Champagne, France | Hôtel du Marc: The Private Estate of Veuve Clicquot

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A bit belated....

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...but better late than never, no? 

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The Veuve Clicquot cellars are located in Reims (a 45-minute TGV ride from Paris). It's open to the public (and worth a visit if you're in the area...make sure to stop by Le Jardin at Les Crayères afterwards for lunch). 

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A 15-minute drive away from the champagne cellars is Hôtel du Marc, the label's private estate.

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Visits are by invitation only (though open to the public for one weekend each year) and I was lucky enough to take a peek inside the other month...

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...come see!

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Guests are greeted in the library room, which houses books from travels and tokens from past and current collaborations.

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The name might say Hôtel, but it's very much a private home (Madame Clicquot herself once lived here).

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There are five guest rooms - one for each season of the year, and the fifth to represent harvest. 

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How about this bathroom? Can you imagine bubble baths and company? Oh, the conversations!

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The variation in color of the carpeting and walls leading up to the second floor emulate the three main grapes of Champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier, in addition to the chalky soils of the region. 

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There are many mysterious halls and rooms to wander (include one that's filled with curiosities)...

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...and in the end, it's all about the champagne. Ahhhh ^_^

Silver Needle Tea Co.

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Lucy and I met last year on a summer morning. We sat outside with juices at the original Liquiteria on 2nd Avenue. 

I'm starting a tea brand, she said. One that matches high quality, single estate tea with good design and packaging. And I've been lucky enough to follow along on her journey for the past year. She spent autumn in Asia (China, Taiwan, and Japan) at the tea farms, shipping back the best of the bunch. We tasted them upon her return, steeping our favorites over and over again.

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At the same time, Lucy worked though numerous design concepts. Tins or cylinders? Colors to consider? Size, weight? Design, text, fonts? So many things to decide upon!

In the end, the answer was simple and elegant: cylinders in four colors representing the main types of tea she offers. Black for black, green for green, yellow for oolong, and the softest grey for white teas.

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So let's sit for a cup (that's Lucy in the photo :). We've been alternating between traditional tea cups and wine glasses...which can call more awareness to the notes/flavors of certain teas. 

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We drank Silver Needle (for which the company is named) in the morning, and now it's time for High Mountain Oolong. It pairs perfectly with savory hunks of parmesan.

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We're also cold-brewing Sencha on the side...

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...and by the end of the day I'm sure we'll have tasted through all the teas. 

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For those who don't/can't go the loose leaf brewing route, Lucy has a Jetsetter Tea Set with silk pyramid sachets. It's the same tea used for the loose leaf line, so same quality with more convenience. I took a tin for a "test run" when flying to Paris...how nice is it to drink a good oolong mid-flight?

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Signed and sealed ^_^

Pique-Nique by Ladurée

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Ladurée just started doing "Pique-Nique" sets...aka afternoon tea to-go.

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How fun is this concept?

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Jee, Pam, and I took our picnic indoors at Pam's place on Saturday.

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Let's see a breakdown of the set. So there's one big box that holds...

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...two little boxes.

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One for a trio of macarons.

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You can select macaron flavors when placing the order. I went with strawberry-poppy, lily of the valley, and the current guimauve macaron which was chocolate-coconut. 

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The other box holds a collection of...

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...tea sandwiches and a mini version of Le Club Ladurée.

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Each comes individually wrapped in wax paper and sealed with a sticker label. You get four tea sandwiches - a mix of Smoked Salmon, Comté, and Ham. 

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Here's Le Club Ladurée! It had chicken, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, mayo, and bacon. 

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The only downside is that they don't provide tea itself...so we went ahead and made matcha ^_^

Chawan Collaboration with Christina Liu Ceramics

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I met Christina on the island of Lana'i in December 2012.

She was living in Honolulu to create ceramics for Vintage Cave and went to Lana'i on a family trip. Pierre and I were in town for the holidays. We were introduced by Reid (of Ono Kine Grindz), and met in the lobby of Four Seasons, The Lodge at Koele. We had a quick chat and then...

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...fast forward to late summer 2013. Christina moves to NYC for a studio art program at NYU. We met for the second time over brunch at Maialino, and then based off our instagrams (what a funny world) realized that we liked to eat the same things (mainly gelato/ice cream/sorbet). That's how we became friends...

...and that's how this chawan collaboration came into place.

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If you drink matcha daily, odds are you do it from the same chawan/tea bowl.

Eventually you become attached to matcha made specifically in that bowl. You get used to the size, the feel, the angle at which to move your wrist, and especially, the diameter of the chawan. And then when you go whisk matcha in another bowl, things feel slightly off. It's part of the rhythm, the routine.

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For me, it was this dark grey/black chawan Christina gifted me as a test piece from her studio. You've seen it in many of my matcha posts (here, here, and here). 

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So when Christina announced she was moving to London, I said wait! You can't go without creating a few extra chawan! And that's how we came up with a little collection in five glazes.

Each one of these wheel-thrown porcelain chawan is custom-made in a West Village studio. Thanks to Christina's talents, they are beautiful and functional. I kept a few extras for myself to display at home. Though of course, I make matcha in that chawan, that one test piece, the very first bowl. All you need is one ^_^

P.S. Check out more of Christina's work here...hope to visit her in London soon!