Taking Tea in France

French Blend Tea (ETS image)
French Blend Tea (ETS image)

Unless I missed a memo at some point I’m pretty sure that when it comes to beverages the French are not known for tea, but for one thing – wine. The French language has even given us the term for a wine expert – sommelier. It’s a term that’s gradually being adopted by the tea industry. Here a few of the articles from this site about the relatively new profession of tea sommelier.

As for France, well, there are those who would suggest that it’s not just about wine anymore. Among them, the BBC, who recently featured an article that tells all about France’s Silent Tea Revolution. It starts by pointing out what should probably be obvious. That for the tea-obsessed Brits – or anyone else – trying to get a decent cup of tea in France used to be an exercise in futility. Which is a criticism that the British often make about us Yanks. But for purposes of this article that’s beside the point.

As the title of the article suggests, the tea situation in France is starting to change (as it is here in the good old US of A). It goes on to note that in addition to the fruit of the vine, France is also “a country supposedly devoted to the cult of coffee.” Which came as news to me. However, that’s all changing now and apparently “French blends are the toast of tea cognoscenti from Nanjing to New York.” Which also came as news to me.

The article discusses several popular French tea brands and retailers who are seeing substantial sales increases. It’s strongly implied that in France there’s become something approaching a mania for tea, as in “a sudden fashion for tea has swept the middle classes.” This is manifesting itself in the form of specialty tea salons, classes on tasting and serving tea, and a tea selection that’s said to number into the hundreds of varieties. Once again, this sounds like a certain other country that has not been known for its tea culture, but perhaps I’m belaboring the point.

Perhaps one of the most important things to remember, if you’re a fan of English style tea, is that tea in France is done a little differently. The French are said to favor tea that is “altogether more refined and delicate” and are said to favor quality over quantity. From there it’s on to an discussion of tea in France with some of the industry’s players and some background on the history of tea in France – what there is of it. It’s an interesting and rather in-depth article and it’s certainly worth a look. Check it out here.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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2 thoughts on “Taking Tea in France

  1. Very nice analysis; however a lot is missing in Hugh Schofield’s story , a pity, because it is not so much the” loving “of wine, but the understanding of the terroir concept, derived from the selective vinyard quality approach that has been applied to coffee first and then to tea; therefore it is in France that one finds today the largest selection of terroir and origin teas….in the West; as Didier Jumeau Laffond says : these smaller French companies buy quality, not volume….and if you pay the high prices you better make sure that you have very good product knowledge and buy directly from the producers…
    don’t want to bore you!! But the company who has revolutionised the French market 25 years ago was “Mariage Fréres” and followed in their footsteps le Palais des Thés and some others, so there is no silent revolution here today! just a more and more refined and gradually growing premium tea niche market, whilst 60% of mainstream tea is flavoured, 90%+ is in bags and mora than 80% sold in supermarkets !
    bye for now, Barbara Dufrene

    1. A.C. Cargill

      Hi, Barbara, I am familiar with both companies (the owner of this blog doesn’t carry either brand since they specialize in teas to suit British tastes) and agree with you that the news article, while getting a lot of social media attention, is another journalist behind the curve. The author here on our blog (Bill Lengeman) wanted to bring it to our readers’ attention, so I, as editor, said sure. Thanks for the additional info, though! Much appreciated. And you’re never boring! 🙂

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