The other day I ran across this photo above that I took on my last visit to the Latin Quarter shop of Mariage Frères, a French purveyor of fine tea. I never visit Paris without stopping there to buy tea for myself and my daughter Nora, who loves it as much as I do.
My favorite story from Nora’s childhood took place there. In 2012, we were in Paris as a family. Nora had just turned six. We discovered early on that she has an extraordinary sense of taste and smell. The first time she went into Mariage Frères, she was overwhelmed by the aromas of all the dried teas, and spent an unusual (for a six year old) amount of time with the nice English-speaking clerk, smelling various teas before choosing one. On one of our final days in the city, Nora asked if I would take her back to the shop, and to the upstairs tea room, to eat madeleines and drink a pot of tea, as a special father-and-daughter outing.
I was captivated. Of course I said yes. We had a marvelous time there, and then went downstairs to see the tiny tea museum in the basement, and then to buy more tea before leaving.
As we meandered away from the shop, through the Latin Quarter, we held hands. Nora sidled up to me and cooed, “Dad, now I think it would be a good time to go buy a dress for me.”
“Nora,” I chuckled, admiring her cheek, “Mom has already bought you a couple of nice dresses.”
She pulled in closer, put her head on my arm, and said, “I know, Dad, but she just doesn’t have the same taste as you.”
Six years old, I tell you! Nora did not get a new dress that day, but her father realized that that there was a formidable force in his household. When we returned to the apartment, I told my wife than when Baby Girl turns 15 or so, that she should take the credit card away from me, because I will be unable to resist spoiling that child.
So that’s my Mariage Frères story. The tea there is so very, very delicious. If you’re ever in Paris, please make a point to visit. They have six other locations in the city. My favorite kinds of M-F tea are Chandernagor (their chai blend, which is surprisingly peppery), and thé au Sahara, an Arabic blend of green tea, mint, and rose petals (I prefer it to their Casablanca, which is green tea and mint; the rose petals add a fascinating dimension). Another favorite: Montagne d’Or, a fruity, flowery black tea. I don’t think I’ve ever had a tea from there that I didn’t like, though. Their Marco Polo, a fruited black tea that is even more intense and berry-like than Montagne d’Or, is one of the firm’s most popular blends, and is quite good.
Here’s a link to the M-F site in English. I suppose you could mail-order something from them if you didn’t mind paying the shipping. It’s fun to look at the huge varieties they have. I strongly recommend buying from the Cultured Cup, a Dallas-area tea retailer that has a decent selection of Mariage Frères teas. I bought from them when we lived in Dallas. They’re good guys, and very dependable. I see that they have Marco Polo, Montagne d’Or, Russian Breakfast, and the cinnamony Esprit de Noël — all teas I’ve tasted, and love.
These teas are not cheap, but if you have a hot tea lover, or even a tea liker, on your Christmas list, you can’t do better than this. And, because the teas are of such high quality, they last a long time. You don’t have to use as much to steep a couple of strong, satisfying cups.
My Mariage-Frères idyll this morning made me think about foodie Christmas gifts. I’d like to open a thread for all you readers who share my interest in food and cooking. What kinds of food and cooking-related gifts would you recommend? Nora and I really enjoyed watching Samin Nosrat’s four-part Netflix documentary Salt Fat Acid Heat together recently, so yesterday, I bought her the book for Christmas.
Open thread, folks. I’ll keep adding to it myself over the coming days…