Salon de Thé

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

salon de thé is a French food-service establishment that focuses on serving tea and coffee accompanied primarily by pastries and other sweet foods. Many exist as part of a pastry shop, though it is now not uncommon for cafés and restaurants to offer this same sort of service and describe themselves as a “restaurant, café, bar, salon de thé.” The salon de thé retains a heavily gendered and class association as a respectable gathering spot where bourgeois women would congregate in the afternoon, and its design reflects a certain propriety. As opposed to the French café, which is often on a street corner or a square, open to the street, and with tables oriented so that the clientele and passersby can stare each other in the face, the typical salon de thé would be located on the second floor, removed from the potentially prurient gaze of the pedestrian, yet often hung with mirrors so that the women patrons could gaze at and assess one another.