Most people think of Paris as strictly a coffee city with outdoor cafes lining the boulevards while people sip strong espresso or stir the foam on their café au lait. But here’s a pleasant surprise: Paris is brimming with some of the finest teashops and tea salons for even the most discriminating tea totaller.
Here are two of my favorites.
Mariage Fréres is the ultimate tea paradise. Originally located in the Marais, it is the oldest teashop in Paris— dating back to 1854 (in fact, it houses a tea museum). The romantic shop still has a 19th century feel to it with the original wood plank floors, shelves stacked with large black canisters with the famous golden Mariage Fréres logo imprinted on them, and salesman dressed in stiff pure linen suits. The pungent scent is almost overwhelming and even the staunchest coffee lover may be convert to tea. With over 500 varieties of tea from almost every continent, it's easy to see why the brand is so beloved.
Besides the sumptuous tea, there is a full line of tea infused products including biscuits, chocolates, jelly, bon bons, salt, butter cookies, and even candles.
Last but not least is the formal tearoom in the rear of the shop. Over 40 types of tea are served in over-sized, round Art-Deco style pots made of silver with white enamel. There is a full food menu but the real specialty is the cart with mouth-watering French pastries.
A relative newcomer, Damman Fréres is one of the most beautiful shops in Paris. Although the brand has been around since the 1920s, the 18-month old outpost on the legendary Place des Vosges is its first retail outlet, before only selling wholesale to restaurants and other shops.
The high ceilings, with hand-painted ancient wood beams and black walls, give the shop a certain drama. The centerpiece is an island with a clever and unique way to smell the large selection of teas: over 100 mini-cupboards lift open so you take in the intoxicating aroma and not have to bother the salesmen to climb the shelves to open the large storage canisters.
Dammann Fréres offers an impressive array of teapots including clear glass, Chinese colored iron, and ceramic, plus a most unusual black iron one with a camel’s head as the spout.
One of the best things about both shops is they make wonderful Paris souvenirs to bring back as gifts to friends and family. The only problem is once they taste the sensational tea, they will eternally ask you to bring back more whenever you visit.
30 rue du Bourg Tibourg, 4th arr.
Metro: Hotel de Ville
Tel. 01 42 72 28 11
Open seven days— 10:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.
There are several other locations in Paris
15 place des Vosges, 3d arr.
Metro: St Paul or Bastille
Tel. 01 44 54 04
Open seven days— 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.