world of tea. 
Mariage Frères is the oldest tea company in France.  It was established in 1854 by descendants of the Mariage family who imported tea in the 17th century for King Louis XIV as part of the French East India Company.(1) 

Mariage Frères has a tea museum with prized artifacts that are not for sale.  There are tea samples from centuries ago, written records of tea trades, historic maps and historic posters advertising tea.  The museum displays its antique tea shipping containers, chests, cups and kettles from around the world.

When I was done perusing the museum, I took a break and had a very refined tea service at the Mariage Frères tea salon. It was the most elegant tea service I've had to date while traveling in Europe. The décor is reminiscent of the colonial age; the waiters in their crisp uniforms were polite and deferential; there was operatic background music and formal place settings.  The tea was prepared to perfection and my order came with gourmet pastries.  Mariage Frères has mastered every detail of the art of tea service!  They even have a signature tea pot with insulated polished steel globe as a cozy.

In the retail store, Mariage Frères has an unbelievable variety of high quality loose leaf teas with a seemingly endless list of special blends.  They also have unique products...Have you ever had a gingerbread loaf with tea as an ingredient?  Or, how about an incense made from the oil of the tea?  Have you tried tea jellies? I bought some and can hardly wait to try them at home.

(1) Cosmopolis,“Mariage Frères:The French Tea Company in Paris";
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