It’s 3pm. Your mouth is dry and you’re longing for a little hit of caffeine and sugar to tide you over into the evening… do you reach for a coffee? Well, you could… or you could make an occasion of it and treat yourself to an afternoon tea in Paris.
From grand hotel tea rooms to intimate salons and trendy cafes, you can perform the tea ceremony with as much or as little splendor and circumstance as you like. The rules of the meal are far less rigid than in ‘tea cities’ like London or Hong Kong, so you can afford to play around. See my four recommendations below for a delectable afternoon treat!
Luxury Tea: Le Meurice
If you want a traditional afternoon tea with all the trimmings, Le Meurice near the Louvre has it covered. Marrying tradition with contemporary luxury, the hotel’s Phillippe Starck-designed Dali restaurant is the ideal setting for this proper English tea with a French twist. Jam, scones and finger sandwiches come piled on a dainty tiered stand, you can choose from a selection of fruit tarts, French cakes and macaroons whipped up by pastry chef Camille Lesecq. Your surroundings might be refined, but the atmosphere’s relaxed and unstuffy – now, that’s a great update on the tea tradition.
Elegant Tea: Musée Jacquemart-André
Still posh, but far more intimate is the tea salon at Musee Jacquemart-André on Boulevard Haussmann, a formerly private 19th-century mansion full of priceless art and antiques. Now open to the public, you can stop by just for tea in the original dining room or also to take a peek round the entire house – breath-taking state rooms, winter garden and all. In the salon, sip on tea from the museum’s monogrammed teapots and tuck in to seasonal pastries created by chefs at Parisian patisserie Stohrer and chocolatier Petite Marquise.
Traditional Tea: Mariage Frères
With around 500 of its own infusions, French tea-makers Mariage Frères are tea royalty, making their name importing and selling fine blends to exclusive salons and hotels since the 18th century. The brand started selling directly to the public in the 1980s, and has opened several stores with tea rooms across Paris since then – stop by to try a cup or two in the Marais (30 Rue Bourg Tibourg), St. Germain (13 Rue des Grands Augustins) or St. Honoré (260 Rue Fbg St Honoré).
Menus offer a dizzying selection of blends, which you can also take home in black Mariage Frères tins bought from the shop afterwards. Sweet treats include macarons, madeleines and mini crèmes brûlées served in a ‘Time for Tea’ section.
Trendy Tea: Mamie Gâteaux
Small and cute with quirky, granny-chic décor – a cast iron stove stands against the wall, battered cake tins line shelves – Mamie Gâteaux ticks all the right boxes for a new wave of vintage-lovin’ tea aficionados. There’s a long list of delicate tea blends to choose from, including peach on the vine and smoked tea with vanilla and caramel. Accompany your pot with a round of scones served with homemade jam. Fresh, seasonal fruit tarts, madeleines and toasted brioche make up the rest of the menu’s sweet selections.
About the author: Isabel Clift is a London-based, Paris-loving blogger for HostelBookers.com, the budget travel specialists. If you’re visiting Paris to take tea soon, the site has a rather fine selection of cheap Paris hotels.