Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Paris - Mariage Frères

My wife is an avid tea drinker. She likes black, herbal and, to a lesser extent, green teas.

When we lived in Paris in 1978, we were surprised at the poor quality of the tea served in restaurants: a lipton tea bag if you were lucky. Somehow we didn't discover Mariage Frères, which has been selling fine tea in Paris since 1854, until much later. What a shame, because MF is one of the great tea purveyors in the world. My wife always keeps the Mahé and the Earl Grey French Blue in stock, but she has enjoyed many other MF teas. Probably the most amazing part of their selection is the dazzling variety of Darjeelings, which are prominently displayed throughout the stores.

While selected MF teas are available in department stores in Paris and elsewhere in the world, there are only four proprietary stores in Paris which stock all the teas in their extensive catalogue: 260 rue du Faubourg St-Honoré (8ème), 30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg (4ème), 13 rue des Grands-Augustins (6ème) and 17 place de la Madeleine. All but the Madeleine store also include elegant tea salons, where you can taste any of MF's teas as an element of a (generally quite good) meal or light collation. Each store also sells an array of expensive tea pots and utensils.

Tea has improved all over Paris, and most restaurants now do better than Lipton's. But Mariage Frères reigns supreme. It is definitely worth the visit to one of the main stores, where you can stock up on tea for yourself or for a friend; they sell wonderful pre-selected gift packages, but the knowledgeable staff can help you make up a custom arrangement if you prefer.

Bobby Jay

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