by Emeric Harney December 03, 2021 12 min read 6 Comments
It’s really not a question of where to begin when talking about our third Harney Holiday Desteanation, Paris, but a question of where to end? There’s so much to say about one of the most famous and talked-about cities in the world. Whether you call it the City of Lights or the City of Love or just Paris, it is an endlessly fascinating and beloved city.
My mom, Brigitte Guillot Harney, grew up just outside of Paris. When my dad, Mike, worked in wine in France for one year after college, well… let's say the City of Love worked its magic, and I am the happy result of that romance! I did some time in Paris while I “studied” at the American University. We have explored many parts of Paris over the decades.
Home to over two million residents, Paris is what most of us commonly refer to as an overachiever. The city has been one of Europe’s major centers of finance, diplomacy, commerce, science, art, fashion and, of course, haute cuisine. If you haven’t been lucky enough to experience Paris in person, who hasn’t imagined a day of sipping tea and enjoying a chocolate croissant at a café, snapping a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower, saying hello to the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, strolling (flané as the French say it) the Champs-Élysées, picking up an Hermés scarf (my mom has a lovely orange one) or Louis Vuitton bag, cruising down the Seine, having a world-class meal at a five-star restaurant and a lovely glass of French wine.
With an endless list of things to do and see, it’s no wonder tourism is big business in Paris. In 2019, Paris had 38 million visitors. It is the second most visited city in the world, bested by Bangkok. Whether you make like Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada and hit Paris for couture’s most important event, Fashion Week, or go for the history, art, food, nightlife, if you ever get to go to Paris during Christmas, it may be the best decision you’ll ever make.
While we obviously blended our eponymously named Paris tea with the city as inspiration, there are other teas that remind us of the City of Light -- and chocolate -- as well!
Paris. In homage to time spent in Paris tea shops, my dad created this black tea blend with vanilla and caramel with a hint of lemony Bergamot. C’est magnifique!
Decaf Paris. Same wonderful taste, just caffeine-free.
Paris Herbal. Because customers asked for it, we created an herbal version of this popular tea, using a rooibos base rather than black tea.
Paris Tea Gift Set. Want more Paris tea? You got it! This set includes a tin of 20 sachets, a tin of loose decaf tea, 20 individually wrapped sachets (perfect for traveling), an Eiffel Tower spoon and Paris towel.
Chocolate Tea. You can’t think Paris without thinking chocolate. A simple, delicious black tea with chocolate and vanilla flavors.
Decaf Chocolate. Same tea, no caffeine.
Chocolate Mint. A wonderful minty, chocolate cuppa -- dessert without the guilt.
Chocolate Chai Supreme. Chocolatey and spicy, try it made with milk for a wonderful treat.
Fruits d’Alsace. A dessert tea with flavors of the tree fruits from the Alsace region of France.
Brigitte’s Blend. Named for my French-born mother, it is an elegant blend of two black teas and is, as my dad says, perfect in many situations -- just like Brigitte.
Christmas in Paris is celebrated much like it is in the U.S. French families, however, routinely open their gifts and have their big celebration on Christmas Eve, although as families here also do, some choose to observe the big day on Christmas. No matter when they celebrate, there will likely be Le Réveillon, a large Christmas feast. Smoked salmon and oysters are typical appetizers, followed by the main course starring a sumptuous goose and ending with a Bûche de Noël cake, or what we call a Yule Log.
Before the big day arrives, however, many children in France will leave their shoes out on December 6, St. Nicholas Day, for Père Noël to fill with little treats, like oranges, candies or small toys. Watch out, however, for Father Christmas’ sidekick, Père Fouettard, which means “Father Whipper.” He hands out lumps of coal or, legend has it, spankings to children who did not make the nice list. Naughty kiddos, beware!
Another very French holiday tradition is La Galette des Rois, or King Cake. While the recipes may vary, the main point of the cake is the same: slice the cake, find the tiny hidden figure and become “king” for the day. This cake is created to celebrate Epiphany, which is January 6 and commemorates the day the three Magi came to visit the newborn Jesus. It is the inspiration for the King Cake that is made here in the U.S. to celebrate Fat Tuesday, the last day of Mardi Gras.
As a tourist in Paris during the holiday season, you can expect to see the City of Lights take that moniker to a whole new level. While many streets get the bedazzled treatment, the crown jewel is the Champs-Élysées. When the lights gracing the trees lining this mile-long street are switched on, it is a truly spectacular occasion. No cars are allowed on the street during the lighting, and it becomes a true wonderland.
Christmas marketplaces are rather commonplace in Europe, and Paris is certainly no exception. From impressively large markets in the heart of the city -- like La Défense and La Magie de Noël Tuileries Garden -- to smaller, quaint markets tucked away in quieter nooks, like Saint Germain des Prés, Christmas markets are ubiquitous in Paris.
While visiting the Champs-de-Mars Christmas Village, in addition to its 100+ chalets full of gifts and Christmas sundries, you’ll find another typical Paris holiday attraction: ice skating rinks. They are plentiful, and many offer spectacular views of the twinkling city along with hot mulled cider nearby. At Galleries Lafayette, one of Paris’ most famous department stores, they have an outdoor rooftop skating rink with a breathtaking backdrop of the Paris Opera and Eiffel Tower. Thank you, Santa!
