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Tea Culture in France

Annelies ZijderveldJune 9th, 2009 by Annelies Zijderveld
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I’ve recently completed a whirlwind trip to France, training the coffee crew in the American Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival on the ins and outs of tea. In the evenings, I would stroll the streets and became fascinated with understanding the place of tea in the French culture. Often, I saw cheerful announcements of salon de thè, (tea salon) with the likes of beer and food printed on awnings.

One evening I happened upon an Asian-style teahouse in downtown Cannes that boasted an impressively long list of teas and infusions.  During a daytrip to Nice, I encountered another Asian-style tea shop that displayed shelves of large tea canisters behind the counter.img_1615_panoi-tea-shop-21

In speaking with French-dwelling friends, infusions are quite popular because they can be enjoyed after a meal as a digestive and do not possess caffeine. Verbena and tilleul are popular herbal selections, native to the South of France. Verbena possesses a buttery citrus profile. Tilleul consists of dried Linden leaves and brews up an infusion with a mild woodsy profile. Mint also is well-liked. In perusing the tea aisle at a local market in Cannes, I found many of the selections to be from big-box multinational companies and focusing on traditional flavors and blends.

img_1645_salon-de-the Black tea is commonly found on menus with traditional Breakfast and Earl Grey and sometimes they offer fruited blends. One friend explained that traditional teas are de rigueur and this makes sense. A bold breakfast tea or Earl Grey pairs well with breads, desserts and possesses flavors that are understood.

However, black fruited blends are becoming trendier with younger audiences. There was no surprise to me upon visiting a specialty food boutique in Paris as to their vast selection of classic single estate teas and unique fruited black teas. With a love for gastronomy, the French appreciate nuance and complexity of ingredients for a balanced finish. The variety and opportunities for enjoying tea in France are many.

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