Thyme Machine

Long before I discovered French wine and started contemplating stuff like grape varietals, tannins, and how to uncork a bottle of red without redecorating my kitchen in crimson freckles, I focused most of my obsessive researching energy on another nuanced beverage: loose leaf tea. I like to specify “loose leaf” because although those Lipton teabags in the back of the cupboard can get you by in a pinch, they never hold a candle to (or hold the flavor of) their full un-pulverized counterparts. It’s sort of like cooking with a fresh sprig of thyme compared to the powder sitting on that dusty spice rack. Savor the flavor is what I always say.

During my first trip to Paris almost 4 years ago BC (Before Cabernet), I walked into a high-end tea shop called Mariage Frères and it was a revelation. One day I’ll probably blog about the shop itself, but this post is about what’s hidden above the location at 30 Rue du Bourg Tibourg. The small unassuming sign that invites you upstairs is easy to miss, and I admit even a tea geek like me hadn’t noticed it until now. One floor above the clamor of the boutique and its adjoining dining room hides a serene little two-room tea museum, chronicling the drink and all its paraphernalia being sold in their shops during the last 150 years.

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Not only is this store off the beaten path, but the museum upstairs is even lesser-known which gives it a double layer of insulation from the masses. Maybe it’s the rigor mortis of Parisian snobbery setting in, but I prefer to be just about as alone as possible when in a museum of any kind. And this little one, with its tranquil historical throwback appeal and piped-in classical music, was exactly my cup of (insert pun here).

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