My stepmother recently e-mailed me, needing to know about French tea for a class she’s teaching. While I don’t claim to be an expert on every topic that starts with the word French, some people seem to think I am. So I did a little research.
From my own experiences at tea salons in Paris, tea is quite popular now, as are French tea salons. But it’s not the high tea that we know in the English tradition, with scones and tea sandwiches. Rather, it’s an experience that can be had in the off-hours: before lunch, from 10 a.m. to noon; or after lunch, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. It’s a way of refreshing oneself before dinner, and it might be as simple as enjoying a cup of tea while sitting outside at a sidewalk café. Or if you are taking it more seriously, you’ll stop at one of the many purveyors of tea in and around Paris. In fact, we’ve dedicated a whole page to them on our site.
For bohemian chic, these are my favorites:
L’Ebouillante, in the 4th Arrondissement, is on what might be the most charming street in Paris.
La Mosquée de Paris offers an incredible setting, inside or out, for mint tea. Situated in the oldest mosque in Paris, built in the 1930s, the terrace is lovely, as are the arches and tiling inside.
Le Loir dans la Théière, in the Marais, and A Priori Thé, in the Passage Vivienne, are picture-perfect spots. Read more here.
But if you aren’t in Paris, you can still enjoy your French tea. A delightful cuppa when facing the midmorning doldrums, or a pot of tea shared with a friend in the five o’clock hour, is heart warming no matter where you are. But be sure to pick up a few macarons or other French pastries to serve with the tea.
Photo: Courtesy Paris Breakfasts.
A formal tea at Ladurée in Paris includes a glass of champagne, orange juice or grapefruit juice (the French love their juice, but I think you can leave this part out); a pot of tea (coffee or hot chocolate are options for those who don’t drink tea); and mini viennoiseries (pastries), un mini financier, une mini madeleine and two
mini macarons. If you can find a selection like this in your neck of the woods, you’ll be golden. If not, you can get away with serving les petits beurres made by LU or the ginger/graham cracker–like sensation speculoos, which all of Paris has gone crazy for. For the tea itself, try to find some from Mariage Frères or Le Palais des Thés.
But before you boil the water, you must have the right French teapot, of course! Deciding will be the hardest part. I’ve given you a small selection to choose from below, but there are loads more on eBay and Etsy, most of which are vintage. Sellers are eager to ship to you from France, and at a lower cost than you’d think. I want them all! But here’s the big question: If you had to pick just one, which would it be? And does that say something about you? I bet it does. Please comment below or on our Facebook page.
1. The perfect French pot from the 1930s.
2. Here’s a demure white classic.
3. A great price for Limoges, dahling!
4. A stunning deco pot for coffee or tea.
5. This one is not very old, but it sure is pretty.
6. This one is basic and plain, yet somehow just perfect.
7. This is actually an old French coffee pot, but it’s highly collectible and doubles as a beautiful vase for a bouquet of wildflowers.
8. Classic Quimper teapot set from Brittany. My mother-in-law would have loved this!
10. Comptoir de Famille does the classic country French look, but this one is new.
For more inspiration, read the Paris Breakfast blog.
Editor’s note: Have you tried our foodie walking trips? You can download the trips as pdfs and print them out or get them for your iPhone.