Thought afternoon tea was a quintessentially English tradition? Think again, the French have been enjoying a cup of Oolong or Earl Grey sincethe reign of Louis XIV - and now the doors to French luxury tea emporium, Mariage Frères have opened in London town.
Situated in a beautiful five-storey listed Georgian townhouse on Covent Garden’s King Street, Mariage Frères’ consists of a restaurant - specialising in tea gastronomy, an elegant retail space, two private events spaces and a tea museum.
With the largest collection of tea in the world, an apothecary-style wall, stretching to over 1,200sqm, is organised like the grandest of wine cellars with exceptional crus and sophisticated blends, all available by weight from beautiful antique black canisters.
There's a chance to discover 1,000 aromatic varieties from 36 tea-producing countries with white, yellow, green, blue, black and red teas sitting alongside fruit teas, vintage varieties, unique harvests and the brand's signature Marco Polo blend -a black morning tea with aromatic notes of hazelnut.
Other products, include seasonal collections, all beautifully packaged, and an assortment of tea-flavoured and tea-scented items such as signature fragrances, incense and candles as well as confectionary, gift sets, distinctive teapots and teacups, books, strainers and tea paraphernalia.
The Musée du Thé on the second floor displays tea antiques from around the world including pieces from the Mariage Frères family’s personal collection from their years travelling at sea.
Hand-illustrated oak and beech tea chests, pewter tea boxes, Chinese furniture made of carved wood, caddies, cannisters, teapots, old archives and an array of curiosities line the walls, providing an illuminating insight into the history of tea.
On the first floor, there is a choice of two dining experiences: the Voyage, an elegant gallery, flanked by an intricate listed heritage balustrade, or the beautiful White Himalaya room surrounded by antique tea canisters. Walls are adorned with modern art and prints featuring imagery used in Marco Polo tea campaigns dating back to the 19th century.
Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, Mariage Frères’ offers a unique Cuisine au Thé concept, which runs throughout the menus, using tea as a delicate ingredient, spice or flavouring in every dish.Examples include avocado guacamole-style with Japanese Matcha green tea and sweet potato crisps; seared Thai-style beef tartar seasoned with Lune Rouge tea, honey soy sauce, ginger, cashew and toasted sesame; or roasted chicken with smoky Black Léopard Tea jus.
Tea-infused desserts are a treat, with the likes of Rouge in Love with Paris Over the Rainbow rooibos tea-candied strawberries with cream, bourbon vanilla shortbread and French meringue; and a decadent Carré D’Or , a 24-carat dessert of dark chocolate covered with Black Magic Tea and 24-carat gold leaves.