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

A Champagne Teatime in Paris

When the heavens open in Paris and driving Spring rain pelts on even the most chic of umbrellas, the City of Light always has a bright side.

On the popular Rive Gauche (Left Bank of the Seine), near the Sorbonne and Pantheon and just a few steps away from the hustle and bustle of Boulevard Saint-Germain, I’ve recently discovered a new quiet haven on rue des Ecoles: the Hôtel des Bulles de Paris.

Bulles de paris Hotel Rive Gauche Pantheon

This charming, modern hotel has a theme around bubbles. Happily we’re talking about my favourite bubbles: Champagne.
Just walking directly into the lobby, the welcoming staff is bubbly. Led (couldn’t resist that one) into the sparkling breakfast and tea-room on even the most gloomiest of days, the room is dappled in light with a very apt quotation from Louis Pasteur decorating the pastel walls:

Un repas sans Champagne est comme un jour sans soleil
A meal without Champagne is like a day without sunshine

Louis Pasteur

Les Bulles de Paris teatime lights

This new teatime brings back the sunshine. There’s no need for a menu since the choice is pure and simple: tea or Champagne – or both – served with the hotel’s signature patisserie.

To accompany the patisserie, two teas have been chosen by master of teas, Madame Tseng of La Maison des Trois Thés, nearby in rue Saint-Médard. Either choose a rather subtle black tea from Nepal, Makalu SFTGFOP 2nd flush. Tasting it on its own before the patisserie, I was trying to pin down the floral, fruity Muscat and rose notes with an accent of honey. It wasn’t until I tried it with the patisserie that the flavours came through, and could then see why it was a good match.

Teatime at Les Bulles de Paris hotel

For those of you like myself who love a more fragrant floral tea, then go for Madame Tseng’s white Jasmine tea, Xiu Qiu, from the Chinese province of Fujian. Even the hand-rolled pearl-shaped tea-leaves evoke the idea of bubbles!

The signature patisserie’s design had been re-modelled as an Easter egg nesting on strands of white chocolate, but the pastry remains the same: hiding inside the pearl-rose white chocolate shell is a Champagne jelly, topped with a raspberry sponge and delicate vanilla mousse.

Easter egg patisserie bulles de paris teatime

The real honour of this new teatime goes to the Champagne, selected by the Hotel des Bulles de Paris by Bocquillon: a Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru with white floral notes, white fruits and a subtle hint of citrus, the perfect match with the patisserie.

Champagne Teatime Bulles de Paris

If you do opt for the tea and Champagne, I would recommend tasting the tea first and finishing off with the bubbles.

Champagne Bar Paris

Peeking inside the Champagne bar, I couldn’t help being drawn in to its quirky bubbly decor, and can just imagine finishing off the day after my chocolate and pastry walk nearby in Saint Germain with a glass of one of their wide choice of Champagnes in a bubble chair.  I hear another of their walls speak to me:

Start the day with a smile and end it with Champagne

I can see clearly now the rain has gone.

Champagne Bulles de Paris flute bottle

The new Champagne Teatime is served Wednesday – Sunday, 2.30pm-5.30pm

Signature Pâtisserie with choice of two teas or a glass of House Champagne: 15€
(for all 3: €20)

Hôtel Les Bulles de Paris
32 rue des Ecoles
75005 Paris

 


This article is published on BonjourParis.com

I Love You, Macaron Tea – Theodor Paris

I didn’t think I’d actually fall in love with tea. Can you imagine a tea with scents of macarons and pistachios? Heaven. On top of it, this unique brew is called “I Love You” – Je t’aime.

The teas of Theodor Paris have been a very recent discovery of mine thanks to my friend, Francis for introducing me to Monsieur Leleu’s new creation, the Absolu Oolong.  And when I say discovery, it’s not just that his speciality teas are so different to anything else I’ve ever tasted; like drinking good wine, they’ve helped me learn to appreciate teas’ deliciously complex aromas; take the time and pleasure with my cuppa; (I know, I know –  this sounds corny but it’s true…) even evoke a smile.

