One of the things I wanted to do with the lovely J while we were in Paris was to have tea at Mariage Frères. With only an hour plus ou moins before our next adventure, the bal de pompiers, we decided on the salon located in Saint-Germain, because of its proximity to our hotel.
Admittedly, we underestimated the amount of time we needed, because having tea at Mariage Frères is a “ceremony”. Just like tea needs time to steep, one needs time to absorb the experience that is Mariage Frères. Entering is to be transported to another time and place– for me it was colonial French Indochina, like the world depicted in Marguerite Duras’ L’Amant. Warm yellow walls are juxtaposed by dark wood, and hints of Asia accent the parlor from signage to the chairs to a map hanging on the wall.
Our server, dressed in a white coat and black slacks, placed two menus and a book on the table, which struck me as curious. As J and I began browsing the menu, we noticed that each tea had a number to the left of it. J discovered that this number cross-referenced that specific tea to a description of it in the book, which included the origin of the tea; the type of tea leaf (white, black, green, etc.); and a description of the aromas and flavors of the tea, among other things.
With less than an hour to decide, order and enjoy our tea, we quickly narrowed our selection down to the type of tea leaf, then focused on the aromatics and flavors we wanted to experience. We both ordered black tea, mine Eros, a tropical and stone fruit forward tea with hints of floral notes, such as rose and lavender. Eros was complex in aromas and flavors, but well-balanced and did not overwhelm the nose or palate. This tea could not have been given a better name, because all it did was reinforce my love for Paris and all things wonderful and magical about it.
Mariage Frères was founded in 1854 by two brothers, Henri and Edouard, descendants of Nicolas and Pierre Mariage who traveled to distant lands in search of tea for King Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, around 1660.
Mariage Frères has several locations throughout Paris, including: Louvre (1er), Le Marais (4e), Rive Gauche(6e), Tour Eiffel (7e) and Étoile (8e).