Le Palais des Thes - The Tea Palace of Beverly Hills

The passion for tea is a mystery to the uninitiated.  Devotees can taste the difference in leaf, harvest, drying, fermentations and size of the leaf.  The temperature of the water must be exact, though slightly different for each type and classification of tea.  When brewing, pots should be used exclusively for one and only one category of tea so as not to pollute the purity of flavor.  For initiates, tea is the portal to a state as near to grace as one can get without the help of God.


Le Palais des Thes in Beverly Hills is a temple to the passion for tea.  Unlike fusty English tea shops, Le Palais des Thes is sleek and orderly.  Wood and glass let in a lot of light.  Large canisters of tea line two walls. If you are curious about a tea, the staff will pull down the canister and open it for a heady inhalation.  Along two other walls, there are prepackaged 100-gram bags of loose tea.  Under these are smaller glass beakers with stoppers filled with popular blends. Customers can sniff their way to tea heaven.

The blends are what drew me first to Le Palais des Thes. I am a fan of French tea.   In France, tea is drunk at meals with food, and so the flavors of tea blends is more nuanced than that usually found here in the US.  The idea is to add to the palate of flavors at the meal and not to overpower everything with a drink drenched in the fruity or spicy equivalent of cheap cologne.  The flavors of the French melange tea blends are usually as subtle and orchestrated as the flavor notes of wine.   Every person I have shared my stash with, be that person a tea aficionado or philistine, has gone into wide-eyed raptures at the first sip.  In my opinion, the best melange to introduce someone to the sweet rapture of these French teas is the Palais des Thes' T he du Hammam or the Mariage Freres' Marco Polo

The shop is sleek and modern

The advantage of Le Palais des Thes is that they have a shop here in Los Angeles where you can go in an sniff and sip. (They usually have a couple of large urns filled with tea that you can sample.)  A 100-gram bag of tea starts around $10.  The rare teas cost four or five times as much.  The store also sells tea paraphernalia for making and storing your tea.  And if you find yourself becoming a tea lover, you can also take classes in the School of Tea.

Even though it is not, strictly speaking, tea, Le Palais de Thes also carries blended rooibus teas. Native to South Africa, the Aspalathus linearis, called Rooibos, has a mild flavor with no caffeine and almost no tannin.  It takes the flavorings of fruit, flower and spice in the French blends beautifully.  As an introduction to the subtly flavored blends, I can suggest the red Melange du Cap.  If you like a powerful overlay of flavors, they have a citrine rooibos that is bright and lemony. 

For the Grand Jasmin Mu Dan, tea leaves are sewn around amaranth blossoms and then dried into nuggets

The most elegant tea experience at that does not require expensive china and silverware can be created with the wonderful Grand Jasmine Mu Dan.  Silver tips and young leaves are sewn around an amaranth flower and dried into a ball.  When the ball is placed in a cup, it opens into a beautiful flower with the amaranth at the center.  A few pink petals may detach themselves and float in the water.  The light flavor of the green tea and the aromatic sweetness of the jasmine blossom in the mouth in much the same way the leaves in the cup open and expand.  A bag of this tea containing a dozen nuggets cost around $50.  The tea and a pair of Bodum insulated glasses to hold the tea flowers makes a gift fit for a palace.

The Grand Jasmin Mu Dan literally blossoms into a delicate aromatic green jasmine tea

Tea is also a reflection of what each culture prizes in the way of refinement.  In European culture, tea usurped coffee's position as a drink of high society and coffee has never quite recovered, though Starbucks and its like have elevate the bean's status considerably.  Bean and leaf belong to different classes, in part a function of the extreme care and expertise required to bring a sublime tea to market. This kind of care is lavished on every aspect of all exquisite luxury items, and is reflected in the astronomical prices such goods demand.  The wonderful thing about fine tea is that it is a true luxury that anyone can afford.



Le Palais des Thes
401 North Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Store hours: 10 AM-6 PM Monday through Saturday ; 12 PM-5 PM on Sunday
Phone 310-271-7922
http://www.palaisdesthes.com/fre/index.cgi

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