While Paris excels when it comes to café culture, from sitting out on the terrace of the historic Café de Flore to popping in to your favourite local bar for a classic grand crème and a croissant, until now that culture has not extended to the quality of the coffee itself. The French themselves do not even seem to care that their coffee is unanimously condemned as lousy, happily sipping an espresso made with bitter pre-ground beans, not bothering that the barman uses pasteurised long-life milk for the cappuccino. All that is changing fast though, with a new generation of coffee bars and wifi coffee shops opening up all over the city, many run by Australian and American baristas who take their espresso-making skills very seriously, alongside French coffee enthusiasts who are travelling the world to visit plantations, then importing and roasting the fragrant Arabica beans themselves.
These born-again cafés serve potent double espressos made with freshly ground beans from Ethiopia or Rwanda, Salvador or Guatemala. They are introducing the French to the subtleties of strong-tasting V60 filter coffee, flat white or the siphon Aeropress. Many are also gaining a reputation for their healthy food, from natural yoghurts at breakfast to grilled vegetables, crispy salads and organic grilled chicken at lunch, though don't count the calories too much when it comes to the chocolate cakes and cream pastries. New coffee bars seem to be opening up every month, and the craze is also spreading out from Paris, as far as Lyon, Lille and Nice.
The best coffee shops in Paris
The Caféothèque is where the coffee revolution in Paris first kicked off seven years ago, created by the doyenne of ‘coffeology’ Gloria Montenegro, a former Ambassador of Guatemala, today an unofficial ambassador for quality coffee from all over the world. Gloria goes at least twice a year to visit coffee producers in South America and Africa. At the moment, the Caféothèque stocks and roasts coffee from 23 different countries, but aims to go up to 31 so they can offer a different country...Read more
The Marché d’Aligre has become the hottest weekend rendezvous for Parisian BoBos and cosmopolitan foodie travellers doing their shopping, and there are no shortage of trendy hangouts for coffee-lovers, from the bijou espresso machine in Terres de Café to the politically-correct Puerto Cacao, which specialises in ‘equitable’ fair-trade chocolate and coffee. But to really feel the authentic pulse of Aligre, and taste some great coffee...Read more
Thank goodness for grinning, manic-haired Australians coming to Paris. And not just for the banter, but because they’re bringing their coffee with them. Chris Nielson has come to the rue Dupetit-Thouars by way of Sydney’s Mecca Espresso, London’s Prufrock Coffee and Paris’s own Ten Belles. With that kind of CV, the coffee here is, of course, excellent. At a teensy 15m2, Fondation Café is only just bigger than your standard Parisian apartment, but space is made up for with a terrace...Read more
The well-known Strada Café has extended its delicious coffees, pastries and decadent brunches over the Seine to the left bank, opening a second venue of the same name on the Rue Monge in late 2014. Simple yet charming, it’s a great place to sit with a coffee and a laptop, or to come with friends for an extended brunch at the weekend. Most of the staff are English speakers: Australians, Americans and Canadians happily doing a stint in Paris...Read more
Even an authentic Italian espresso bar in Paris struggles for recognition; Parisian coffee roasters seem to be allergic to modern-day Italian bars. They criticise the use of cheap Robusta beans instead of aromatic Arabia as they produce a bitter espresso that invariably has to be ruined by adding sugar, they criticise the use of pasteurised milk rather than fresh – though at least everyone agrees the Italians still make the best espresso machines...Read more
There are people who hit the button on their Nespresso machine for a caffeine hit (or even the office coffee dispenser, yikes), and then there are people like the founders of the Brûlerie de Belleville, whose coffee is the result of experience and training, tasting and smelling, investment in hardware and in relationships with producers, even the art of decorative coffee foam. The three young entrepreneurs who set up the Brûlerie have travelled the world for the expertise...Read more
Some will come to the Finnish Cultural Centre’s Coutume Instituutti – sister branch of Le Coutume Café – with a burning desire to discover what actually constitutes Finnish cuisine. Others, because they need a cool, calm, open space in which to type their emails over a cup of coffee. Visitors of the first kind may come away disappointed: the menu is still very small (the venue had opened only one month prior to our visit), and of the fusion variety. We tasted nicely spiced Finnish meatballs on a bed of couscous and parsnips (not cheap at €12.50)...
Arriving for breakfast at Holybelly, you get a warm welcome from the tattooed, beanie-wearing staff. Early risers are already in place at the pretty wooden and white-painted booths over a star-patterned tiled floor, local workers smiling and chatting over their coffees. The narrow area at the front gives way to a sober and elegant back room, dominated by a big leather sofa and a pinball machine. The management are a young couple fresh from Vancouver...Read more
The Broken Arm concept store, founded by three bright young things from the Des Jeunes Gens Modernes lifestyle collective, is full of handpicked clothes, books, music, furniture and shoes, selected and laid out in the best possible taste. The price tags might give you pause (or make you run for cover in the nearest Guerrisol). But it’s OK to window-shop at least, or even better, to go through the little door that leads to the in-house café...Read more
Found halfway up the hill in Belleville, this pretty, on-trend café was founded by two coffee-roasting experts who cut their teeth at Ten Belles and who source their beans from the Brûlerie de Belleville. Apart from the top-notch coffee, it's worth stopping by for the quality menu, which runs from breakfast time until closing at 6pm. Patisserie, sandwiches and granola start the day (around €3-€4), while lunch might include soup or an Italian piadina wrap with gourmet ingredients...Read more