Thursday, May 22, 2008


Some online friends and I have been chattering on about our love of tea the last couple days. Hubby and I are still sad about the loss of our lovely local tea room. I have lots of wonderful tea at home, but there's something about going out for tea that's uniquely refreshing of both mind and spirit. One of the experiences on my MUST DO list for Paris was to visit the famous Laduree tea room.

The company now has a number of tea rooms, or as they are called in France, salons de thé, but this was the original salon, opened in 1862. When you think of tea rooms, you probably think of England, right? Or maybe a Japanese tea room? But we saw more tea rooms in Paris (English, French, Middle Eastern, Asian styles, and more) than in three weeks of traveling all around the UK.

Laduree is famous as a tea room, but also specifically for their macarons (remember the macarons in my countdown?) and for these decorative and collectible boxes that their sweets and teas come in. Famous, I guess, is a relative term. Famous amongst tea aficionados perhaps. All I know is I feel ridiculously smug and giddy that I actually now have two boxes in my possession as I bought both a box of macarons and a box of tea. Notice, too, the macaron towers. I think this is a Laduree trademark as well. You can buy them, perhaps put together with icing for a buffet, but up close it looked like the displays in the window were put together with a glue gun so that they'd last awhile.

Forgive me the wonky photos, I felt torn between being "cool" and fitting in and acting like a dorky tourist with my camera. And I tried to respect people's right to stuff their face without getting photographed. We actually visited twice, the photos you see are from both visits. Here we were sitting inside at a window seat and I'm taking a photo back towards the front door which is to the left behind the folding room divider. What the divider does is separate the dining room from the walk in customers in line at two glass display cabinets while selecting sweets and tea to take away. Check out the peek at an enormous display of fresh flowers. And of course, the absolutely gorgeous gilded and painted ceilings and walls, which were created specifically for the tea room. There was also a dining room on the second floor, accessible near the display counters, that was a bit more modern in decor but still very nice. The bathroom was on the second floor, so that gave me an excuse to go up and peek around.

Here's another section of the ceiling.

And yet another.

This is towards the back wall, one of two that was almost exclusively covered in mirrors. The one to the right of this picture was ALL mirrors, the entrance was to the left, the front windows were behind me. It was very fancy and yet a bit shabby around the edges in a pleasant, comfortable sort of way. The tables were small and even a bit rickety. The "books" you see on end are the multi-page menus.

Check these out - there were .... I didn't count, eight? ten? twelve? pages or so. All in fine small print. They came with a ribbon bookmark so you could find your way back to your selection. You could order everything from a basic cup of tea to a complete luncheon. Even the waiters and waitresses (who I thought might be a bit snobby but were very friendly and pleasant) got lost trying to find items in the menu! The prices were a bit stiff, not bad if you ordered something simple, but more difficult to justify if you ordered a larger meal. So being on the "Euro Diet", as Paris Breakfasts referred to the painful euro/dollar exchange rate, we settled for a drink and pastry each.

Here's what we ordered on our first visit. Hubby got a chocolate macaron which he encouraged me to help him eat. I ordered this melt in your mouth cherry tarte which had a cheesecake-like base. As you can see, hubby stuck with his predictable espresso while I went for the tea, a blend called Thé Mélange Ladurée, Laduree Blend. I'm pretty sure I've never liked a blend quite so much as this one, which was a combination of rose, citrus, and spices.

Here's what we ordered on our second visit. I tried a different tea. Can't remember which one. It was good, but not as good as the first one I tried. I ordered a rhubarb tart but regretably they were sold out, so I decided to get another cherry tarte. This time hubby ordered a eclair and had no problem eating it all himself.

Here's a closer look at that tarte - check out the little gold sticker (not edible). That cherry on top was dipped in a sugar glaze that crunched like broken glass when you bit into it. Also note the paper pad to help you pick up the very hot handle on the silver tea pot. Trust me, it didn't do much to stop the transfer of heat from handle to hand. I don't know how the employees didn't drop these pots on a regular basis. They also poured them verrrry slowly. I thought that might be for show until I tried to pour it more quickly and discovered they are very old pots and the spout on one of them had a tendency to leak from the bottom if you tipped it too much. It might be silly but, I found all the imperfections endeared me to the place more than if it had been fancy and perfect in every way.

This might have been the most endearing thing about the whole experience however. See that fuzzy white lump underneath the chairs at the top of the photo? That's not someone's fleece sweater fallen to the ground, or knit purse. It's a poodle, resting quietly beneath his owner's feet. How awesomely cool is that! There were occasional signs saying no pets allowed, but for the most part we saw Parisiennes walk inside shops, restaurants, and food markets with pets in tow all over the place. And I bet there's no one falling sick from some dog flu because of it. Wish we were more pet friendly here in the States.

If you'd like to read more about Laduree's history and products - warning, I'm not responsible if you drool on your keyboard - go here. (Remember to click on the English links, not the French ones, unless you read French of course.)


Blogger GreenishLady said...

You've captured it so well, Laume! If I got a chance of a second visit, I'd find it really hard to choose a pastry, the first one I experienced there was so Divine (that was what it was called!), - would I want to try something else or have that one again? I even licked that little label, and yum!

When we were there, we were fascinated to see a pair of really young girls out having tea (13 and 15, maybe?) - very chic, very sophisticated. Only in Paris!

Thanks for the reminders!

1:27 AM  
Blogger Miss*Laurence said...

Are you finished with all that food on your posts???? I'm going to ban you from my list of blogs ;-P

Did you bring any coloured macaroons back? trouble is they are too small really.. you need another one and another. and another.

I'm glad you found some real maroccan food ( although I think it's unusual in the UK), and so pleased you go for the unusual/ special places, they are not on everybody's list for visitors in Europe.
Still I must say I hate dogs in French food shops! ( yes I can say that I am French) Maybe the owner is OK with its paws in their plate, but I don't want them in mine...

8:54 AM  

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