A recently birthday celebration found us at the Salon de The of Mariage Freres in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The Marais boutique, packed floor-to-high-ceiling with the company’s world famous collection of teas, is located downstairs and is bustling with aficionados and tourists alike most days.
Less obvious and a little less well known is the upstairs salon. The atmosphere is whispered elegance. An 8 page menu patiently lists all of MF’s offerings in a small, delicate font: teas countless countries around the world…coupled with mouth-watering desserts being the most dangerous. ‘Dangerous’ as in ‘not getting anything done for the rest of the day.’ The company, founded in 1854, is expert at lowering productivity, I concluded, with my mouth full.
I rarely take pictures of my food before eating it, especially in public places, but this was too good to pass up and not share (and the salon was empty, except for our party). Closest in the photo is a chocolate cake topped with raspberries (I think) and on the other plate, a pie of some sort evil sweet topped with blackberries.
I like the Marco Polo Original tea. I refuse to order or drink anything else. I’m sorry. I’m happy. Leave me alone. Some of MF teas–I’m guessing there are over a hundred–can be ordered online, I believe. You can try them, decide on a favorite, and enjoy on cold Saturday morning this winter. But beware: after Mariage Freres, you’ll never want ordinary tea again.
20 thoughts on “Mariage Frères – Paris”
I have been a Mariage Freres fan for many years. I too love Marco Polo but find it very expensive to order. I will run over to Georgetown and pick it up at Dean and Deluca. It’s quite a drive but well worth it.
Hi Jane, you might check online at the MF website. I’m not sure how the price compares. The convenience might be worth it. – BGT
Thank you for the recommendation. I will be in Paris next summer and have made a note to try the Marco Polo.
You’re welcome, GAM. Feel free to drop me a line prior to your visit. If I’m here, I’d be delighted to share a cup of tea…or coffee. It is an experience at MF. thanks, BGT
Every time my mother’s French friends come into town, they known to bring us a mandatory case of Marco Polo and Laduree macaroons! There are certain things that cannot be beaten.
Friends indeed! Good for you, John. – BGT
Thank you Byron for sharing such a treasure. My wife and I have visited the neighbourhood more than once and as a tea lover I can’t believe we’ve never discovered Mariage Freres. Looking forward to a visit upstairs on our next trip to Paris.
You’re welcome, Alan. – BGT
Thank you for sharing your experiences and resources!
I spent several years living in China and have even hiked parts of the Tea-Horse Road 茶馬道 (the parts of the Silk Road dedicated to the cultivation and international trade of tea). A great experience has been to learn about tea from cultivators and traders. Mariage Freres is wonderful because they do understand how to procure fine tea. Unsurprisingly, people who live in Asia appreciate fine tea (perhaps the way we in the West appreciate fine wine) and so most of the best stays there. More people should know how to find great tea. What a treasure!
Thank you for sharing, Rachel. Can you suggest some teas from this region? I’m sure everyone would be very interested. – BGT
Thank you for your kind note. I’d be delighted to share a couple that I find noteworthy. Great tea shops will certainly know more!
In that area, the most well-known tea is Yunnan Red Tea (Dian Hong Cha in Chinese: 滇紅茶). I believe it is considered one of the 10 Great Teas of China. It became very popular in England after Queen Elizabeth visited Yunnan in 1986. The Queen liked Dian Hong so much she brought back crates of it. Dian Hong could be compared to a solid Cabernet or Chardonnay – it is an everyday workhorse. Look for golden tips as a sign of good quality.
I would like to mention 2 teas that are, in my opinion, spectacular experiences. One originates from the same area (Yunnan) and the other is from Zhejiang province. They are, like a great red burgundy, transcendental… IF you can find a truly fine harvest.
The tea from Zhejiang is my favorite. It is called Longjing or Dragon Well Tea 龍井茶. It tastes like the first scent of spring, mixed with cream and chestnuts. It was made the official tea of the Qing court by the Qianglong Emperor. Tread carefully here. Most Longjing is terrible – astringent. IF you can find the top quality, grade A, selection – please try it! It can cost up to $100 an ounce so make sure it is brewed correctly! Pre-Qingming (called Mingqian) Dragon Well is the top of the line: the sweetest, richest, most delicate tea of the year, picked before spring’s heavy rainfall or summer’s rising temperatures, which draw bitter flavors out of the tea bushes.
Yunnan’s most prized tea is called Pu’er. It is very earthy and for many an acquired taste. I would compare it to wine and beer with brettanomyces (like Guiness or Côtes du Rhône), the “barnyard” world of flavors. IF you can find high quality Pu’er it is not so pungent, but very smooth and tastes of history, somehow. Make sure to find raw or uncooked Pu’er, as this is the traditional way of making the tea (otherwise, you get an artificial and lackluster version). Be careful, this tea is highly valued and there is a lot of counterfeit Pu’er. You must trust your seller. This tea is aged the way wine is aged and due to China’s troubled 20th Century, quality aged Pu’er is a rare find.
Goodness, thank you for your kind indulgence. Please do ask a real professional at a quality tea store. They can add to and correct what I have here.
Thank you, Rachel. Great information. Much appreciated. – BGT
Thanks Byron, you just cost me a little money to try this tea. ;o)
Sorry, Chris…and you’re welcome. (Wink, nod.) Enjoy! – BGT
The photo reminds me of the motto of La Tour d’Argent:
“Il n’est rien de plus sérieux que le plaisir” [There is nothing more serious than pleasure.]
Ha! If Paris had a motto, that would be it. Thanks, JL. – BGT
Tea time is such a wonderful activity! I stay at home with my three children who are not yet school-aged and we make afternoon tea a regular occurrence in our home. We buy tea loose from a specialty shop in town and frequently bake cookies or cakes for accompaniment. My favorite tea is Earl Grey Cream. I think that tea is a luxury worth affording, particularly if you slow down and truly enjoy it.
Good for you, Kathleen. Treasure this time: soon, they’ll be off to school! – BGT
Muchas gracias…??? – BGT