tea culture in paris: an interview with bobby h. jefferson

Bobby H. Jefferson lives in Paris, France and works at Le Palais des Thés tea store.

He took some time to answer my questions about what tea and traveling mean to him and what tea culture is like in one of Europe’s greatest cities.

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What does tea mean to you?

Tea is magical for me. Tea universe is so rich that I could think about it every minutes with a different point of view. Culture, philosophy, chemistry, geography, geology, health, history, Tea is all that and I like to know a lot about what I’m drinking.

What does traveling mean to you?

I love it but I would travel more. What I like is to discover a country from its superficial aspects to the more unexpected things and to be surprised by people habits, food and places. I can go many times in the same country and always find some more unknown and exciting aspects of the people’s lives. I think I’m just a sort of a novelty seeking-obsessed tourist.

What’s your favorite tea related memory or location and why is it special to you?

My best tea related memory is when I fell in love with Japanese green tea. I was in Nagasaki, Japan for holidays, and I went in a lovely quaint department store looking for something to eat. Then I found a small tea store and ask for some local tea. I finally bought some tea from Saga.

tamaryokucha tea

I discovered this tea in the evening in my hotel room and it was very special, leaves were rolled and small, pretty different from regular sencha leaves. When I had it, I felt so warm and relaxed and the texture was so rich and astringent; I learned later it was Tamaryokucha, a southern Japan specialty. It was my first Japanese tea love.

You live in Paris, tell me about tea culture in Paris, from my experience it’s a cafe-centric city!

le palais des thes teastore, paris

You’re right, Paris is more known for its brasseries and bistros than for its tea stores. Interest for tea is slowly growing in Paris, a lot for its benefits for health or just for pleasure. Thanks to French chefs, tea entered the greatest restaurants kitchens. Tea culture in Paris seems to tend to become elitist because tea in tea stores is often sold as a luxury product. I hope in the future more French people will find the real richness of this magical product.

What do you drink/steep at home?

I usually drink first flush Darjeeling and Japanese shincha. I got a lovely Royal Albert teapot for the Darjeeling tea and a pretty orange kyusu for Japanese sencha.

Can you tell me three of your favorite tea or travel blogs?

Can you tell me your favorite tea shop (and what made it totally wonderful)?

I like the Jugetsudo tea store near boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

It’s a very beautiful store with a contemporary-traditional design, with hundreds of bamboo sticks getting from the ceiling down. They got one the best Japanese green tea selection in Paris and also got some highly sophisticated Japanese tea ware.  The owner is very kind and often organizes tea tastings as well as Japanese sake and seaweed tastings.

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Bobby can be found on Twitter as @TEAdipso and Le Palais des Thés and their amazing range (200+) of teas can can be found here.

The president of Le Palais des Thes is François-Xavier Delmas who has a stunning website (mentioned above) Discovering Tea: a traveller’s blog and is by far my favorite tea photographer. You can see his photography work in The Tea Drinkers Handbook which is a really worthwhile book to have in your collection.

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