I’m so glad I popped in to the original boutique where Theodor started in the 16th arrondissement. It’s just a few minutes walk from Trocadero and I thoroughly recommend a visit by the charming Sylvie. Previously a creamery, the decor is still testament to such a location with the ceiling and wall panels by Anselm in Rue du Roi Doré (golden king street) in the 7th.

Theodor Tea Shop Paris

Guillaume Leleu started up this first shop here in 2002 and since then has been taking the tea world by storm with his Theodor creations, now in 30 different countries. Each year about 100 tons of teas personally selected from around the world (mostly from Asia) are transformed in his zen-like laboratory in the previous Singer factory in Bonnières sur Seine, within rowing-boat distance from Monet’s gardens at Giverny.

Calling himself the Insolent Parisian, Theodor’s founder has us travel with him  – whether it’s through the descriptions of his teas or online – finding beauty in everyday things through his poetic words, embodying the art of tea.

The inspiration of the Impertinent Parisian is embodied in sixteen essences that form the aromatic tea palette in an impertinent and poetic way. Impertinent, because it tempts us to take a shortcut and welcome the unexpected. Poetic, because it makes us discover shifting horizons and jostles our view and senses, provoking us to a game of desire and astonishment in disguise, while inviting us to marvel in front of the revisited daily Parisian routine.

Theodor Paris Tea

Such impertinent essences are represented by 16 colourful satin ribbons that make a statement around each of the characteristic tea tins containing teas of origin, black flavoured teas, green flavoured teas, infusions named “weeds” or herbal teas.

Je t’aime belongs to the “Teas of the Gallantry” essence, represented with a fuchsia pink ribbon. Gallantry expresses “pastry flavours tasting like fruit and candy. They will offer a flattering and indulging pleasure while remaining light and refined.”

The day I visited, Marìa, also from the talented Theodor team, made a pot of this rather special brew.

Theodor Paris macaron pistachio tea

I Love You‘s pronounced fragrances are indeed pistachio and macaron. Like an alchemist in the kitchen or in a perfumery, Monsieur Leleu creates the macaron flavour by adding ingredients such as pink peony petals (clearly visible), bitter almond, coconut, chocolate, chopped almond pieces, and coconut shavings.

Just as with tasting wine, when the tea was finished I loved swirling around the end of the tea to gather all of the wonderful aromas around the empty, fragranced teacup.

empty teacup of macaron tea at Theodor Paris

This macaron tea has a loving green tea sister, J’aime, flavoured with notes of macaron and strawberry.

As more gigantic tea containers were opened, it was intriguing to sniff revel in the different tea leaves’ bouquets with their added surprises which make up each and every creation.

Theodor tea shop in Paris Trocadero

Jour J (meaning “The Big Day”) is aptly named, as this dreamy white tea (Bai Mu Dan) has astonishing notes to resemble the flavour and sensation of rosé Champagne. Monsieur Leleu cleverly concocts this sensation by adding bits of strawberry, helianthus (or sunflower) petals and jasmine flowers, just to name a few of the magical ingredients.

Likewise, ingredients are added to create a black tea, Sans Complexe (no complex), with lemon and vanilla to arrive at a lemon meringue pie. Tribute, conjures up the most amazing flavours of frangipane, while Oolong Milky conjures up the most buttery and milk fragrances. This list goes on …

Rooibos tea: carpe diem Theodor Paris

This Carpe Diem is red rooibos tea, with “greedy” (that’s another of the 16 essences) notes of red fruits, toasted and sugar-coated almonds. Marìa suggested using this tea to perfume rice by placing just a couple of teaspoons in it while cooking.  Try it.  It’s amazing!

Lotus flowers used for making tea

Blue Oolong Lotus is a green tea from Vietnam and the lotus flower is used to impart a scent to the tea leaves by placing them inside the flower just before it closes at night to take on the fragrance of this very special flower. How’s that for creativity?

Theodor Speciality teas in Paris

The perfect gourmet but simple teatime: a cup or two of I Love You, rose and chocolate macarons and some almond financier teacakes (the recipes are all in Teatime in Paris).

teatime in paris with macarons financiers and pistachio tea

The only way to have a cup of tea, is by loving it.

I’ll drink to that, Monsieur Leleu.

