I love it when family and friends come back from fabulous vacations bearing gifts. Such was the case this week. My brother and sister-in-law recently returned from a trip to Paris and Provence, returning with a lovely gift for me of Kusmi Teas.
When thinking of France, one conjures images of incredible food, wine, sidewalk cafes, history, art, architecture, and possibly French sweets; such as Madeleine sponge cakes and French macaroon cookies, but not necessarily tea. Yet the French have a long and illustrious tea history. Today there are over 140 tea salons in France offering exquisite teas and tea service.
When tea first came to Europe, the two countries that imported the most tea were the Netherlands and France.
While tea was first imported for medicinal purposes, people soon realized that they enjoyed drinking tea for the flavor. Since it was still imported by a long and dangerous process, it was quite expensive to drink. It became something associated with the upper class. It’s not surprising, therefore, that tea-drinking was seen as one of the privileges of the rich during the French Revolution, caused the revolutionaries to have much the same feeling for tea that the American colonists did when they dumped it into Boston Harbor (that was some tea party :-). For the next 50 years, drinking tea was definitely out of vogue. The history of tea is riddled with thousands of years of political and geographical travails such as these.
Mariage Freres, Damman Freres, and Kusmi are three of France’s renowned tea brands. Kusmi is a brand I recently became acquainted with, purchasing it a couple years ago when at Dean and DeLuca in the Napa Valley.
Their origin started in St. Petersburg, Russia over 140 years ago, leading them to Paris in 1917. Kusmi Tea offers unique Russian blends like Anastasia or Saint Petersbourg tea (which is the one I am drinking right now as I write this post). Some of their recipes have been kept secret for more than a century, but also many traditional and flavored blends are offered.
Above are the tea tins I get to try…Japanese Genmaicha is next on my list…I love this “popcorn” tea.
Perfect with a few of my version of French Macarons…