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How To Host a French Tea Party

Updated: Apr 30

In France, tea is an emblem of elegance and French social rituals. Tea holds a special place in the hearts of many French people like me. Its popularity has been especially strong among aristocracy and intellectuals in the past.

The tradition of tea drinking in France began in the 17th century. King Louis XIV introduced it to the court, and it evolved into a sophisticated cultural practice. Today, the tradition is enjoyed by the French in tea salons and at home. You can recreate this experience by hosting a refined French tea party. It combines exquisite teas with delectable pastries and high-end decor. The combined experience reflects a lifestyle emphasizing leisure, conversation, and gastronomy.

This post delves into the intricate layers of French tea culture. We explore its royal beginnings and the modern-day French tea party. Both offer a glimpse into the inviting world of French tea.

History of Tea in France

The journey of tea to France is a story of royal favor and cultural exchange. King Louis XIV introduced tea to the French court at the Palace of Versailles, having received it as a gift from the Dutch. Renowned for his lavish tastes, the Sun King embraced this exotic beverage. The king's influence made tea a fashionable drink.

However, Madame de Sévigné's influence truly established tea as a staple in French society. She was a prominent figure in the French aristocracy. Her letters often mentioned her tea-drinking experiences and preferences. Her status and endorsement popularized tea across the higher echelons of French society. Madame de Sévigné's commentary helped shape early French tea culture, making it more than just a trend.

In the 18th century, tea became a symbol of sophistication and intellect.

Tea was the beverage of Enlightenment philosophers and writers. Intellectuals began to consume tea while meeting at the famous French literary salons. They believed, much as I do, that tea stimulated their creativity and sharpness of mind.

As tea culture developed, it took on a distinctly French character. The French preferred more delicate flavors and often infused them with flowers or herbs to enhance the aroma and taste. This is a departure from British tea culture, which favors strong, robust teas with milk.

The legacy of these early days continues to influence French tea culture. It remains an integral part of social gatherings and a symbol of refined hospitality and gastronomy.

French Tea Traditions

In France, tea drinking is an art steeped in tradition and togetherness. French tea traditions emphasize the highest quality ingredients. We love to enjoy tea in the afternoon or when meeting friends. The focus is on the quality of the experience rather than the quantity of the offerings.

  • Le Goûter:  In France, one of our most cherished tea-related traditions is le goûter. It's a late-afternoon snack enjoyed by people of all ages, especially children coming home from school. A child’s goûter typically includes cookies (Petit-Beurre), pain au chocolat or just a piece of baguette with a square of chocolate. Adults have made it their own by adding tea and more refined sweet treats.

  • Tea Etiquette: A French tea experience is a blend of elegance and simplicity. The setting is usually sophisticated, with fine china and silverware. Yet the atmosphere is often relaxed and friendly. Serving tea in France may involve a beautiful teapot, delicate cups, and a tasteful arrangement of delicacies on a well-dressed table. Conversation during tea is intimate and lively. Continuing the tradition of salons, we like to talk about culture, society, art and literature.

  • Tea Salons: France is home to many renowned tea salons, which are institutions in their own right. These salons offer various teas and traditional French confections, such as macarons, éclairs, and tarte tatin. Visiting a tea salon is a popular pastime which provides a luxurious escape and fragrant teas.

Tea remains a significant part of French cultural heritage through these dynamic traditions.

Teas Popular In France

French tea culture boasts a sophisticated palette that favors refined and aromatic blends. Besides a strong black tea for breakfast, we tend to enjoy light and floral teas for the rest of the day. Here's a look at some of the popular teas cherished across France.

  • Darjeeling: Darjeeling is a black tea from the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India and is often referred to as the "Champagne of teas". It's prized in France for its exquisite vegetal and floral aroma and delicate flavor profile. 

  • Sencha: The French appreciate the light and grassy notes of Japanese green teas. Sencha pairs wonderfully with buttery treats typical for French pastries.

  • Nepal White Tea: New tea cultivating countries are emerging on the French tea scene. White teas from Nepal captivate with their sweetness and their floral notes.

  • French Earl Grey: French bergamot oil from Southern France blended with a strong black tea is a favorite in France. It is often enjoyed during breakfast or afternoon tea. We love to drink Earl Grey plain or with a slice of lemon to enhance its citrusy notes.

  • Jasmine Tea: Known for its fragrance and soothing qualities, Jasmine Tea is a popular choice in French tea salons. It’s a green tea scented with jasmine blossoms and offers a delicate taste.

  • French Blend: France is also known for its unique tea creations. Such creations often involve black or green tea blends with herbs, spices, and flowers. For example, ingredients may include lavender, rose, vanilla, or Provencal herbs. 

  • Herbal Teas: Tisanes, or herbal teas, are also widely consumed throughout France. Popular varieties include orange blossom, verbena, chamomile, and mint. These are particularly favored for their digestive and soothing properties. They are often sipped in the evenings or after meals. Each ingredient is an opportunity to reflect local tastes and terroir. Consider trying our monastery garden tisane if you are interested in such blends.

  • Rooibos: Although not a true tea, rooibos has gained popularity in France. It's rich in antioxidants and caffeine-free. Rooibos is often an evening drink, sometimes sweetened with honey or blended with fruits such as French red berries. Our Mango-Berry Rooibos offers you a decadent treat.