Much like New York City, Paris’ department stores take this opportunity to get in on the seasonal spirit with lights, oversized trees and impressive window displays. Galeries Lafayette will blow your mind, as will Printemps Paris Haussmann, Le BHV Marais and Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, just to name a few.
Of course, taking a break from all the Parisian holiday whirlwind is a must...and the perfect way to do that is with afternoon tea! Any number of cafès and fine hotels (like the 5-star Le Meurice, the landmark Four Seasons Hotel George V, the impressive Shangri-La with a vegan afternoon tea offering, and the legendary Ritz Paris) will offer afternoon tea from the affordable to the luxurious. If you’ve got kiddos in tow during your holiday trip, consider going to Plaza Athénée, a Paris hotel. If you book the Festive Afternoon Tea at the La Cour Jardin restaurant at Plaza Athénée, kids ages 5-12 can skate under the supervision of instructors on their holiday-themed ice rink while you enjoy tea and holiday cakes created by the restaurant’s chef… along with some peace and quiet.
Ready for a little French holiday cuisine? We thought so. (Psssst...don’t forget to stock up on great French wines. While we can almost live on tea alone, it would be a shame to miss out on some of the world’s finest fermented grapes!)
Lovely with a cuppa Paris tea or as a welcome hostess gift, these little nuts become a sweet and flavorful snack. Try to source larger, better quality chestnuts, and know in advance they take a few days to prepare.
Download the Marrons Glacés (Candied Chestnuts) Recipe
Don’t you feel so Julia Child right now? Roasted duck is the centerpiece of a traditional French Christmas feast. Let’s get quacking!
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove the duck from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you put it in the oven and let it come to room temperature. Wash the duck with cold water, pat it dry with paper towels and then tuck the wings under the body to keep them from burning. Prick the duck skin all over with a skewer or toothpick. Trim any excess fat from the opening of the body cavity. Season the duck liberally inside and outside with salt and pepper.
Set the duck on a rack in a roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the lowest rack of the oven and roast for about 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350°F and continue to roast, basting with the pan juices every 15 to 20 minutes, until the duck is cooked through and the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh measures between 165°F and 175°F (use a meat thermometer). Depending on your oven and the size of your bird, this should take anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
While your duck is roasting, prepare the sauce. Zest the oranges, taking care not to get any of the bitter white pith. You'll need about 1 tablespoon. Next squeeze the juice from the oranges. You should get around 1/2 cup. Set the zest and juice aside.
Add the sugar and vinegar to a medium-sized saucepan. Set the saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture begins to boil. Let the sugar cook until most of the moisture evaporates and the sugar syrup begins to turn golden brown. Immediately remove the saucepan from heat and carefully stir in the reserved orange juice to stop the cooking. Take care, as the caramelized sugar is very hot and may splatter.
Return the saucepan to heat and add the chicken stock. Whisk the sauce until the caramelized sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the reserved orange zest. At this point the sauce base can be set aside until the duck is finished roasting.
When the duck is finished, remove it from the oven, tent it loosely with foil and set it aside to rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove as much of the fat as you can from the roasting pan and add the wine or port. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium flame and bring the wine and pan juices to a boil, scraping up any bits of drippings off the pan. Strain the pan juices through a sieve and into the saucepan with the sauce base.
Bring the sauce back to a simmer over low heat. Stir the cornstarch and Grand Marnier together in a small bowl to make a slurry until it is a smooth consistency. If you aren't using Grand Marnier, use white wine, chicken stock or water. Whisk the slurry into the simmering sauce to thicken it. Remove the sauce from heat and slowly whisk in the butter to enrich the sauce.
Carve the duck and place it on a serving platter. Serve the sauce in a sauceboat alongside the carved roast duck.
Download the Canard à l'Orange Recipe
The yule log cake was created hundreds of years ago or more and eventually came to symbolize the logs burned on Christmas Eve, thus “yule.” Leave it to French pastry chefs to take the originally simple cake up a notch. It’s now a French Christmas staple.
For the Sponge Cake:
For the Chocolate Buttercream:
To Make the Cake:
To Make the Chocolate Buttercream:
Assemble the Yule Log
Download the French Chocolate Bûche de Noël Recipe
We’ve subbed in some Chocolate Tea for plain water to this classic rich French recipe for some extra tealightfulness!
December 14, 2021
I have yet to go but Paris is #1 on my list of dream destinations. The culture, architecture and food call my name! What a great article.
December 08, 2021
I’ve been to Paris once and would love to go back with the grandchildren when they’re a bit older. Harney & Sons’ Paris is my very favorite tea and I can imagine myself savoring a cup of it after a long day of sightseeing. I"d especially love to see what’s happening at Notre Dame since the fire. Such a tragedy to one of the most famous landmarks in the world.So happy it’s being reborn.
December 08, 2021
Paris is one of my favorite cities. Thank you for this interesting and informative post. I always enjoy reading most anything about the city.
December 08, 2021
Like its namesake city, Paris tea is beautiful on a sunny, rainy, gusty, or snowy day!
December 08, 2021
Of all the places I’ve been in the world, Paris is a city that I could keep returning to over and over. There’s always something new as well as the historical venues to see. The food is just fabulous. Whether sitting in a park watching people go by or visiting in the Louvre, it’s a delightful place to be.
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December 17, 2021
I’ve read your blog and it’s so interesting about the French traditions ,I have French heritage so I plan to go to France in the future! Until then Paris tea will take me there !