The French generally tend to get their kicks from coffee and prefer herbal tisanes to real tea. Visiting tea drinkers are usually dismayed when, nine times out of ten, the tea they order turns out to be a pot of hot water and bag of Lipton’s.
If you want milk, ask for thé au lait; for cold milk, thé au lait froid; with lemon, 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 afternoon tea, French style, with sweet treats galore. It’s usually more about the pastries than a proper cuppa.
Thé glacé (ice tea) has become very popular, sold in big bottles and flavoured with lemon, peach, or mint
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 more and more specialty 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.
Image by jennylynndesign