Mr.Plotz sent a message this morning to ask about tea. He is apparently in Paris and will be visiting Mariage Frères to buy some so he wanted to know what I would recommend. I wrote a reply to him, and then thought some of you might also find it useful, so I am blogging it as well.
I buy lots of tea from Mariage. It entirely depends on what type of tea you are looking for. My favorite, of course, is Darjeeling. This is probably too late in the season to buy 1st flush, as all the good ones will be gone. You probably have a better chance at 2nd flushes. If they still have Castleton 2nd flush, get some. I've also got some Namring Upper 2nd flush this year, which I prefer to the one from last season.
But if you haven't had single estate Darjeelings, I suggest you buy one kind of 1st flush anyway, whatever they have left, so you could have a little tasting comparison between the two.
1st flushes are a little more floral, with a stronger nose, but often slightly astringent as well. I wouldn't brew them long, only 2 minutes, or 2.5, at most. The 2nd flushes are also floral, but less assertively so, and a little more round and subtle in taste. The best 2nd flushes are even more expensive than the 1st flushes, actually. The best 2nd flushes that Mariage carries are Castleton, or Brume d'Himalaya. I wouldn't brew these longer than 2.5-3 minutes.
The best Darjeelings, properly brewed, have this fantastic taste, almost an orgasmic explosion, that seems to rush back out of your throat to fill your mouth right after you swallow the tea. Need I say more?
Mariage also do tisane very well. They have a huge range of Thés Rouges, which are not tea at all but leafs of Rooibos bush from South Africa. I always have Metis, Surabaya, and Bourbon on hand. A cup of freshly brewed Thé Rouge Bourbon (not to be confused with their black Bourbon), with a little milk and a tiny bit of sugar is sometimes better than hot chocolate on a cold night.
If you want to try some great green teas, I suggest you try either Gyukuro or Sencha Uji. You can order them in pots at the salon before you buy them in bulk actually. Gyukuro is considered one of the best Japanese green teas, perhaps the best one available outside of Japan. It brews a delightfully bright green cup. But the taste of Gyukuro is perhaps a bit of an acquired type. It can taste distinctively seaweed-y to some. Sencha Uji is my favorite that Mariage carries, it tastes a bit seaweed-y, as all great Japanese teas, but a little less so than Gyukuro, and a bit more well rounded and ever so slightly nutty.