One doesn’t usually associate Paris with tea or tea salons. It’s the city that invented the café culture hundreds of years ago with endless cafés lining the streets and boulevards, where Parisians famously sip espresso hours on end, watching people and life go by. The pinnacle of the Paris café was from the 1920s to the 1950s when Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore in Saint-Germain-des-Prés were a haven for artists, writers, and poets such as Ernest Hemingway, F . Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Albert Camus, James Joyce, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir.
Tea has always played a poor cousin to coffee in France even though it arrived in 1636, 50 years before coffee. Imported from China and Japan, tea was popularized by the aristocracy starting with Cardinal Jules Mazarin, a French statesman who drank tea to cure his gout. It apparently worked because Louis XIV , the Sun King, began drinking tea in 1665 because he learned the Chinese and Japanese rarely had heart disease. He lived till the ripe age 77, a miracle for that time.
In 1692 King Louis XIV granted François Damame the exclusive privilege of selling tea in France and the first tea brand was born, now called Dammann Freres. Fast forward to 2017, Dammann Frères is now owned by Illy Group with a flagship boutique on the historic Place des Vosges that sells hundreds of tea flavors plus teapots, gift sets, and teacups.
Ladurée on Rue Royale, the maker of the most popular French macaron, was also the location of the first tea salon in Paris.
In the early 1900s the rise of tearooms in England as a place where women could gather during the day without a male accompanying them prompted Ernest Laduree’s wife Jeanne Suchard to petition her husband to open a tea salon in Paris. Today high tea is a staple at luxury hotels around town, and we recently visited three of the five-star palace hotels to experience what they had to offer.