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If one thinks about tea and the traditional way to drink it, we almost immediately think about the British. They have been known as THE “tea-drinking” country and are famous for their afternoon tea. However, their neighbors, the French also have their own way and characteristics when it comes to consuming the beverage.
Afternoon tea as we know it nowadays, is a tradition that has been established in the 19th century by the gentry, to fill in the long gap between lunch and dinner. At the time, tea was no longer a privilege of the high classes of society and everyone was able to drink a cup of it. It has developed into a true custom that has its own set of rules, it has to happen at around 4 PM, and utensils such as tea caddies, tea strainers, sugar bowls, milk jugs etc. Tea is being served with snacks which include scones with clotted cream and jam, tea sandwiches, small pastries, and cakes…
The British also have another way of drinking their tea, which is the High Tea, a tradition that was set at the same epoch as Afternoon Tea but by the working class, who had to wait after work (after 5 or 7 PM) to drink their cups of tea. As it was later, tea was then served with more hearty sides like meat and fish sides, baked goods... It has been called “high” tea in order to be differentiated from the “afternoon” one, which was a relaxing moment and therefore served on low, comfortable tables and chairs whereas High Tea was mostly consumed on high back dining chairs.
Today, the most popular kind of tea drunk during this event is the builder’s tea: when a drop of milk and sugar are added to the beverage. It is a strong tea that used to be drunk by laborers and workers
French people are less famous than the British when it comes to drinking tea. However, they have been doing so for almost as long as it has been brought back to this country from different expeditions like Magellan’s, who sought to discover new territories and goods. Tea quickly became the court’s beverage and monarchs such as the King Sun, Louis XIV would have been considered as a “tea-lover”, thanks to the cardinal Mazarin, the most powerful man under the King, who popularized the beverage because of its health-related benefits.
Unlike in Britain, tea remained for a long time an elite’s beverage. The drink was adopted by the wealthy and the French appreciated the elegance that came with a cup of tea served in Chinese porcelain. Some members of the court were addicted to the beverage, like the Princess de Tarente who was drinking at least 12 cups a day! When the Revolution came, the bourgeoisie had also adopted this trend. This drink was beginning to become so common that the right-wing political journal of the time was named “Le Thé”. When the Revolution occurred and most nobles and Royals got their heads cut off, tea lost popularity as it was associated with the former archaic gentry. It is not until the 19th century and the opening of tea-dedicated shops that tea found its way back to the Frenchie’s hearts.
First being influenced by the strong black teas drunk with lemon from their overseas neighbor, finer ones were developed in France to satisfy the French’s tastes. Shops like Mariage Frères or Palais des Thés opened their doors and while selling teas, they were also offering tea tastings and true “tea conversations” to inform customers about the terroir, the aroma, the infusion etc. Salon de thé (tea houses) became places were wealthy women and their children would gather instead of coffee shops which were mainly filled with men. As British brands were considered too strong in France and it was believed that milk and sugar were ruining the taste of the tea, more natural flavors were sought.
Even though there is a true historic tradition of drinking tea in France, nowadays, coffee and other beverages have become more popular than tea. However, when the French decide to drink tea, they are more likely to go for more scented and flavored teas like the Oolong teas for instance. A kind of tea that is not as strong as black traditional tea and has many different sweet and flowery scents and flavors. For this month, we are doing a 10% discount on the Oolong line (Type: "AprilOolongSpecial" at checkout) so make sure to get some and drink it the traditional and classy French way!
Store Closed For Our Annual Family Vacation, Sorry For Any Inconvenience!
March 28 - April 6, 2019.
Disclaimer: We are not associated with any local or oversea tea organization.
Staff at Great Tea Road Co