“C’est l’heure”, means, it’s time. Time for what? To stop smoking/dieting/spending or simply, that most delicious hour of the day, Tea-Time. The French seem to think it’s at 5pm, for the English everything stops for a nice cup of Earl Grey at 4. Whatever, I never thought I’d be taught to make tea by a Frenchman!
“Show me your tea-caddy and I’ll tell you what type you are”, says writer Gilles Brochard, author of a gem of a tome on tea, Le Guide du Thé a Paris. Brochard a tall thin gentleman with correct T-time attitude would also drink to the fact that everyone loves a good gossip over a porcelain cup of perfectly brewed Ceylon Pettligalla or a Darjeeling Vert.
So, the chattering classes in the tea-rooms of Paris, where Brochard rates Chajin as the top establishment (24 rue Pasquier 8th), are trying to decide if there is truth in the rumour that Eric Frechon is about to leave The Bristol. Yannick Alleno saying farewell to Le Meurice? At The George V can it be true that Philippe Legendre, is rarely at his piano, will soon be on his bike? What is the word at Taillevent, exclusive Maison Particulier, where heads of state, celebs and crowned heads of Europe dine discreetly, and Alain Solivéres who took over from Michel del Burgo (at present in Moscow but, returning to open a little Parisian bistro soon). Not easy to decide, over the Tarte Sablée au Matcha at Delicabar (Bon Marche, rue de Sevres 7th), or choose from the fabulous selection of teas at L’Artisan des Saveurs (72 rue de Cherche Midi, 6th) while speculating if Claude Terrail is saying farewell to Jean-Francois Sicallac. Is it because La Tour d’Argent lost a Michelin star? Or perhaps Terrail wants to give a new young maverick (actually his second) a chance? Maybe they’re all off to open one big canteen, maybe they’re just tired and the passion has gone.
In the meantime, until we have confirmation of this exciting and fascinating news, console yourself with Brochard’s Guide du Thé, there’s over 100 addresses, set out by arrondissement and precise notes on how to choose, buy, prepare and appreciate your Sencha Manryoku – Genmaicha Uzumasa – Kukicha Hashiriné selected by, say, Madame Chunsa Pak (she’s the one with the black bandana) at Kilali – Salon de Thé Vert (3-5 rue des Quatre Vents, 6th).
Teach your children well”, advises Brochard. Take them to reputable salons early on, (Mariage Freres, 30 rue du Bourg Tibourg, 4th) they can discover the perfumes and fragrances. Never speak to Brochard again if you make tea with tap water, do not take water straight from the boil; refuse water from a percolator – c’est odieuse”.
More and more chefs are discovering the delights of cooking with tea, and Brochard loves The Bristol, but does not yet know about Frechon and, come to think of it, perhaps uber-patissier Gilles Marchal will follow?
Brochard is a *** star tea-maven who neither smokes, nor drinks coffee, protects his taste buds with a professional fervour bordering on the manic as in, “when people complain to me that most tea-rooms are non-smoking spaces I ask them if they go to the cinema. Movies last two hours!” he sniffs. “That usually makes them think”. A picture of health, Brochard admits his fine complexion is due to his passion for tea, which he tastes with the same respect as a chef-sommelier. His most precious tea moment was sharing a cuppa with HM Queen at her summer garden party. “Everything was perfection”, he recalls.
Trying to contact Brochard is not easy, he may be off in the hills of Darjeeling or Assam helping with the harvest or lecturing in Bora-Bora. While I await his return I’m off to Minamoto Kitchoan (17 place Madekeine 8th) for a nice cuppa Genmai-Matcha, rumour has it that’s where some of the chefs hang between service. Maybe I can find someone to read the leaves.
Le Guide du Thé a Paris,
Les Editions de L’If 18.5€