Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tea, or Liquid Life

As many of you know, Bobby and I are big thé (French for tea, pronounced 'tay') drinkers. Though we do enjoy the coffee here in Paris (we won't say no to a café, unless it is later than 6pm), our true love is tea. When Bobby and I first started dating, I bought him some tea from the ritzy Parisian tea maker Mariage Frères. During the hot California summers, we would consume a gallon of iced tea every other day (not an exaggeration). Ever since our honeymoon to Ireland 4 years ago, we have started every morning with a nice cup (or two) of Barry's Tea, the tea every self-respecting Irish person drinks. We were usually able to purchase Barry's at Cost Plus World Imports in California. In Paris, there is an English food importer in the 11th arrondisement that stocks Barry's. As mentioned in a previous post, many of the little stores in Paris close for part of August. I sadly discovered that the same is true of the English importer's store. Down to 3 Barry's tea bags, Bobby and I decided to visit our local fine tea shop today (thankfully not closed for the month) to find a shot-term replacement. We would like to formally introduce you to Bonthés!

Today was not our first trip to Bonthés (a calembour, or play on words [which the French love], meaning both good tea and a bounty, or treasure). We discovered this little shop in April while walking back from Montmartre with our good friend Emily and since then have gone there every 3 or 4 weeks to replenish our stocks. About a 10 minute walk from our apartment, the shop sells not only excellent tea, but also delicious jams and confiture (many of which are tea flavored, like Earl Grey confiture or Jasmin confiture), tea accessories (we saw a picnic-ready tea pot today, which is a great idea!), and high quality sweets (green tea chocolate, anyone?). The store is owned by a very friendly and funny man, whom we call Mr. Bonthés (not his real name), and his trusty assistant, François. When you first walk into the shop, they always offers you a cup of freshly steeped tea and a little chocolate. I am a big fan of the lavender confiture (confiture is a non-fruit based jam), violette confiture, and fig jam. We also buy a lot of tea from the store. In fact, we no longer purchase tea from Mariage Frères, which has a huge selection but is overpriced and impersonal. Mr. Bonthés makes great suggestions and even makes fun of the way we make our homemade chai (the addition of cloves disgusts him, but I don't like the ginger he adds to his blend). We have probably purchased 15 different varieties of tea from him since April.

We walked in today, were offered the customary cup of tea, and told him of our situation. He suggested two different teas to replace Barry's and had us smell each kind. We ended up purchasing 250 grams of the Strong Breakfast Tea, which is a combination of Ceylon, English, and Kenyan teas. We also purchased 100 grams of Roi des Earl Grey (Kind of the Earl Grey) to drink in the afternoons. In addition to the tea, we bought fig jam (delicious on toast, or on warmed brie cheese) and jasmin confit (also great on toast, or spread on a warm crêpe). We ended up staying in the shop for over 40 minutes, chatting with Mr. Bonthés and François about their efforts to create a business website, expand the store, and their holiday plans.

One of the things we love the most about Paris is the little stores like this and the wonderful owners that run them. We have developed warm relationships with people like Françoise (the woman whom runs the café at the canteen), Mr. Bonthés and François, and the men that work at our local vegetable stand (post coming soon...). Wherever we end up living in the future, we hope to continue supporting small, local businesses.

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