Thursday, December 22, 2005

Lost & Found: A Mariage Frères Brûle Parfum Teapot

I have a great weakness for all things Mariage Frères. The elegance of the sky-lit tearoom on Rue du Bourg-Tibourg appointed in chic colonial style, the sophistication of their distinctive black-and-yellow canisters, the artfulness of their classic blends, the intoxicating fragrance of their teas flavoured with a lush mix of fruit, flowers and spices - the Mariage Frères experience is sheer sensory escapism. Don't take it from me; Michèle of Oswego Tea, Sam of Becks & Posh, and Santos of The Scent of Green Bananas - ladies of impeccable taste - have all written eloquent accounts of their own encounters.

Short of hopping onto a plane, I was pretty much dependent on friends travelling to Paris or Tokyo to bring me back a fix or two. W is all too familiar with my slight obsession - on our trip to Bangkok in September, I persuaded him to travel halfway across town (no mean feat given Bangkok traffic) to The Oriental, just so as to drink “The Oriental”, a brew of high grown black tea perfumed with jasmine and mandarin specially created by the maison de thé in honour of the grand hotel. On a previous trip to Tokyo, I left with a half-empty suitcase and upon checking into the hotel and barely dropping my bags, headed straight for the Mariage Frères salon de thé in Ginza where I proceeded to buy as much as my luggage could hold.

And then, on my way out, my eyes fell upon The Most Perfect Teapot I Had Ever Seen. An exquisite form, a rare beauty, the teapot of my dreams, the one I never knew I was looking for. Love at first sight, no questions about it. Sadly, where objects of desire are concerned, it's very often love for money - I was on a budget far too modest to accommodate the likes of this precious thoroughbred. Steeling myself, almost choking back a tear, I spun around and slowly, deliberately, walked out. That night, I tossed and turned in the unfamiliar hotel bedding, unable to fall asleep, consumed by thoughts of how much better tea could taste thanks to a teapot. Need I say that come daybreak, I had decided that I could afford it afterall, the better part of that sleepless night having been spent performing some complex mental budgetary arithmetic. And need I say that my overnight dithering meant that The Most Perfect Teapot I Had Ever Seen also became The One That Got Away? Such is life - it was gone when I returned to Ginza that morning.

They say opportunity never knocks twice. Happily, I can now beg to differ. Some weeks back, as I was doing a spot of Christmas shopping, just when I wasn't looking, there it sat on the back of a shelf (for anyone who's interested, The Link Home in Singapore also carries a small selection of Mariage Frères teas). The Brûle Parfum, or "Scent Holder", is so-named after its inspiration, an 18th century incense holder Kitti Cha Sangmanee (part of the creative force behind the renaissance of the venerable house) had seen in Japan. The fluted body of this porcelain teapot, draped in a platinum glaze of subdued sheen, is crowned with a cast-iron top, pierced so as to let the tea's ethereal perfume rise in tantalising plumes.

And yes, the tea does taste better...

18 Comments:

Blogger Tokyoastrogirl said...

What a lovely story. I am so happy for you that you found it again- it truly is a gorgeous teapot.

1:03 am, December 23, 2005  
Anonymous sha said...

My husband will soon divorce me on the ground I have many tea pots and when I travel I look at antique stores, brocante, yard sales.... but this one above is the best looking one I have seen.

Beautiful story am sure every time you fill the pot you think of yr luck....

and hurray first time I have seen a chichi tea shop in Athens... big red containers... the scent amazing, I was simply captivated.

4:58 am, December 23, 2005  
Anonymous paz said...

I too am glad that the teapot made a reappearance for you. I have yet to experience the Mariage Freres tea and from a teapot set like the one you've described. It will be great!

Paz

12:31 pm, December 23, 2005  
Blogger Reid said...

Hi J,

What a wonderful story. I love drinking tea, but without the pretty pot. A porcelain teapot does just fine. I've never had the tea that you've mentioned, but just hearing about it makes me want to give it a try.

12:55 pm, December 23, 2005  
Blogger Santos said...

lovely story, lovely pot! j, i'm glad it has made its way into the hands of someone who truly appreciates its beauty.

and me, waxing eloquently? i believe what i did was grunt "mmm. marrryahge frrrs tea. good. slurp."

happy holidays and happy tea drinking to you!