These teas highlight the French taste for quality and sophistication. They demonstrate how embedded tea is within the fabric of French culinary culture. Each variety offers a glimpse into the refined world of French tea traditions.

Setting Up a French Tea Party

A French tea party is an opportunity to celebrate the elegance and charm of French culture. From the decorations to the table setting, here's how to create an authentic and stylish event.

Choosing a Theme and Decor

  • Theme Selection: Consider selecting a theme (e.g., seasonal theme or highlighting a specific pastry, or a book or film like Marie-Antoinette) to set the tone. A theme will help you select decorations, tableware, and tea choices.

  • Decorations: Opt for simple and elegant decorations. For example, consider arrangements of flowers you’ll find in your tea (e.g. roses, lavender) and French linens. You may also want to incorporate souvenirs from your travels to France. For example, you can use napkins or table settings with Toile de Jouy material or finds from your flea market adventures. Elegance is key; avoid being too bold or cluttered.

Table Setting

  • Teaware: Use fine porcelain or china tea sets that reflect French aesthetics. Typical French porcelain (Limoges) favors flower patterns or classic white with gold trim.

  • Arrangement. Arrange the table elegantly with the teapot, sugar bowl, creamer, and a selection of teas. Place settings should include a teacup, saucer, dessert plate, teaspoon, and dessert fork.

  • Centerpiece: Consider a low centerpiece that won't obstruct view and conversation. For example, a small bouquet or a scattering of rose petals.

Selecting the Teas

  • Offer a variety of teas: Include French favorites like Darjeeling, Sencha, Earl Grey and herbal options (e.g., chamomile, mint). It is always better to accommodate different preferences by offering both caffeinated and herbal teas. Keep your theme in mind to make your choice.

  • Presentation: Attractively present the teas. Consider a wooden box or a decorative tray with labels describing each blend.

Serving French Delicacies

  • Food Pairings: Serve traditional French pastries such as madeleines, financiers, or petits fours. Cheese platters with grapes and nuts can also go with lighter teas well.

  • Arrangement: Food should be easily handled and elegantly displayed. Consider tiered cake stands or plates within easy reach across the table.

Hosting and Etiquette

  • When I host people for tea at home, I like to have everything prepared beforehand so I can really enjoy the company of my guests. I like to serve them personally, pouring tea and offering refreshments.

  • Little touches like decorative napkins, candles, and flowers help make your guests feel special.

By paying attention to these details, your French tea party will showcase the luxuriousness of French tea culture. You will also create an enjoyable and memorable experience for your guests.

French Tea Party Menu

A French tea party is as much about the delicacies served as the tea itself. Remember that French tea culture is intertwined with the tradition of patisserie. The menu should feature an array of traditional French pastries and canapés that pair well with the chosen teas. Here's a guide to creating a delightful French tea party menu.

Tea and Food Pairings

  • Darjeeling and Madeleines: This light, floral tea pairs well with the subtle sweetness of madeleines.

  • Earl Grey and Lemon Tart: The citrus notes in Earl Grey complement lemon tart's sharp, refreshing taste.

  • Jasmine Tea and Macarons: The fragrant jasmine tea matches various macaron flavors, particularly rose and pistachio.

Savory Selections

  • Canapés: These small square or round tartines are a French classic. Either with cheese or smoked salmon, they offer a savory balance to the sweeter items.

  • Quiche: Offer miniature quiches filled with goat cheese, tomatoes, asparagus, zucchini, etc. They provide a hearty option that's still elegant.

  • Cheese Platter: Consider providing a selection of French cheeses. For example, Brie, Comté, and Roquefort. These cheeses may be accompanied by grapes, nuts, and fig or cherry jam.

Sweet Treats

  • Financiers: These small almond cakes are moist, light, and perfect for tea dipping.

  • Petits Fours: Offer a variety of petits fours. They are miniature versions of regular pastries like éclairs, religieuses, and different tarts.

  • Chocolate Éclair: A beloved pastry in France, éclairs are filled with rich chocolate, vanilla or hazelnut cream. They can be a decadent addition to your tea party.

  • Fruit tarts: choose a seasonal fruit like strawberries, rhubarb or pears. The fruity notes and buttery crust pair well with tea.

Beverage Options

  • Champagne or Sparkling Wine. For a festive occasion, offer a glass of Champagne or a French sparkling wine. Doing so can elevate the experience.

  • Lemonade or Floral-Scented Water.  A French lemonade or water infused with flowers (e.g. lavender or rose) can be a delightful non-alcoholic option.

By carefully selecting dishes, your French tea party menu will impress guests. And remember to favor quality over quantity. By offering authenticity and charm, you will make your guests’ experience memorable.

Hosting a French tea party can immerse you and your guests in elegance and sophistication. You can experience a refined world of French tea culture. Carefully select teas and delicacies. Consider using refined decor. Every aspect of the party can reflect France's charm and refinement.

French tea parties are about enjoying excellent tea and food. They are also about creating a moment of beauty, tradition, and camaraderie.

We hope this journey through French tea culture inspires you to embrace the art of the tea party.


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