Tea with Marie Antoinette at Nina's Paris
Now, you know P'Niche is royally obsessed with Marie-Antoinette and all things Versailles. So much so that I am dressing up and heading to the Grand Masked Ball of Versailles with several friends and family this June (can't wait!). In the meantime, there was a super charming salon to have a quick fix and an unabashedly feminine afternoon tea... the queen's tea in fact! Let's take a P'Niche peak at Nina's in Paris...
You may remember Nina's Tea from the P'Niche Panache little luxuries page on our main site. It's well worth the indulgence.
As you enter Nina's Vendôme, you will quickly notice the lush décor, with tables waiting to welcome you to sit down and relax.
Almost immediately, the hostess will pop out from behind a rose petal pink curtain to offer you warm greetings and a seat.
The moment I was seated, the charming hostess gave me a menu and swiftly retreated back behind the curtain.
This withdrawal was to give visiting clients the feeling of quiet and privacy, enough to indulge in whispers, delights, and intrigues - just like in the royal court...
Even while browsing the menu (and the many various types of tea offered), you notice the light scent of lavender oil in the air.
This makes sense as the tea salon was crafted after "La Distillerie Frères," which had been creating fragrances since 1672.
Yes, that's over a hundred years before the signing of the American Declaration of Independence!
Luckily, I knew right away that I wanted to pamper myself with the "Original Marie-Antoinette Tea & Cake."
You can see a brief explanation here in the photo of the menu page, while taking note that the price has jumped just a touch to 25 euros (at time of publication.)
Hashtag Worth It!
Just after taking my order, la Madame du Salon quickly disappeared again and left me to my own devices.
Of course, I had the current Parisian Niche Page Turners book with me to read and pass the time, but I wanted to discover the many "hidden in plain sight" precious artifacts of the space.
And the space did not disappoint!
This bust is quite original and the original. Crafted by master sculptor Felix Lecomte, in 1783, this alabaster marble bust of Queen Marie Antoinette, in all her glory, regally safeguards the treasures and secrets of Nina's tea and her patrons.
Nina's is the last location to hold this formidable sculpture, and we imagine that she is not going anywhere anytime soon.
And not to be overlooked in a nearby niche...
Marie-Antoinette's Lost Shoe...
This treasure has quite the interesting tale, with just a touch of intrigue.
This shoe was made from the original shoe, which was lost by Marie-Antoinette in 1793 (as she made her way to the guillotine).
This identical replica, created by a master craftsman, used traditional tools, skills and techniques, achieving exact specifications of the queen's original slipper.
We know of its legitimacy as the item is certified by France's Museum of Caen.
Nina's also possesses this original letter, written by the hand of Marie-Antoinette herself.
It is dated from July 13, 1777 (le 13 juillet, 1777) and can been seen on display in a set back nook on the main floor of Nina's.
The letter, written to her cousin, Cardinal Honorati, details his elevation as a newly named cardinal.
One last treasure on the ground floor - this authentic portrait by the Queen's own favorite portraitist, Madame Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun.
She may hold an unassuming place in the tea salon, but her worth is nearly beyond measure.
This tea salon is truly a mini museum in its own right. What a pleasure to explore, while awaiting your tea service!
At this point, my tea and cake did arrive, the tea piping hot and in its own little tea pot - complete with Marie-Antoinette initial charm.
The cake arrived in a perfectly formed, rose petal pink slice, and also had little pink candies and a larger golden candy on the plate to enjoy.
So what makes this tea so special? So glad you asked, indulgent P'Nicher!
Nina's has been a thriving brand since 1672. As mentioned above, it was founded by Pierre Diaz as La Distillerie Frères, but was in fact a scent creation brand, and was the first perfumery to distill lavender and rose essences.
These essences were used to florally scent gloves of the courtiers, and soon enough Diaz became known as le magicien des arômes (the magician of aromas) and was the official parfumier to the Royal Court of Louis XIV at Versailles.
A great gig, if you can get it!
Fast forward a bit in time, and we've now arrived at the court of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette.
The queen was incredibly enamored of all the royal fragrances, but most fond of the rose essence. In fact, she oversaw the purchase of the precious scent herself to ensure it reached her high standards (and her royal courtiers, as highly coveted gifts).
Pas mal! Not bad at all!
Eventually, the Diaz family moved into tea making, harvesting fresh apples and rose petals directly from the Potager du roi (the King's garden).
Their creation of this (black Ceylon tea) blend utilized techniques of the time, which were able to produce a very deep flavor.
Even while steeping the tea, you are surrounded by the scents of the finest and most natural ingredients, truly enjoying the preferred tea blend of Queen Marie-Antoinette.
The cake that accompanies the tea is nothing short of enchanting. The concoction, known as the "Ninasette," is thusly named after the founder's great granddaughter, Nina.
The cake is composed of caramelized apples, spices, and the soft sponge is covered with a smooth rose apple jelly fondant.
This ain't your grandma's fruitcake - it's the Queen's!
Luckily, the tea salon makes the entire experience quite easy to navigate.
This is especially true as you wander around the boutique and look at some items you may wish to take home to give as wonderful gifts / souvenirs to others (or yourself, let's be honest!)
Offerings for sale include: charming little soaps, tiny handbags, candles, rich and indulgent chocolates, seriously delicious jams and jellies, and various tea flavors (available in both loose leaf and tea sachets).
You can purchase whimsical tea cups, saucers and a variety of tea tools (like tea steeper balls, etc.)
And hang on to those iconic pink tea tins - they have become a collector's item of sorts!
Lucky enough to be able to visit Nina's right now? Wonderful! Find Nina's at:
29, rue Danielle Casanova, 75001
Métro: Concorde, Pyramides, Madeleine
Can't get to Paris right now? Pas de problème! You can order a wide variety of products directly from Nina's website.
What do you think, P'Nicher? Are you ready to snuggle in at a petite rococo table and indulge in a delightful cup of tea, cake (and possible royal intrigue?) Let us know in the comments below et à bientôt!