Ladurée, a company famous for its artisanal sweets and gourmandises, has been a major player on the French culinary scene since the 1870s, when they became a favorite haunt of the “modern” set after Haussmann reconstructed Paris. By combining the up-and-coming concept of “the cafe” with the ever-popular pastry shop, Ladurée became one of the first tea salons in Paris, after Mariage Frères (whose teas I have previously lauded).
Chances are, Americans, you may have already seen some of Ladurée’s gourmandises without realizing it. They featured prominently in the 2006 Kirsten Dunst Marie Antoinette film, bundled together with fancy shoes, fabrics, and diamonds in a montage set to “I Want Candy.” Today, however, Ladurée is most famous for their macarons made from almond flour, which I recently discovered are gluten-free. Oh happy day!
Not to be confused with fluffy coconut balls, French macarons are shaped like bite-sized sandwiches and come in a variety of flavors and, often, bright colors. Here is a photograph of some macarons from the famous Grande Epicerie de Paris:
While famous for their tasty macarons, Ladurée also has some positively superb dessert teas, which I first discovered while living in Paris. There, you can still sit down and enjoy afternoon tea in grand nineteenth-century style as you munch on macarons or a particularly fancy pastry.
I spent many a happy afternoon sipping tea at Ladurée and admiring the not-so gluten-free pastries longingly. Back in the day, Ladurée used to have only two special blends of tea: Marie Antoinette and Ladurée Blend. While they have since expanded their selection, these two are still my favorites.
Both have a black tea base and are perfumed with an assortment of flowers, candied fruit peels, caramel, cinnamon, and bergamot. Like its namesake, Marie Antoinette tea has a bold, classy one-of-kind flavor. Ladurée Blend tea, on the other hand, is a touch more subdued with sweeter notes, which make it the perfect compliment to macarons. Both teas are an absolute treat, sure to brighten your day.
After running out of the last vestiges of my Marie Antoinette and Ladurée Blend tea from Paris, I was extremely excited to see that there is now a Ladurée shop in New York City. While I was sad to see that its only a small shop and doesn’t have a tea room like in Paris, they still carry Ladurée teas. Treat yourself to a box (or two) the next time you’re in town.