Macaron tea Je t'aime by Theodor Paris Teatime

Cheers to you, my readers, with a cup of I love you tea. And cheers to discovering the unexpected, new views and senses, and revisiting daily Parisian routine.

THEODOR PARIS
28 Rue des Sablons
75016 Paris

Metro: Trocadéro

Teatime with Theodor Launch of Absolu Oolong Tea

As a Brit, I am used to my classic and familiar, comforting teas. English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Ceylon, Rooibos and Earl Grey are no strangers to my teapot and dare I say, I love to add a tiny little nuage or cloud of milk to my cuppa, which probably has tea connoisseurs throwing their hands up in horror.  More French in style, the evenings call for lighter, calming infusions such as verbena and a widening range in my cupboard of fragrant green teas.

Oolong green tea Theodor Paris

So when I heard from my sweet friend, Francis, about an exciting launch last week of a tea made by creator, Guillaume Leleu (aka l’Insolent Parisian) of Theodor Tea, I had to see what the fuss was about and headed with a strong umbrella to face the Parisian downpour to join him for the tasting at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Palais de Tokyo Paris

The launch was all about Theodor’s new J.C. Absolu Oolong.  For a start, I loved the name and was intrigued…

Theodor tea Paris absolu oolong

Before the tasting, Monsieur Leleu took us on passionately guided “voyage in the garden of creation” of his Chinese Oolong green tea.

Tea voyage with Mr Leleu of Theodor Paris

Theodor has been around in Paris since 2002 and within just a few years it now exports to over 30 countries. It has been three years since the Impertinent Parisian created a new tea for Theodor and creating such a tea like this doesn’t just happen overnight. It took 20 months to create this perfumed oolong, needing 230 versions to arrive at the final result.

tea voyage discovery of Absolu Oolong

These lotus flowers give an added “je ne sais quoi” to the taste (although I’ve never tasted lotus flower so have to try this experience) and there are strong natural aromas of both white peach and pear in there too. The addition of goji berries and carthame flowers add to the magic.

The addition of the white cornflowers (bottom right test tube below) were purely for blending the tea naturally together, as there is absolutely no fragrance in white cornflowers. Who knew?

Tea making process at Theodor Paris

The tasting!  According to the instructions on the packet, the water should be at 75°-85°C and the tea infused for 2.5 to 4 minutes. On tasting at first, the peach came bursting through but gradually I got the pear (some tea tasters mentioned that the pear became more pronounced as the tea cooled) – and the aftertaste?  Knock out!

tea tasting game of Theodor Absolu Oolong

If I had a stop-watch, I’d say it lasted a couple of minutes on the palate. Oh, and Francis reminded me that Oolong tea is a Tieguanyin tea from China from the region of Fujian.

Oolong green tea with French cheese

Say “Teas”! Try cheese with this green tea and see how it works!

Surprised?  I was when cheeses were served with the tea. As a wine lover, I was expecting them to overpower the tea but no, it was a wonderful combination.  François (pictured below) explained that it’s quite the thing in Belgium and in Holland, Betty Koster is quite a cheese and tea guru. The brie came stuffed with truffles from the Maison de la Truffe. Woah! The tea was still sensational.

Picorette's tea salon staff from Granville, Normandy France

What a fabulous team at Theodor.  Cheers to the lovely staff who came from Normandy to serve tea for the occasion, away from Picorette, their legendary restaurant and tea salon in Granville.  Many thanks to Maria and Sylvie for a most warming welcome and to Guillaume Leleu for the discovery of this rather special teatime tipple. I look forward to serving it with the Parisian pastries in Teatime in Paris!

Guillaume Leleu Theodor Paris Jill Colonna

Yabsolutely Absolu Oolong!

I wonder what Monsieur Leleu is dreaming up for his next tea creation?

Guillaume Leleu of Theodor Paris

In the meantime, pop in to the Theodor boutique at 28 rue des Sablons in the 16th, near Trocadéro. I shall also discover and show you what the other teas are about next time and what pastries from the book will accompany them best.

Note: This was a free tasting open to the public at the Palais Tokyo in Paris on 30 April 2015.