In the heart of Paris, amidst its bustling boulevards and historic facades, lies a rich tapestry of tea rooms, each echoing tales from a bygone era. While the French capital is globally renowned for its coffee culture and wine soirées, few are privy to its deep-seated romance with tea. This affection dates back to the luxurious courts of the 17th century and has been a roller-coaster journey of opulence, obscurity, and revival. Join us as we unravel the intricate history of tea in France and embark on a sensory exploration of the most enchanting tea rooms in Paris.
The history of tea rooms in Paris
In the lavish courts of 17th-century France, afternoon tea was more than a trend; it was an aristocratic rite. Marie Antoinette wasn’t just indulging in pastries; she was embracing the brew’s myriad health benefits, sipping herbal concoctions that promised vitality. King Louis XIV, the Sun King himself, turned to tea not only for its taste but as a remedy for his persistent gout. The bourgeois emulated their royals, making tea the drink of distinction. Yet, the tumultuous French Revolution buried this love affair, and tea retreated into the shadows for nearly two centuries.
Though France’s boulevards blossomed with cafes and bistros, a fine cup of tea was elusive, a relic of a bygone era. It wasn’t until a health-conscious resurgence some 70 years ago that tea danced back into the limelight.
Soon, France was echoing with the clinks of tea cups, as the masses sipped black tea – often with a dash of milk, British-style. But, as wholesalers pivoted to direct consumers, they began educating and reshaping French tastes. The humble tea leaf underwent a renaissance, blossoming into an array of flavors and aromas.
Today, Paris bustles with chic Tea Salons, where afternoon tea isn’t just a drink – it’s an event. While British teas might be robust and hearty, the French have sculpted theirs into a delicate art. Quality reigns supreme, and each sip is savored as one would a vintage wine.
Step into a Parisian tea salon, and you’re greeted by a symphony of teas, each leaf whispering tales from distant lands and ancient times.”
This rendition aims to encapsulate the rich history, drama, and elegance associated with tea in France.
No visit to Paris would be complete without a visit to the world-famous Laduree. Their first shop opened in 1862 as a café, then expanded to include a patisserie and eventually a tea salon. The Salon is beautifully decorated with original frescoes depicting angelic pastry chefs.
The menu changes with the season but my favourites are the stuffed croissants. My reason to visit, aside from the teas, is the macaroons, the best in Paris. They are to die for and come in about 15 flavours. You must try the Rose or the Marie Antoinette flavour which is unique; depending on the season you might be lucky enough to get the black current, one of the best. Laduree Royale is one of the first great Parisian Tea salons and still draws a crowd today.
Steeped in history and elegance, Angelina’s has graced Paris since the dawn of the 20th century. Established by pastry maestro Anton Rumpelmayer and his son Rene, it became the rendezvous for luminaries like Proust and Coco Chanel. The talk of the salon? Anton’s masterpiece: the Mont-Blanc—a delicate meringue crowned with whipped cream and chestnut vermicelli. Pair it today with an aromatic cup of oolong, infused with notes of exotic fruit. Other tea titans here include Darjeeling, Earl Grey, and the house-special Mont Blanc tea—a delightful blend echoing the pastry with candied chestnut and a hint of maple syrup.
Betjeman’ Barton Tea Bar
Purveyors of Fine English inspired afternoon teas. A modern looking Tea salon welcomes visitors to one of their flagship stores near the Eiffel Tower.
Founded in 1919, they have a wide range of high-quality teas as well as exclusive blends. Among the classics are Ceylon and Darjeeling teas; Chinese teas are China black, green teas and delicate white teas.
They also have teas from Japan, Hawaii, Mate from Brazil and rooibos from South Africa. Too many exquisite blends (150) to mention, but anyone of them would be delectable in the afternoon with tiers of delicate sandwiches, scones, and pastries. Here’s a thought, while there pick up a selection of teas in the colorful Betjeman’s Barton canisters for your favorite tea lover.
Established in the 17th century, the Mariage brothers, Edouard and Henri, were tasked by the Royal court to explore the teas of Asia. Merging France’s rich culinary legacy with these discoveries, they birthed ‘The French Art of Tea.’ Today, Mariage Freres stands as an iconic tea empire, boasting five salons in Paris alone. Fan favorites? The fragrant Marco Polo and captivating Bergamot. Pair a cup with the opulent gold cake or the enchanting sakura sponge. Beyond being a haven for tea enthusiasts, Mariage Freres graces popular culture, as seen in ‘Discovery of Witches’ and ‘Gossip Girl’.
Toraya, aptly named ‘Tiger-House’, is a serene escape reminiscent of a Japanese temple. Amidst its calming ambiance, a harmonious blend of French and Japanese staff guides guests through a menu brimming with elegance. Relish in a signature luncheon of ginger crab atop aromatic rice, paired with matcha soba and a delicate steamed egg casserole. For the finale, delight in artistic desserts like a miniature Louvre pyramid in gelatin or the velvety allure of green tea ice cream. In the heart of the city, Toraya offers a refined, Zen-infused sojourn.