One of the great joys of travel is that you get a chance to learn something new. France is one of those destinations, where if you keep an open mind, you learn something new and challenge your preconceived notions. For instance, everyone would tell you that coffee is great in France. Well, sure it is, if you compare it to your neighborhood Starbucks or local cart vendor. But if you are like me – a bit of a coffee snob – then you would find coffee in France, well, not quite up to your taste. Still, whenever I was in Paris, I did end up chugging those espressos to beat the jet lag.
On this most recent trip, however, I was in no rush. No meetings. Nowhere to go. Just chilling and watching the world go by, and as a result I fought the jet lag the old fashioned way: staying up really late and then getting good sleep. And as a result, I didn’t feel the need for caffeine as much. Instead, I opted for tea. And boy, was I in for a pleasant and delightful surprise.
We normally associate tea with the British (and Indian, Chinese and other Asian cultures) but, in reality France is a hotbed of quality, high-end and blended teas. Yes, the rest of the world may know this already, but the joy of discovering something and being shocked or delighted by it is still a very personal thing. As I walked around town, I saw many a few delightful French tea shops and learnt a lot about the French Tea culture. Of the lot, Mariage Freres is my favorite (though Le Palais des Thés is close second.)
What I loved is how French blend many different flavors and fragrances together. For instance, I had this tea which was a blend of rose and black tea. I was not only drinking and tasting it with your taste buds, but I was also experiencing it from my nose. The color itself was pretty amazing – a deep, dark color which looked like molten lava when I tilted the cup and the morning light hit the liquid at a certain angle. If you have not tried Rose D’ Himalaya, then you really have not lived. I guess, it is part of the French culture to involve all human senses in an act as simple as making and drinking tea.
Needless to say, I have brought home enough tea to last me a few months, till I am back in Paris again.