An African Teatime in Paris

The other day I couldn’t resist a visit to the Impressionists in Normandy exhibition at the Jacquemart André Museum in Paris. If you’re like me and adore art, you’ll especially appreciate this museum as a do-able size, plus Monet, Degas, Renoir and Caillebotte paintings are so close that it’s pinch-your-arm worthy. But the cherry on the Stohrer cakes is the museum’s Café. As I mention it in Teatime in Paris as one of my favourites, this time Monsieur Antoine couldn’t resist joining me in an afternoon teatime.

Antoine never takes tea but he saw the menu listing Rooibos. It was enough to see his eyes as he sipped; conversation uncharacteristically changed to tea, as he recognised the familiar Rooibos from the Cape and we made a note of the label: Cape and Cape. Before we knew it, we were reminiscing and dreaming of another trip to South Africa.

Tea at Jacquemart Andre museum cafe rooibos

We first discovered Rooibos about ten years ago on my first trip to South Africa with Monsieur. Each guesthouse on our route had a tea tray with a kettle, and particular attention was drawn to the little jug of fresh milk in the room’s fridge. It all felt rather charming and colonial – until the conventional hotel sachets of regular black tea and herbal infusions were surprisingly replaced with this curious-looking Rooibos. When I asked the locals what they did with it, I was just to add a touch of milk. As a milk-in-my-tea Brit, this totally suited me. It tasted a bit like tea but it wasn’t with its woody undertones.

Over our holidays we both became infatuated with this drink – especially as its reputed health benefits (if not psychologically) helped outweigh the Cape wines we were drinking, which was the main purpose of our tour. With frequent returns to the wine regions of Stellenbosch, Paarl, Hermanus (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley), Franschhoek, and north of Cape Town to Swartland we’re spell-bound by the dramatic scenery which changes around every corner.

Franschhoek vineyards South Africa

Franschhoek winelands South Africa – much further south than tea country

While we were tasting Chenins to Pinotages, another couple, Matthias and Gervanne Leridon had fallen so much in love with Rooibos, the South African tea of the land. They had done the full monty, heading another 100km inland north to Clanwilliam, the centre of Rooibos land and eventually set up the Cape and Cape company in 2013, exporting the natural teas to Paris.

WHAT IS ROOIBOS?

It’s a small bush that grows in the wild in South Africa – about 200km north of Cape Town. Its name, Rooibos (meaning redbush), is a red tea that’s rich in antioxidants, naturally low in tannins and completely caffeine-free.

NOT THE SAME

Returning to Paris, gradually Rooibos has been easier to find in the supermarkets (UK too) but nothing can approach that specific taste of Rooibos we had in South Africa – until the other day in Paris.

I had heard of this new Cape and Cape in Paris before but hadn’t stumbled on the boutique. It’s a rather hidden secret behind Trocadero on rue Vineuse, with rows of brightly coloured triangular tins uncovering tastes that will “broaden our horizons”. They have a point. Maria gave me a most welcome tasting of their pure and “simple” Rooibos, Safari au Cap from the Terroir of Nieuwoudtville. I closed my eyes and, like Antoine, was instantly transported to the Cape, something that the rooibos teas to date from supermarkets (including organic in health food stores etc.) just hadn’t achieved.

African tea collection Cape and Cape Paris

 

MORE THAN JUST ONE PURE ROOIBOS

I thought there was just one Rooibos – but there’s a wide variety of pure Rooibos to taste, since with each unique area – like wine – the varieties depend on the terroir or soil where the fynbos (South-African maquis or scrub) develops specifically to environmental conditions: in the south, green rooibos is lightly citrus; in the centre, it’s more down-to-earth and more of a substitute to black tea; while in the high-altitude north of the Cederberg Mountains, there’s more of a taste of red fruits and cacao.

According to Mikaël Grou, Second Sommelier at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris and taster for the House, the Rooibos-growing area is the equivalent to both Burgundy and Beaujolais regions put together.

Green Rooibos tea African Tea Cape and Cape Paris

I’m particularly fascinated with their Green Rooibos as it’s a real detox and haven’t seen it before. Green Mountain is so delicate and both flavours come through: the green tea first then a delicate, almost smoky rooibos aftertaste.  I loved the slightly “stronger” version, Stormy Joburg, with a hint of citrus too.

HOW TO INFUSE

As with red Rooibos, Sommelier Mikaël Grou explains that it’s important to infuse for at least 5 minutes, if not to 10 minutes using an extra-fine filter. The reason isn’t for the colour (which appears straight away) but for the total flavour to shine through. As with “normal” tea, it’s best to brew it using water just under boiling (90°C). He recommends pouring 4/5 boiling water from the kettle and topping up with cold water before adding the Rooibos or tea.

floral rooibos Cape tea

 

FLAVOURED ROOIBOS

If you’re into flavoured teas, there are plenty to tempt the tastebuds. Flirt with sweet and spicy flavoured Rooibos with evocative names such as Citrus Kiss, Oh My Ginger, Miss Grey, Shap Shap! Bon Bon (Strawberry-Vanilla. Shap Shap is slang for good good – how you doing?) and Flirt with Scarlet (Rose-Mango).

African teas Cape and Cape Paris

 

AFRICA THE UNKNOWN TEA CONTINENT

The teas at Cape and Cape don’t just stop at Rooibos. Calling themselves the “African House of Tea”, their third variety of teas are Natural African Teas.

