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Mariage Freres

The Art of Tea - Book Review

by Sylvie Greil

Teas from Mariage Freres

Without the Mariage family, the experience of tea in France and throughout the Western World would be quite a different one. With a history of three centuries, a family name that can be connected to Louis XIV and, in the more recent past, the effort of two young visionaries, the fine purveyor Mariage Frères has reinvented the art of taking tea and created its own trend: French tea.

Mariage Freres: The Art of Tea focuses on the history of the Mariage Freres Tea Company

If you've ever had a cup of Thé des Poètes Solitaires or Thé Rouge Bourbon in Paris or Tokyo, you are familiar with the company's highly refined world of teas, which includes rare tea accessories and exceptional tea and food pairings. You're aware of the famous scent that tickles your imagination and makes your mind wander to countries far away. The fragrance is produced by a conglomerate of some of the finest teas in the world: such as Opium Hill, a blue Thai tea; Neige de Jade, a white Darjeeling tea; and Gyokuro "Precious Dew," a fine green Japan tea.

If you're not familiar with Mariage Frères, you will be charmed after browsing through The Art of Tea, a beautifully illustrated coffee-table-style book, which recounts the history of Mariage Frères from their early beginnings in the 17th century to their renaissance in the early 1980s and finally to the fabulous affair it is today. Etymologically, the last name refers to the French verb "maréier" or "to run the seas." The book traces the family roots to merchants from Lille who started in the Eastern Trade in the 17th century, trading exotic goods. In the 1660s, one Nicolas Mariage was sent by Louis XIV to trade with the Shah of Persia, while his brother Pierre traded on behalf of the French East India Company.

A classic art deco teapot model
Classic Art Deco model

When tea became a popular beverage within wealthy French circles, the Mariage were among the top dealers who imported and sold it. Mostly it was green tea from China used for health purposes. As tea became a fashionable pastime of the aristocracy so did luxurious tea cups, pots and other utensils. At the same time in England, tea was enjoyed as well, but in comparison to France, less aristocratic circles soon had access to it and it became part of the average person's lifestyle.

Thé Rouge Bourbon Vanille tea blend
Thé Rouge Bourbon Vanille

In 1854, Mariage Frères was founded as a tea and vanilla import firm, soon supplying prestigious hotels, salons and stores with fine teas from China, India and Ceylon. Not much changed until the early 1980s when the last of the family, Marthe Cottin, then in her 80s and without a successor, ran the business the way she had learned it from her father and grandfather. New blood came in the shape of two young men, Richard Bueno and Kitti Cha Sangmanee. Sangmanee realized that for the business to grow, they would have to offer only the finest product available, a tea they saw as "French-style tea."

The book tells the history of the famous tea house, recounts their efforts and travels all over the world to seek out the finest teas, to design their own tea ware based on models like cast-iron kettles from Japan or ear, to create tea scented candles, and finally to invent a gourmet cuisine to go with tea with recipes that use teas as an ingredient — all in the spirit of developing their idea of French tea. In the recipe section, we fell in love with an easy recipe for Matcha Tea Pound Cake.

Thé des Impressionnistes tea blend
Thé des Impressionnistes

Today, they own nine tea houses, five in Paris and four in Japan. At number 30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg in the artsy Marais district of Paris, tea lovers enter a very refined world, but a comfortable well aged one full of history. There are hundreds of tea canisters and the tea is weighed on the same old scales. In the restaurant, patrons enjoy classics like the "snob salad" (with salmon and foie gras) and tarts the "Colonial" pastry cart, while upstairs in the museum lies the family's personal collection of old labels, boxes and crates and precious tea service pieces. If you haven't had the pleasure, it is high time

If you don't have a chance to travel to any of their locations any time soon, visit www.mariagefreres.com to browse and purchase their offerings.





Mariage Frères Tea Houses
The Tea Houses feature a tea store, museum and tea salon.

France:

Carrousel du Louvre
Place de la Pyramide inversée
99, rue de Rivoli, Paris
Tel: +33(0)1 40 20 18 54

Étoile
260 Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris
Tel: +33(0)1 46 22 18 54

Le Marais
30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg,
Paris
Tel: +33(0)1 42 72 28 11

Madeleine
17, Place de la Madeleine, Paris
Tel: +33(0)1 42 68 18 54

Rive Gauche
13 rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris
Tel: +33(0)1 40 51 82 50

Japan:

Suzuran-Dori
5-6-6 Ginza, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03 3572 1854

Meiji-Dori
3-14-25 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03 5367 1854

BAL 2F
3-6-1 Sannomiya-Cho, Chuo-Ku, Kobe
Tel: 078 391 6969

BAL 1F
Kawaramachi-Dori, Nakakyo-Ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075 255 5591



Mariage Frères Tea Shops
The Tea Shops offer a diverse array of Mariage Frères teas.

France:

Thé Français
35 rue du Bourg-Tibourg, Paris 4e Tel: +33(0)1 44 54 18 54

Le Parfum Du Thé
32 rue du Bourg-Tibourg, Paris 4e
Tel: +33(0)1 46 22 18 54

Galeries Lafayette
35, Boulevard Haussmann, Paris 9e,
Lafayette Maison - 1er étage

Le Bon Marché
24, Rue de Sèvres, Paris 7e,
Espace Art de la table - 2e étage

Printemps Haussmann
64, Boulevard Haussmann, Paris 9e,
La Maison du Luxe - 2e étage

Printemps
Centre Commercial Italie 2, 30 Avenue d'Italie, Paris 13e,
Espace Art de la table

Printemps Nation
21-25 Cours de Vincennes, Paris 20e, Espace Art de la table

Printemps
Centre Commercial Parly 2, Avenue Charles de Gaulle, Le Chesnay

Printemps
Centre Commercial Vélizy 2, 2 Avenue de l'Europe, Vélizy

Printemps Lille
39-45 Rue Nationale, Lille

Printemps Lyon
42 Rue de la République, Lyon

Printemps
Centre Commercial La Valentine, 117 Traverse de la Montre, Marseille

Printemps
Centre Commercial Grand Var, La Valette-du-Var, Toulon

Germany:

Galeries Lafayette
Französische Strasse, 23, Berlin
Tel: 030 209 480

Alsterhaus
Jungfernstieg 16-20, Hamburg
Tel: 040 359 010

Japan:


Ginza - Mitsukoshi B1
4-6-16 Ginza, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03 3567 1854

Ginza - Matsuya B1
3-6-1 Ginza, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03 3562 1854

Shinjuku - Odakyu B2
1-1-3 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 078 391 6969

Ikebukuro - Seibu B1

1-28-1 Minami-Ikebukuro, Toshima-Ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03 3980 1854

Shibuya - Seibu B1
21-1 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03 3780 1854

Ebisu - Mitsukoshi B2
Ebisu Garden Place, 4-20-7, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03 3447 1854

Meguro - Arté 1F
2-16-7 Kamiosaki, Shinagawa-Ku
Tel: 03 6408 8379

Daimaru B2
1-7-1 Shinsaibashi-Suji, Chuo-Ku, Osaka
Tel: 06 6252 1854

Matsuzakaya 1F
Sakae, Chuo-Ku, Nagoya
Tel: 052 265 1854

Sogo B2
2-18-1 Takashima, Nishi-Ku, Yokohama
Tel: 045 451 1854

 

(Updated: 07/26/11 SS)


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