A new approach to an English tradition
From high tea, with petit cucumber sandwiches and coin-sized cakes arranged on a silver tiered tray, to cream teas, with scones, jam and buttery clotted cream, to the labourer’s “cuppa” on the building site, Great Britain loves tea.
But in Paris, something new is emerging – love of all tea in a different form.
An Art of Living
Although the French only drink 250 grams of tea per year, that number has doubled in just ten years and shows no signs of stopping – even if this doesn’t seem much compared to the 2 kilos guzzled by the Brits yearly.
Tea’s new insurgence could be to do with the ancient drink’s apparent health benefits compared to coffee, which only offers the drinker a caffeine buzz.
…body and spiritual balance.
Kitticha Sangmanee of France’s oldest and best loved tea merchants, Mariage Frères, told The Tea and Coffee Journal that this is because tea is a product that offers a fusion of taste experiences as well as body and spiritual balance.
Sangmanee said: “Because tea offers such a dynamic gastronomic experience, including health benefits and a very good flavour, it’s enjoying a wave of popularity amongst the younger generation.
“Tea encompasses an entire ‘art of living’ that fits into the French love and enjoyment of food and drink.”
The French Approach
Even the way Parisians and Londoners relate to tea is different. The typical French emphasis on origin and quality created a rainbow of tea room types in the 145 that have opened around the city.
Owner of Tch’a, a small Chinese tea room on rue Pont de Lodi, tastefully decked out in purple and gold, Mademoiselle Lui said: “In Paris there are Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese tea rooms, as well as the European style, but all of them are accepted for their uniqueness.”
The English tend to stick to their own way…
Seemingly ageless with a dainty twinkle of humour in her eyes, she added: “The English tend to stick to their own way of having tea, which in itself is not that bad! I just think that they haven’t embraced the huge variety of tea that’s out there in the same way the French have.”
The New Wine?
Parisians are starting to apply the same dedication to learning about the origin of tea as they are traditionally perceived to do with wine. There is even now an interest in teas grown on specific estates.
Even for those not well endowed in the money department, there are many cheap alternatives which still show off the French love of variety and quality, for example Tea by Thé, a comfortable fast food style tea joint just outside of the Louvre with none of the tackiness of a British café and a whole host more than just Typhoo.
The Centre of Tea?
Paris is now the place to find a world of teas, to learn about the growing conditions and exactly how long to stew for the perfect brew.
Some might argue the British have this down instinctively, but with typical Parisian fervour, it’s the thought that counts.
Image courtesy of Laurel Fan