2:24 pm, December 23, 2005  
Blogger Vivilicious said...

Hey J.! What a lovely story of lost love, refound, sigh. And what a gorgeous teapot! Glad you two were reunited. Have a wonderful Christmas, can't wait to see what you're cooking up for the holidays!

9:23 pm, December 23, 2005  
Blogger eatzycath said...

that is indeed a lovely teapot and explains the tossing and turning in bed, and such nice oriental teacups as well! J, you must have a huge kitchen with lots of cupboards..cos' all your food-pics are always accompanied by beautiful crockery and what-nots - "psst...let me know if you ever think of getting rid of old stuff to make way for new stuff" :p

12:00 am, December 24, 2005  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Hi J, gorgeous teapot and wonderful story! I totally understand your passion - Michele introduced me to the wonders of Mariage Freres recently in Paris. We sat in their gorgeous tea rooms and inhaled the fragrances like they were fine perfumes. I wanted to try them all!

And isn't it wonderful when the retail gods smile in our favor? The exact same thing you describe happened to me once, but only with a pair of shoes! I think when it comes to food, though, I'm always able to somehow justify the purchase on the spot ;)

4:05 am, December 24, 2005  
Blogger cin said...

I have been searching high and low for the perfect teapot, J, and this one is GORGEOUS! I wonder if the shop in Paris will have it? I can only try I suppose...

4:43 pm, December 24, 2005  
Blogger boo_licious said...

That is a lovely teapot J and a fantastic story. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

4:41 am, December 25, 2005  
Blogger obachan said...

I'm sure the tea tastes better in that tea pot.
Happy holidays. :)

11:09 pm, December 25, 2005  
Anonymous keiko said...

Another beautiful post, Joycelyn... I hope you have a wonderful christmas and new year with friends and family. Take care.

11:14 pm, December 25, 2005  
Blogger Cathy said...

Merry Christmas Jocelyn! So glad you found your beautiful teapot. I can't tell you how many times that has happened to me - I dither over whether to buy something or not, walk away, come back and find it gone. Nice to hear your story had had a happy ending! Enjoy!

9:58 pm, December 26, 2005  
Blogger Shauna said...

I love how these small pleasures can really fill us up. You deserve your finds!

1:04 am, December 29, 2005  
Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

J, happy holidays. Looking forward to more of your wonderful posts next year.

1:55 am, December 29, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi tokyoastrogirl,thanks! i am so glad i found it again...

hi sha, there's nothing like walking around a tea shop and inhaling the beautiful scents, is there?

hi paz, thanks; glad to hear you love tea too

hi reid, thanks! their teas have to be tasted to be believed...

hi santos, thanks! haiku counts as eloquent waxing too, albeit of the minimalist variety ;)

hi viv, thanks! hope you enjoyed your holidays too!

hi cath, the tea bols are from mariage freres too; i love how they are adorned with a silver tip tealeaf both on the inside and out...we live in a tiny apartment with an even tinier kitchen. w is always shaking his head at how i manage to cram so much stuff into so little a space ;p

hi melissa, that's exactly what they are like - fine fragrances! re:shoes...please don't get me started ;)

hi cin, can only imagine you're enjoying your teapot right now!

hi boo, thanks! happy new year to you!

hi obachan, thanks for dropping by; it most certainly does ;)

hi keiko, thanks...hope the festive season went very well for you too!

hi cathy, happy new year to you! which brings me to the next question - is impulse shopping therefore justified ;)

hi shauna, it's funny how the small things can make us so happy...

hi dylan, thanks! same to you...

11:47 am, January 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That teapot is just marvelous!

3:28 am, November 27, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just came across your story while having some of the wonderful Marco Polo tea. I love the store in Paris as much as you do. The rue du Bourg-Tibourg location is really special. I am so glad most American's don't know about it and the ones that do only share with people who really appreciate it. I have bought several tea pots from the store, and I have to say it is a real treat. My advise to all who travel is buy what you want regardless of price. Life is to short!

3:47 am, May 17, 2009  

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