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The best coffee in Paris

Time Out sips its way across town in pursuit of the finest roasts, blends and brews

Coffee
© Max Braun
By John Brunton |
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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

Restaurants, Diners

Holybelly

icon-location-pin Canal Saint-Martin

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... 

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Restaurants, Cafés

The Broken Arm

icon-location-pin Le Marais

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... 

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Cream belleville café
© Time Out Paris / AW
Restaurants, Tea rooms

Cream

icon-location-pin Belleville

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... 

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Restaurants, Diners

Le Coutume Café

icon-location-pin Ecole Militaire

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... 

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Restaurants, Coffeeshops

KBCaféshop

icon-location-pin Pigalle

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... 

Restaurants, American

Soul Kitchen

icon-location-pin Montmartre

A little canteen snuggled up against the Montmartre steps, Soul Kitchen is a delightful café-restaurant overseen by three charming, inspired lady chefs – just the sort of place you’d want as your local. You’d come and drink a creamy coffee and read the news of a morning in the company of the local retirees, and come at midday to eat lunch in great company, choosing from excellent ever-changing menu of homemade recipes made with organic local produce... 

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Comme à Lisbonne
DR / © Comme à Lisbonne
Restaurants, Pâtisseries

Comme à Lisbonnne

icon-location-pin Chaussée-d'Antin

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... 

Restaurants, Coffeeshops

Café Lomi

icon-location-pin Mairie du 18e

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... 

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Restaurants, Coffeeshops

Télescope Café

icon-location-pin 1er arrondissement

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... 

ten belles
DR
Restaurants, Coffeeshops

Ten Belles

icon-location-pin Canal Saint-Martin

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’... 

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