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The French as a nation tend to get their kicks from coffee, and most prefer herbal tisanes to real tea. Visiting tea drinkers are usually dismayed when they order tea and get a pot of hot water and bag of Lipton’s—which is what you’ll get in nine out ten places.

If you want milk, ask for thé au lait; for cold milk thé au lait froid; with lemon, it’s thé au citron. Thé nature is plain tea, thé vert is green tea. North African restaurants will have thé à la menthe —usually with more sugar than mint unless you say ‘juste un petit peu de sucre, s'il vous plait.’

Big cities have salons de thé (tea rooms) where one goes for thé à la Française or afternon tea, French style, with sweet treats galore. Usually it’s more about the pastries than a proper cuppa.

In the Basque country you can try thé cacao (‘chocolate tea’, tea infused with cocoa bean husks).

For serious quality tea, look for teas from Dammann Frères founded in Paris in 1692 or Mariage Frères founded in 1854, although increasingly speciality shops around France pride themselves on their good selections.

There has recently been a revival of thés dansants—afternoon dances for senior citizens who get down to all the accordion classics.


Text © Dana Facaros

Image by jennylynndesign