As they say, AFRICA IS THE UNKNOWN TEA CONTINENT. I was astonished to learn that Kenya is the THIRD largest global producer of tea after China and India (the fourth is Sri Lanka).

There’s still a lot to learn about African teas. Perhaps the best teacup forward is simply to try their unearthed range of delicate white teas to the strong black teas from the Congo with hints of chocolate; floral and tangy black teas from Kenya; medium-strength fruity black teas from Rwanda; and woody and floral green or black teas from Malawi. I hear that there will be a new Tanzanian tea end of May too.

1-chocolate-rooibos-rosemary-macarons

COOKING WITH TEA

One of the Africaan ladies also explained on holiday that when her family gets sick, the first thing she makes is a rooibos infusion with rosemary. Needless to say, as soon as I returned home, I experimented with a macaron using a rooibos and rosemary-infused chocolate ganache (the family thought I was mad but it worked!) Try a blind tasting: it certainly has people astonished over such mysterious flavours!

Many chefs are infusing tea in their dishes these days. Have you tried this smoky beurre blanc with fish (using Lapsang-Souchong tea), or Theodor’s fragrant rice pudding? I’ve created a new Pinterest board, Cooking & Baking with Tea, and I’ll gradually add more recipes to this. I’m looking forward to trying Christmas Fireworks, a Rooibos filled with festive spices – a perfect infusion for desserts and macarons!

Eiffel Tower Paris Avenue Camoens near Trocadero

You’ll find Cape and Cape African teas not just in their hidden boutique at Trocadero, but gradually in more familiar locations in Paris, just like we saw at Jacquemart André. Gontran Cherrier, one of my favourite Parisian boulangeries also has realised its potential, as has Galeries Lafayette.

So next time you’re pushing the tourists aside to take a pic of the Eiffel Tower, head to the much quieter Avenue Camoens, take a different angle like above and walk just around the corner for a taste of African tea in Paris.

Cape and Cape
African House of Tea

19 rue Vineuse
75016 Paris
Tel: 01-45 24 77 70


Part of this article is published on Bonjour Paris! Do pop over and say bonjour

16 replies
    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      It’s not hot hot but warm-hot Carol. It’s true that I’ve been used to having tea that scalds the mouth but this way the flavours come through well but I end up drinking it quite quickly!

      Reply
  1. Christina | Christina's Cucina
    Christina | Christina's Cucina says:

    Loved this post on rooibos tea, Jill! So thorough and interesting to learn so much about it. I remember learning about redbush tea many years ago and I always had a box in the cupboard, but I haven’t had it in a long time. I’ll have to see if Cape and Cape is available here. Hopefully I will make it to South Africa too!

    Reply
  2. Alison
    Alison says:

    I am loving all those pretty tins on the shelves. I have tried rooibos and liked it but it is hard to find. Love the look of your macaroons as well

    Reply
    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      I agree it’s hard to find, Alison. Especially the good, pure kind. Thanks for popping in!

      Reply
  3. Tonio
    Tonio says:

    Beautiful product with so many virtues
    Beautiful idea to convey the world of rooibos to Europe as it is not known enough
    And thank you to Jill for once again sharing with such beautiful photos and text the wonderful universe of Cape and Cape

    Reply
    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      Thanks Tonio. Totally agree – so happy that Rooibos and African teas are becoming better known in Europe, and especially quality like this.

      Reply
  4. David
    David says:

    Rooibos tea is the only tea I have ever sipped. You can probably find that shocking, but I do have wonderful cocoa every morning. So, when I started reading this post, I thought you were going to talk about the Chocolat à l’Africain at Angélina on the Rue de Rivoli! One of my favorite places for hot chocolate in Paris.

    Reply
      • David
        David says:

        Of course, I should go look, but I have to assume you frequent my absolute favorite, La Charlotte de l’Île?

        Reply
        • Jill Colonna
          Jill Colonna says:

          I can’t say I frequent anywhere – there are so many lovely places. Gosh, haven’t been in a LONG time. It’s lovely on Ile-Saint-Louis. Shall I write an article on it, David? Or you coming over and we go together? 🙂

          Reply
  5. Janice
    Janice says:

    Nice article, I am not a big fan of rooibos, but when a young relative made some for me with added milk, I really enjoyed it. I don’t usually drink tea with milk, so it was a bit of a revelation. The macarons look incredible as usual.

    Reply
    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      Thanks, Janice. I wasn’t a fan of rooibos until I discovered the real thing – so I hear you. The supermarket kind of red bush tea is just not the same.

      Reply
  6. Debbie Evans
    Debbie Evans says:

    As a South African it was lovely to read your informed post on Rooibos tea in Paris. It is a tea that we so take for granted here at home. I gave my boys rooibos from when they were babies for its health benefits, and my husband only drinks rooibos during the day. With the tea tasting culture growing, its wonderful to see how our rooibos is featuring. When next in Paris (hopefully September) I’ll be sure to head to Cape and Cape!! Oh, and I love Kenyan tea too!

    Reply
    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      How lovely to hear from you Debbie.
      You have such a wonderful country and am looking forward to learning and trying out more Kenyan tea.
      Now that we’ve discovered that taste of South Africa again, my husband and I will be drinking far more Rooibos (and feeling rather healthy).
      Have a super trip when you come to Paris!

      Reply

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