I might have to lean on my parents to bring me back some tea on the next trip to Paris. I’ve got about ten teas I wanted to purchase from Kusmi and I’ve got a sinking feeling their costs are much the same as Mariage Freres.
I didn’t even think of placing a mock order :P
Kusmi is not as expensive to ship as Mariage Freres is (nor should it be, not the same league)
If you are in Australia, it´s 26.25 euros flat rate – which is ouch ouch on its own, but put in perspective it´s less than the price of two tins, if you are ordering 10 teas, it might be worth it. And weirdly Kusmi refills are pretty expensive and only slightly cheaper than the tins, get the tins, you won´t get better tins for the 2.50 euro difference between the refill and the tin!
If your parents are going to Paris, a tip : try to send them to buy loose leaf in Mariage Freres or Theodor – both sites have such expensive shipping and such great loose leaf teas which can be so affordable loose leaf and so expensive tin-packed! Theodor teas can be 7 euros per 100 grams and 20 euros for the tin (and so so good). Mariage Freres depending on blend, can be from 5 euros to 9 euros per 100 grams for normalish teas, their tins are usually 5-6 euros more than the loose leaf. And they have flavours they never pack on tins.
I haven’t actually heard of Theodor tea – but then again, I didn’t know the French even drank tea until recently – so I’ll play the good son until April and get them to bring me back some samples.
Thanks for the tip. I love getting my hands on tins and boxes and reusing them, so I might just buy ten or fifteen tins of Kusmi and order some refills about a year later . . . so I’ll take your advice and purchase these myself and get my Dad to pick me up some Mariage Freres tea instead.
Funny thing is, I think the French (thousand pardons, Ysaurella!) don´t even drink a lot of tea. Not really, not randomly. But for some reason, maybe because they have such a gourmet culture regarding other things (wine, cheeses, etc) and understand the terroir concept so well, a lot of the more interesting high-end tea companies (at least western companies! Asia has its own high end companies) are French. German companies are good at blending this sort of mid-quality teas (D&B, and a few others) which provide teas for half the “independent” tea shops on the european continent. British companies, it´s strange, they are great at making good mass market tea (twinings, ahmads, clipper, yorkshire, etc) rather than gourmet stuff (though one of my favorite blenders is a tiny London company). Generalizing wildly btw,I am sure there will be differing opinions.
Mariage Frères is IMO the most reliable tea company I ever found. They are reliable as well at pricing things just in the upper limit of what i would ever consider paying for a certain type of tea, and the collector´s tins are extortionate. But particularly when buying loose leaf, the bang for buck is so reliable, no bad tea from them ever – though a few might take a lot of fuss to brew right! And their tea book! Though it can be a bit too precious I think – gold scissors clipped tea (really? Gold blend you mean!), the tins, the 1000€ teapots (Though damn them, those are gorgeous), they will certainly take their money from anybody susceptible to dropping it on assorted tea stuff.
Theodor for me is my current infatuation, I would put their blended teas quality wise ( and the single origin I have tried was lovely) up with MF, but the taste combinations are a bit more unexpected, more hip. They have not so as many teas as MF, but then again I think hardly anybody has. If your parents can trek to their store, do ask them to bring some refill packages – it (like Mariage Freres loose leaf) is priced decently.
There are french other companies I do not like as much – Dammann is maybe my third favorite, nice and solid teas but IMO not as good as the other two. Kusmi, dunno – they have huge marketing efforts, they are everywhere, the tins are adorable and sort of affordable (though the loose refills are soooo expensive for what they are) but the quality is not as top-notch as Theodor and Mariage Freres, weaker tea and flavourings and more broken tea and sometimes the flavour of the flavored teas is just eurght wrong to me (bouquet of flowers, detox). Fauchon, very pricey and very chic, meh the 2 teas of theirs I tried. Betjman&Barton i have never tried any of their teas
I probably have to agree with you. Just a cursory glance on wikipedia shows that the percentage of tea consumption in France is only a fraction of its consumption of coffee. A comparably ‘niche’ product in England or Australia – I won’t speak for the US or elsewhere – would just be poor quality, imported and overpriced. Both countries love their ‘gourmet’ food items – balsamic vinegars, verjuice, goose fat, or whatever is the latest fad peddled by Nigella Lawson or Master Chef – but this is a fairly recent trend compared to France. This is something of a generalisation, but France definitely does niche and gourmet items with more style and substance than any of its anglo contemporaries.
