Tea de France

July 4, 2012

Tea and cake: they go together like helmet and head, or spoke and nipple. It is cycling’s perennial double-act of refreshment and sustenance. Yet many cyclepeople consider cake to be the star rider and tea the humble domestique. Well, not in our gaff, buster.

My romantical partner Littlejen is Queen Tea. A Zimbabwean by birth, she settled in this country partly because of its love of the old Rosy Lee. So when it came to choosing a hotel for our recent trip to Paris, we were pleased to stumble upon one that specialised in teas from around the world. You could say we were – yes! – absolutely tea-lighted.

And now we can share that delight with you, valued readers, because Jen has purchased a selection of the teas offered to us on our trip to the French capital. They’re all from a French company called Le Palais Des Thés, and co-incidentally there’s a bike race on across the channel at the moment. So naturally I thought, why don’t we sup a different brew for each of the six weekend stages of that famous bicycle race, then express our opinions about them? We could call it Drinking Teas From France While Watching Men Racing On Bicycles In That Same Country. Then I though, no, let’s call it Tea de France instead. Come with us now as I reveal what happened, tea-wise, at the opening weekend.

Prologue, Saturday 30 June
Liège-Liège, 6.4km
Winner: Fabian Cancellara
Brew: Thé des Amants
They say: “Rich and sensual, Thé des Amants is a heady, fragrant blend of black tea, apple, almond, cinnamon and vanilla, spiced up with a hint of ginger.”
We say: You’ve been waiting 49 weeks for the Tour to roll around again – so there ain’t no way you’re not going to enjoy the prologue. Similarly, I reckon it’s impossible to dislike this light, buoyant tea. Ah, cinnamon – lovely cinnamon: the giddy fragrance of joy. Just sniffing the pot will put a smile on your face, and days later I can still recall the breezy taste. The only possible downside of this brew is that, like a GC contender with a series of early-season victories, the trajectory of our tea odyssey – or ody-tea – may have peaked too soon…

Stage 1, Sunday 1 July
Liège-Seraing, 198km
Winner: Peter Sagan
Brew: Thé des Fakirs
They say: “A tasty, scented blend of green tea and spices (cardamom, clove) with a hint of citrus fruit. Delicious served either hot or iced.”
We say: Sagan, the steely Slovak sprint sensation, locked onto the wheel of good-natured time trial legend Fabian Cancellara within sight of the finishing line – and this tea is also very much a coupling of two distinct halves. The green tea dwells stolidly on the bottom of the palate while the fruity bits sit lightly on top. Pleasant, but nothing to delight or amuse. Also, it looks a bit stew-like in the pot.

So that was the Prologue and the first stage. Who knows what teas we’ll be downing this weekend? Well, I know, obviously, and so does Jen. You’ll just have to pop back soon to find out…

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