Tea may not be the first beverage visitors think of when visiting Bordeaux but, during my first visit to France’s sixth largest city, I was delighted to find a vibrant tea culture where several traditional and contemporary tea shops, as well as salons du thé, are doing a brisk business.
If you have already explored Paris and its environs and are looking for another French city to digest, Bordeaux should be on your radar – especially if you are a student of food and drink.
Like Paris, this is a walking city with several unique districts to explore. Unlike Paris, it is more compact, not congested with traffic, and – best of all – less expensive.
I am posting three articles that I hope will entice you to plan a visit. Let’s begin by exploring the city with tea on your mind.
Le Grand Hotel Bordeaux
|Afternoon Tea at Le Grand Hotel Bordeaux|
If a posh hotel afternoon tea is what you crave, then the Grand Hotel Bordeaux is the place you need to visit.
Local wines are the features in the evening in the Bar l’Orangerie but, in the afternoon, teetotalers fill the cushy sofas as teatime brings in the customers.
As is often the case in French tea salons, the menu here offers only sweets with no savories. My favorite indulgence is the Canelé, a symbol of local gastronomy and a must-try when in Bordeaux. The soft custard filling is made with rum and vanilla while the outer layer is a thick caramelized crust.
The official tea blender for this longtime hotelier is Harney & Sons so most Americans visiting here will be familiar with the tea selection. Price of Afternoon Tea is 30€/person or add a glass of Champagne at 40€/person. Served 3-6 pm.
Le Diplomate Tea Salon
|You’ll forget about the cares of the world while having tea and scones in this shabby chic library at Le Diplomate Tea Salon.|
Le Diplomate Tea Salon is located on Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre, about four blocks behind City Hall. Entrance is gained through the tea shop which displays endless canisters of teas from around the world.
A long hallway, set with a few two-seat cafe tables, leads to a small library/dining area filled with couches, stuffed chairs, and assorted mismatched furnishings. Tea is the focus here but a selection of pastries, including scones with clotted cream, are available. Make yourself at home and forget about the time because this is the perfect hideout for a relaxed tea adventure infused with gossip and sweetened with pastries.
Le Vie En Rose Tea Salon
Located just around the corner from our third-floor apartment on Rue Notre-Dame, the charming Place du Marché des Chartrons is a popular destination for locals and a few tourists who have done superior travel planning. The square was once the site of a 19th-century market. The 1869 market hall was elegantly restored in 1998 in glass, iron, and stone and now serves as a cultural center.
The entire area maintains the buzz of market day with a selection of popular restaurants and cafes, including a tea salon called La Vie en Rose.
The petite tearoom offers 80 teas and a variety of delicious homemade desserts. It’s the perfect place for a simple tea break as you catch your breath after a busy day of sightseeing.
“La Vie en rose” was the song that made Edith Piaf internationally famous with its lyrics telling about the joy of finding true love and appealing to those who had survived the difficult wartime. It continues to be one of the most recognizable ballads from the French songbook.
Thes Betjeman & Barton
Based in Paris, France, Betjeman & Barton have been tea merchants since 1919 and are now a subsidiary of Damman Frères. I first discovered B & B tea shops while producing my guidebook Tea in the City: Paris. The distinctive bright red storefronts are easy to spot and their classic layout with wooden shelves filled with reproduction 18th-century tins is sure to please any classic tea lover.
This tea shop is located in the heart of the shopping district and just off Place Gambetta.
Palais De The Bordeaux
Cors de l’Intendance is a broad street lined with shops and eateries. It is one of the many strolling streets of Bordeaux, avenues where people walk arm in arm throughout the day as they window shop. The French phrase for window shopping faire du leche-vitrines translates to “licking the windows,” and even if you don’t live to shop, I think you’ll be swept up in this daily ritual.
Along this busy street, you’ll find the Bordeaux branch of Palais des Thés. This brand began in 1986 in Paris when a group of about forty friends gathered around François-Xavier Delmas decided to open a tea shop. Anxious to control their supplies, they decided to select the tea directly from the countries of origin. Their stores are Asian-inspired and filled with accessories that will inspire your teatime when you return home.
Located in the Place des Grand Hommes Shopping Mall, Chris’ Tea has taken advantage of being in the midst of one of the world’s best-known wine regions by blending a line of teas with wine notes and bearing names such as Walk in the Vineyard and Sweet Grape Varieties.
It’s refreshing to visit a tea store that is not part of a larger chain. We spent nearly an hour speaking with owner Christel Karamidas tasting her teas – including a line of iced teas – and sharing our common thoughts on tea blending. I suggest you take home a tin of her Canalé Tea.
More on Bordeaux –
Visit the Wine Highlights of Bordeaux
Breaking Bread in Bordeaux’s Oldest Bakery
Tea Maestro Bruce Richardson has written and co-authored 14 books, including A Social History of Tea. He is the co-owner and master blender at Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.