I’ve known about the French brand Palais des Thés for a while, and I’ve purchased their tea once or twice at various shops around New York, but I just made my first visit to a Palais des Thés boutique last week. There are currently two Palais des Thés boutiques in Manhattan, one on the Upper West Side and one located at 156 Prince Street in SoHo.
This SoHo location stocks over 100 varieties of tea, all directly sourced by Palais des Thés (which has been in business since 1986). I have a very basic knowledge of tea, as well as certain preferences, but I was a bit overwhelmed by this range of choices. Fortunately, the boutique’s staff were helpful as well as knowledgeable. And, as a perfume-lover, I was happy to see that the teas were categorized not only by country of origin and by type (black, green, or white) , but also by flavor: fruity, flowery, smoky, etc. …
The store’s staff members assisted me by describing the tea-harvesting process and by allowing me to see and sniff teas of various categories. Some of them, especially the blends, were quite beautiful to look at, especially when they contained flower petals or bits of fruit peel.
I was introduced to so many interesting teas during my visit: Darjeelings of various “flushes.” A fine white tea composed entirely of long buds called “Silver Needles.” Hand-rolled “pearls” of jasmine-infused green tea leaves. An astonishingly smoky Lapsang Souchong. Green tea scented with cherry blossom. The best-selling Thé du Hammam, flavored with berries, roses, orange blossom, and green dates.
You can also browse on your own: shelves in the front area of the store hold printed descriptions of all the teas, as well as small lidded containers of loose tea that you can open for a closer look and smell. The teas can be purchased loose, by the ounce; many of them are also available as sachets (tea bags).
You’ll also notice that Palais des Thés offers a range of items for tea preparation, from single-serving mugs with filters to full-size teapots.
There are also some very special Japanese-style iron teapots made exclusively for Palais des Thés. I love this design, which features a stylized wave motif. I also admired the decorative tea canisters that you can purchase and have filled (and later refilled) with your tea of choice.
Some teas are grouped as collections (another thing that reminded me of fragrance-shopping!). The “Pure Indulgence” collection includes four teas with simple, refreshing flavors: Lemon, Orange Blossom, Pear, and Iced Mint.
If you really can’t decide which tea to take home with you, or you want to give a thoughtful gift to someone who has a taste for unusual tea, you could always choose a sampler set—green teas, flavored teas, Indian teas, etc.
Palais des Thés offers eleven blends of rooibos (“red bush”), which is often called “red tea” but is actually a caffeine-free plant unrelated to tea. This is Vahinés Roobos, a blend with vanilla, almond, and marigold petals. I’m looking forward to trying this on autumn afternoons or chilly evenings.
My new favorite tea just might be Montagne Bleue, a blend of black tea flavored with honey, lavender, blueberry, strawberry, and rhubarb. Do you see the cornflower petals mixed into the tea leaves?!
If you live in the NYC area and you’d like to learn more about tea from Palais des Thés, you can sign up for a weekend tea-tasting class. The classes are taught by Aurelie Bessière, the company’s U.S. Director and niece of the company’s founder, and by other tea experts; the fee is $45 per person. You can find out more about the classes here or you can call the SoHo boutique at (646) 513-4369.
Palais des Thés is located at 156 Prince Street in New York. (There is a second NYC boutique at 194 Columbus Avenue).
Many thanks to Elsa Degioanni and the staff of Palais des Thés for making my visit so enjoyable.
Images: all photos by Tinsel Creation.