Ah, Paris! How I love thee! For our 10th wedding anniversary, Gene and I went to one of our favorite destinations – Paris. And while I have several adventures to report, I have to start with one of my favorite moments: a pilgrimage to Mariages Freres.
After hours of searching and searching for the elusive 30 Rue Bourg Tibourg, we found a mecca of tea experiences at this famous tea market and salon at 5 p.m. Upon arrival, we were immediately welcomed and ushered through the market and to the salon itself. This airy, British Colonial-feeling room let in showers of natural light from the skylight that was nearly the length of the room. All the servers were wearing white linen suits, and they were just so nice!
The menu, itself, was overwhelming – with hundreds of choices: white teas, green teas, black teas, breakfast teas, afternoon teas, evening teas, flavored teas… Where to begin??? I let myself off the hook and started with a time of day – Afternoon Teas. Even there, there were nearly 20 choices! So without dithering too much, I chose the “Gentleman” blend for Gene, and “Fils de France” for me.
Much to my delight, I was facing the counter at which the ‘brewmaster’ (my term, not theirs) was working his magic. His sole purpose was to take the tea orders, and brew the perfect pot of tea for each patron. It was a fascinating dance, and he did it with such ease and speed – he moved so quickly I couldn’t even get a good photo of him! Note the HUNDREDS of tea blends on the wall behind him.
And so, our perfectly brewed pots of tea arrived at our table. While I expected a hearty black tea, mine showed up as such a light golden liquid, I wondered if I had inadvertently ordered a white. It was a Darjeeling blend, as it turned out, and had a quiet strength that I found quite lovely. Gene’s Gentleman blend was a dark, dark amber and presented itself as any manly man would – bold, confident, and direct.
The salon was hopping the entire duration of our visit. There was a constant flow of tea enthusiasts of all bents and backgrounds: families with children, old friends, the lone tourist, the gal pals, the comfortable couple. There was no feeling of being rushed, and the constant flow worked perfectly with people waiting maybe 5 or 10 minutes at the most.
And then, the tea market. I felt like I had died and gone to tea heaven. The walls were lined with canister upon canister of tea. I boldly attempted to explain in French that I ‘searched for a strong, black tea. Stronger, even, than the Gentleman blend.’ ‘Ah,’ he said, nodding wisely, ‘a breakfast blend. A strong one.’ He turned to the wall, tapped his chin in thought, and then, with purpose and confidence, he reached for the bottom row, removed the front canister and reached into the depths. Finding his treasure, and with a triumphant smile, he removed the cover and presented The Duke of Wellington. I inhaled deeply, then Gene was offered a sniff. Grassy, earthy, heavy.Yes, please.
It was the perfect experience. The perfect moment. Enjoying some of the best tea with the best possible company. Paris, je t’aime.