The best coffee in Paris

The Paris coffee scene is coming alive: Time Out sips its way across town in pursuit of the finest roasts, blends and brews

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John Brunton


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 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 Lyons, Lille and Nice.

The best coffee shops in Paris

La Caféothèque

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 every day of the month. The café is next door to a vast artist’s residence, La Cité Internationale des Arts... Read more

  1. 52 rue de l’Hotel de Ville, 4e
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Café Aouba

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, nothing compares to stopping off at Café Aouba, tucked away behind teeming fruit and vegetable stalls right on rue d’Aligre itself. Opened originally in 1938 by a Portuguese butcher... Read more

  1. 30 rue d’Aligre, 12e
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James Kezman

Fondation Café

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 seating sixteen, which is bathed in light for most of the day. Decorated with warm and stylish Swedish furnishings... Read more

  1. 16 rue Dupetit-Thouars, 3e
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Black Market Café

Opened in summer 2012 just behind the Sacré-Coeur, two new coffee converts, Youssef Loudnjli and Baptiste Gély, have transformed a dowdy insurance office into a hip café. They have no background as baristas but caught the coffee bug and immersed themselves for a month, trying to learn everything from the 10 crucial steps to a perfect espresso to tasting dozens of different roasts at Coutume, where they buy their beans. They then opened Black Market: with just half-a-dozen wooden tables, the front window filled with plants, and an ancient wooden counter, this laid-back locale is already attracting a colourful bohemian local crowd... Read more

  1. 27 rue Ramey, 18e
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Da Zavola

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. Fortunately there’s Da Zavola, a contemporary café of the sort the Italians term a gastronomia, where you can taste gourmet specialities and wines from across Italy... Read more

  1. 24 rue des Bernadins, 5e
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Coutume Instituutti

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)... Read more

  1. 60 Rue des Écoles, 5e
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Le Coutume Café

Coutume opened in 2011 in the heart of chic Left Bank Paris, just a few minutes walk from Le Bon Marché department store. Owned by two of the gurus of the Paris coffee revolution, Antoine Netien and his Australian partner Tom Clarke, Coutume is part café, part torrefaction, supplying roasted beans to over 60 bars, restaurants and hotels across the city. You walk into a big open space with industrial décor, packed with tables and a long coffee bar that has the feel of an American diner. On one side there is a ‘dining table’ made from a stainless steel sink unit, with tropical plants growing in the sinks themselves... Read more

  1. 47 rue de Babylone, 7e
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KBCaféshop

KB stands for Kooka Boora, and as you’re quite likely to be served by an Aussie barista or a waitress from New Zealand, most people think that this is another Australian coffee bar implanted in Paris. But the owner is actually Frenchman Nicolas Piégay, who first got the taste for coffee when travelling around the States and then discovered specialty coffee bars in Australia, which is why you’ll see Antipodean favourites like a creamy flat white, long black and mochaccino on the menu, plus a whole host of iced coffees that are served all the year round, whatever the weather. KB doesn’t roast its own beans... Read more

  1. 62 rue des Martyrs, 18e
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Comme à Lisbonnne

  • Price band: 1/4

Opened in 2011 by the cheerful Portuguese barista Victor Silveira, this hole-in-the-wall bar in a chic corner of the Marais may be impossibly small, but it has become a runaway success with its irresistible freshly-baked pasteis de nata accompanied by traditional Portuguese coffee. The pasteis, succulent custard tarts, are baked according to Victor’s mother’s secret recipe, while the coffee is prepared just as if you were in Lisbon, with Victor proudly telling everyone that the Portuguese are as coffee-mad as the Italians... Read more

  1. 37 rue du Roi de Sicile, 4e
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Café Lomi

Hidden away in an unfashionable part of the 18th arrondissement, Lomi opened in October 2012. From the outside, this looks like a bland modern building, but Lomi’s architect has transformed a basic concrete space into a cool café that resembles an abandoned warehouse with rusty metal girders, peeling paint on the walls, simple wooden tables and old leather couches. The café has already attracted a strong local following, with a colourful mix of mums and babies, building workers and students hunched over laptops, local businessmen and coffee fanatics making a pilgrimage... Read more

  1. 3 ter rue Marcadet, 18e
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Télescope Café