As far as relative inexpensive, mass-produced tea goes, Twinings is probably the best and Clipper, Ahmad, Yorkshire Tea etc. aren’t too bad. As tastes change, and less and less tea is consumed especially in loose leaf form, Twinings has really gone downhill. Of the ‘luxury’ English brands, I don’t believe East India Company or Harrod’s or Fortnum and Mason can hold a candle to Mariage Freres but I’m sure other people will have different opinions on that matter.
I am aware of the other French brands, some of which I have tried, but I can’t really remember the specifics. Kusmi doesn’t seem to be as top notch as MF but they seem to be aiming for a different demographic. Having said that, their Imperial blend is apparently excellent.
I’ll put my notes in the tealog when it arrives.
Are MF teas easy to come your way? In Australia there is only one department store that stocks them at their flagship stores, but the range is limited to maybe five or six teas.
Kusmi right now, in my country, is sort of dunno upmarket Lipton – tea for people who do not really drink tea, but more upmarket. I am grateful for it actually, some more expensive though not tea-specialized places instead of serving Lipton tea now serve Kusmi and it´s better.
Mariage Fréres is not exactly mainstream but not that hard to find either. The gourmet store of a big department store always has some 15-20 varieties of tins in stock (and it keeps selling, crisis or not!) though they are also where the tea is pricier. A small very chic independent gourmet store has even more varieties and they sell by the weight, as well as a couple tea salons which serve and sell by the weight – one of them has maybe 40 or 50 flavours including some relatively rare ones as Choco-Menthe and Tzar Alexandre and Jour de Fete (and bless them they sell only 50 grams if you ask nicely. The very expensive darjeelings they don´t have, but I got to confess that darjeeling is not quite my cup of tea (or not yet) so my wallet is thankful and I do not really miss those. But I still crave a few MF teas I can not find here – a lot of single origins just to try it or because if I am going to pay serious money for a single origin I want to pay it from a seller I trust, particularly more obscure ones, and some blends (iskandar! alexandra david neel, plain old framboise! yuzu temple!) which I just can not get here.
From Mariage Freres, hmm, my recommendations will be depending on what you like – green or black? smoky? I am not a earl grey fan so no recommendations there, but I love their Lapsang Souchong Imperial, it has became the LS for me. I love their Thé sur le Nil (green with lemongrass) and Pleine Lune (black with bitter almond and honey and spices). Casablanca has slowly became my default green tea with mint, all others now seem wrong.
You can get Mariage teas from various resellers. Princeton, Marco Polo, Earl Grey Imperial, etc. All good teas and are quite comparable to similar teas you can get at other retailers.
Yet where Mariage excels are the upper tier teas which are on a whole different level only available online or at Mariage owned retailers in France, Japan, and London. I favor their first flush Darjeelings and it can get quite expensive anywhere from 28 to 40+ Euros for 100g.
While Princeton may be a good everyday tea, it lacks the depth, the complexity of flavors, the subtle taste of astringency when compared to teas like the 2012 FF Castleton, FF Margaret’s Hope, FF Namring
If your parents can spare the expense try the 2012 FF Namring. It is my personal favorite for this year. FF Darjeelings can be very temperamental so try following the parameters that are placed on each and every order of tea whether it be on the tin, or the packages of loose leaf tea.
Even when compared with retailers like Theodor, TWG, Hojo, Fauchon, Harrod’s, IMHO, Mariage Freres is the gold standard
Fortunately, the Australia dollar is pretty strong (either that, or I have no concept of how much things cost). I’ll definitely try the Namring you suggested. I understand that Marco Polo is their signature blend. Is it worth trying?