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A Spot of Tea in London? Tokyo? Marrakesh?

August 10, 2009

tea 007

Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage. — Catherine Douzel

Tea seems to be an international phenomenon having strong roots in many cultures.  There is the English tea time, Japanese tea ceremony, and the distinctive mint tea of Morocco.  As my departure for China approaches, I have been thinking a lot about tea.  I am in the beginning phases of becoming a tea connoisseur.  I drink a cup most every day.  I know the differences between black tea, green tea, white tea, rooibos tea, and herbal tea (which isn’t really even tea).  I’ve had matcha tea, yerba mate, even bubble tea.

China, however, seems to open up an entirely new realm of tea (or cha in Chinese).  You can take tea tours in China, where you are guided around a region for several days/weeks sampling various teas.  I am greatly looking forward to learning more about Chinese tea and the traditions surrounding its consumption.  In the meantime I’ll share with you one of my most memorable tea experiences, which was in Paris at the famous Mariage Freres Tea Salon.

Photo Credit: Beth, mirsasha on Flickr

Photo Credit: Beth, mirsasha on Flickr

Mariage Freres

 Founded in the mid-nineteenth-century, Mariage Freres is the most famous tea company in Paris.  They have several salons du the (tea rooms) in Paris as well as locations throughout France and in Japan and Germany.  During my first trip to Paris a group of friends and I decided to stop in for tea time.  Likely most distinctive about Mariage Freres are the pressed white linen jackets and white gloves of the servers.  One almost feels as if they have been transported back in time sitting in one of the upstairs rooms being served by these anachronistic attendants in their pristine uniforms.  The selection at Mariage Freres is extensive, and teas are listed by both the leaf’s country of origin and by type.  During our visit, I had an exquisite Chinese white tea.  My companions sampled a variety of English breakfast and blossoming teas.  Light refreshments can also be purchased with your tea service.  We, however, were dissuaded by the high prices.  The teas themselves range greatly in price from the more common to the exceptionally rare, but at Mariage Freres in Paris you are paying as much for the experience as for the tea itself. 

Also, see Eye on Paris: Dammann Freres Tea Shop from Parisien Salon for another popular tea house in Paris.

Returning to Dallas I never believed I would have the fortune of finding the superb Mariage Freres tea back at home.  Luckily, I was mistaken.  There is a lovely tea shop in Dallas known as The Cultured Cup which offers a broad selection of Mariage Freres bag and loose-leaf tea both in containers to brew at home and by the cup for customers wanting to sit and enjoy their tea time in the shop.  My personal favorite is L’Opera: a green tea enhanced with hints of red berries and precious spices.

Reading

I also recently received The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura, which is a classic guide explaining how tea has affected Japanese culture.

What are you brewing in your tea cup?  Let us know in the comments section!

Mariage Freres Salon du The in Paris

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2009 11:25 am

    Yes, yes, yes! My favourite tea in the world is Mariage Freres’ Thé à l’Opéra – I could sit and smell the leaves all day, I don’t even need to drink it :o)

    You know, they even have a special tea, for which ladies in white cotton gloves cut the leaves from the bush with golden scissors …

    • Ashley Bruckbauer permalink
      August 10, 2009 3:54 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Julie! I wonder how one becomes one of those ladies in the white gloves? 🙂

  2. August 11, 2009 7:54 pm

    Merci for the mention. I also love Mariage Frères!

  3. August 24, 2009 9:30 am

    another place in the world where they know how to make a good cup of tea, and have good conversation over it — Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. have your travels taken you there yet?
    look forward to reading more about what you learn of tea in China, Ashley.

  4. May 4, 2010 3:17 am

    Superb ! Your blog is incredible. I am delighted with it. Thanks for sharing with me.

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