David Flynn is something of a coffee purist, and his newly opened Télescope Café has a stripped-down look to it; whitewashed walls with no decoration, a big pale blue wooden counter with a plate of cakes, Marzocco espresso machine and a strange water-heating device which he says is called an ‘über-boiler’. When he serves a glass of water with your coffee it comes from a sleek siphon rather than from the tap, and don’t ask for free Wi-Fi: as David says, ‘it is not our concept’. It doesn’t seem to bother his regulars, who are a cross-section of office workers, Anglophone expats and Japanese... Read more

  1. 5 rue Villedo, 1e
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Ten Belles

Thomas Lehoux is one of the stars of the Paris barista scene, and after working in many of the best-known coffee bars here, he finally opened his own café in September 2012. Ten Belles is perfectly located just off the funky Canal Saint-Martin. The discrete pinewood storefront is decorated with plants and herbs, a few rickety stools sit on the pavement for determined smokers, and a blackboard provocatively announces – in English – that ‘drinking good coffee is sexy’. The café is invariably packed, often with a long line queuing outside. There are only half-a-dozen tiny tables... Read more

  1. 10 rue de la Grange aux Belles, 4e
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Strada Café

  • Price band: 2/4

Just a few steps away from Beaubourg, there’s a place you can park your books and your laptop and settle in for an afternoon. This petite café boasts free Wi-Fi, a mix of comfortable chairs and desk-like arrangements and a variety of different coffees and teas. The coffee menu caters to both anglophones and French, proven by the fact that they differentiate between a café crème, a café au lait and a cappuccino. They’ve also got an alcohol license so you can grab a beer if the work gets too much. If you come at lunchtime you can take your pick... Read more

  1. 94 rue du Temple, 3e
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Users say

7 comments
BILLY T
BILLY T

Blackburn Coffee is the new spot in the 10 district, between Canal Saint-Martin and Rue Fbg Saint-Denis. They got their own blend from Lomi and the deco is amazing. 52 Rue fbg Saint-Martin.

Victoria
Victoria

Fragments is the new Black Market. It's uncontestedly one of the best coffee spots in Paris. Time Out's comprehensive listing of best coffee in Paris says that Black Market is closed, but in fact the owner simply moved the shop to the Marais and rebranded as Fragments. It's at 76 rue de Tournelles.

Patricia
Patricia

I live in Oporto (Portugal) and I must say that the picture on the top of the page is not from Paris, but Portugal. That small strong coffee shot from the portuguese brand coffee Delta is unmistakable, and the cake is a "Bolinho de Nata", typical cake from Lisboa, also very popular here in Oporto...

Gianni Le Parisien
Gianni Le Parisien

It's sooo funny reading all this jazzmatazz about Aussies or Brits making cappuccinos and espressoes in Paris. Then the criticism about robusta. All I know the very reason we are talking about it and asking for macchiatoes or cappuccios or expressoes in the first place IS because Italians make it better ;) There may be robusta in the mix, it might be the way that bean has been roasted the mix balanced or the pressure of the machines or whatever other reason, but whenever I try coffee anywhere BUT in Italy, could be London or Paris or Auckland (yes I did try it in all of these places extensevily as I lived there or go often) most of the times I find it an overwhelmingly bitter shite that is next to undrinkable so reading that of Italian coffe sounds reaaaalllyyy soooo laughable! I am reassured another reader LEE in a comment left Sat Dec 15 2012 already makes a similar point!

Jesse
Jesse

www.goodcoffeeinparis.blogspot.com has everything you're looking for!

Lee
Lee

I'm a coffee aficionado from the Pacific Northwest and just spent a month in Italy imbibing the most divine macchiatos in the world. We arrived in Paris last week and I am VERY grateful for this article. I'll be making tracks to these recommendations tomorrow morning!

Les Tasters
Les Tasters

Il ne faut pas oublier CRAFTet TUCK SHOP rue des vinaigriers. Le Ier permet de travailler grace à son"desk" muni de prises electriques et ethernet (café Lomi, restauration legère ) et le 2d une atmosphere arty (Café Coutume, petite restauration fait maison par 3 australiennes!) Certaines adresses de l'article proposent des dégustation et des cours.