Hidden among the identical cafés of Paris' 6th arrondissement – all outward-facing wicker chairs, overflowing with tourists and locals alike – are remnants of France’s imperial past. Slip past the unassuming facade of Mariage Frères on Rue Christine and into a hushed library of teas: where shopkeepers treat each aromatic tin with the same veneration as a perfectly aged bottle of wine.
Some shops in Paris convey so much ambiance and history that I rate them higher than some monuments and musea. Founded in 1854, although the Mariage family’s history of tea-trading for the East India Company dates back centuries earlier, Mariage Frères has the faded feeling of an apothecary. I am invited to inhale from each evocatively-titled tin: I weigh down my basket with Marco Polo (red fruits in black tea), Thé d’Opéra (green tea with berries), and Wedding Imperial (all caramel and chocolate notes). Tea is sold by weight, or in elegantly uniform tins.
But it is upstairs that Mariage Frères reveals its real magic. Linen-suited waiters present steaming teapots – strictly timed to maximize flavor – while expertly paired gateaux shimmer under glass. The atmosphere is reverential – even courtly. Come in planning to stay for an hour or two. You may find yourself lingering for another 100 years.
My personal favorite branch of Mariage Frères can be found at Rue de Grands Augustins, 18, in the 6ième. Other branches exist on Rue de Bourg-Tibourg and Rue Madeleine.
Want to read more? See if you can find the best restaurant Paris has to offer.