Sunday, August 8, 2004
Sign my guestbook. View my guestbook.
Mariage Frères has several shops in Paris, two in Tokyo, and one each in Kobe, Kyoto, and Yokohama.
One kilo of number 940, Prince Igor tea.
Last Thursday, I went to buy tea for our German friends before I went to Café Metropole. They requested a kilo of #940, Prince Igor tea, to be purchased at a Mariage Frères shop. There are several of these in Paris, but only one was pretty much right on my way to the café.
It was raining, so I did not take the camera or a map. Some other time when I'm over that way I'll have to take a photo for you because this is an exquisitely charming shop on a cute little street in the 6th arrondissement. (Or, go to http://photosvilles.wanadoo.fr and type in the address for any building in Paris or other major French cities, and you will get a photo.)
I entered number 13, rue des Grands-Augustins, and looked up. The ceiling was very high, and the entire inside of the shop was wood -- a rich mahogany hue. The right side of the shop had very nice little packages of tea and other things that one could easily pick up as a gift for a dinner host. The enterprise even sells its own brand of chocolate bars.
The left side of the shop was a very serious tea store. Shelves contained large, dark metal canisters, all the way up, all labelled with the name of the tea and its number. I quickly ascertained that the canisters were arranged numerically, so I spotted the desired number 940, way, way up there.
A woman who had entered the shop behind me said something to me, very quietly, I thought in English. A question, I thought, of where she should go to pay for the tea. I said "I think you go there," gesturing toward one end of the long serious counter where a couple serious looking young sales people were working.
She gave me an odd look. I then realized that she must have said something in French, probably asking if I was in line. At any rate, my gesturing for her to go to the counter worked.
I enjoyed waiting and looking around. Finally, the serious looking young man in his serious looking summer suit said to me, very seriously, "Bonjour." I said, "Bonjour. S'il vous plait, je voudrais d'acheter un kilo de numero neuf-cent quarante, le Prince Igor thé," as I pointed upward toward the desired cannister. Now the woman ahead of me was terribly confused, because apparently I do speak French after all. And I even know to ask for the really good stuff.
The serious young man emerged from behind the counter with an attractive wooden latter, which he placed directly beneath the shelf containing my tea's cannister. He brought it down, took it behind the counter, and opened it. Inside were dark brown twigs of tea, with some light colored pieces, probably dried orange rind, mixed in. He used a brass scoop to measure it out into a shiny, dark bag which was placed on one side of a serious brass scale that had a solid brass kilo weight placed on the other side.
Scoop after scoop, the scale didn't budge. Then finally, one scoop sent it moving. I was being given a little more than a kilo. A kilo is a large amount of tea. This must be a year's supply.
The beautifully packaged tea was placed in a dainty little shopping bag of just the right size. The serious young man used a seriously modern looking computer to print out a ticket for my tea. My tea was temporarily hidden, and my ticket was handed over to a not-so-serious, but pretty, cashier who sat behind a window, much like an old fashioned bank teller's window.
"Bonjour. Acceptez-vous AmEx?" I asked, thinking that this is just the kind of place that WILL accept American Express. "Oui," she answered, enthusiastically. When it was clear that I'd paid, the serious young man suddenly reappeared and handed over my previously hidden tea. We said our merci's and au revoir's and then I was back out in the rain.