How to Sip High Tea Like the French
I know what you must be thinking...high tea is a British thing, so why are we talking about French? The idea of afternoon tea may have become popular because of the UK, but the rest of the world has taken high tea to their own tables and have created subcultures within. France is no stranger to this 'afternoon amongst friends' ritual, so I've included some of the delightful things you might find at a French spread. Grab a napkin and enjoy How to Sip High Tea Like the French. You might find yourself drooling by the time you finish. À votre santé!
If you have ever sat down for a high tea, then you will know that hours will quickly pass before you while little trinkets, tea and snacks find themselves at your finger tips. In France this equates to such delicacies as an 'olympe' pictured below (a macaron biscuit with candied violet, strawberry and raspberry sweet jelly, violet cream and fresh raspberries). Or classic sugar-powdered Madeleines, crunchy Palmier, or soft and sweet Cannelé. Miam Miam!
Whichever pastry finds its way to your mouth, this delightful sit-down is usually for more than just your sense of taste, it's also one for your eyes! In France, this would mean enjoying places such as The Bar Vendôme, Ritz Paris (now opened after a 2-year renovation), the world famous Angelina (known for the best chocolat chaud in Paris), or the Hôtel Daniel (featuring the highly celebrated pastry chef Sébastien Gaudard). But amongst all of these, possibly the most impressive spot for Serious tea drinkers is Mariage Frères. This shop dates back to 1854 and has a serious take on tea. With classic tea rooms, they are located at 30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg and 17 place de la Madeleine. Make sure to order your cup of tea en Français when you visit: 'Je prendrai un thé noir, s'il vous plaît.' (May I please have a black tea?) and try asking for your seat with 'Est-ce que nous pourrions avoir une table pour 2, s'il vous plaît?' (May I please have a table for two?)
Of course, learning How to Sip High Tea Like the French would be nothing without a few glasses of French humor. However, for most Americans, French humor is often misunderstood. To shed some light on the topic, I've included a few pointers below to help guide you.
Generally, French humor is oriented towards others rather than towards the speaker. This is less nonsensical than English humor and perceived as more cruel. It is never self-deprecating, rather it is combative, fueled by ridicule and mockery and it needs a target. The French are great at teasing, which contribute (for naive foreigners) to their reputation of being rude.
The French love jokes about sex and bodily functions, which your will often hear in the most unexpected (for Americans) contexts. This would include situations such as a dinner table with well-educated people.
A frequent form of humor is to exaggerate excessively in order to illustrate something's falsehood. Being too literal comes off as plain silly for the French.
Puns are a very big part of French jokes, primarily because language is so important to their culture. Often jokes are not translatable or hard to follow unless you speak French very well. (french humor points inspired by understandfrance.org)
Whether it be the delicious pastries, the wonderful cafe environments or the conversation, the French have developed their own place in the world of high tea. Next time you take the afternoon to enjoy with friends, try it all with a French twist! Have a favorite spot your recommend for high tea in France? Don't forget to post your comments or tips below.