Un café s’il vous plaît...
You've landed in Paris after a red-eye flight, and are in desperate need of some caffeine. Welcome to the city where gorgeous café culture is front and center. We're not talking strolling down the street with a take away coffee in hand (although Starbucks is catching on), we're talking about a proper coffee moment, where you take the time to savor your coffee and a few minutes to contemplate your day.
Coffee was first introduced to Paris in 1669 by Suleyman Aga, the ambassador to the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV.
Fast forward 2 years, when in 1671, an Armenian, known as Pascal, opened a coffee-drinking booth at the market of St.-Germain. Let's take this to be the first proper café in Paris!
In 1686, le Café de Procope opened it's doors and very quickly became a central meeting space for thinkers, writers, actors, musicians, etc.
In fact, philosopher / writer Voltaire was well known to take in 40-50 cups of the brew a day at Le Procope. He mixed it with chocolate, but, what a caffeine rush!
As France moved deeper into the reign of King Louis XV (1715-1774), we can note substantial growth of the cafés - now around 600 cafés operating, with over 800 by the end of the 18th century.
While the first modern percolation system was introduced in the early 1800s, it was in 1855, at the Paris Exhibition, when Edouard Loysel de Santais' hydrostatic percolator took center stage. This easy to manufacture machine changed coffee making as it was known, and can be seen as a springboard for the development of the Italian espresso machine - moving us forward to the coffee world we exist in today.
Today, we spend on average, $1,100 per year on coffee, about $92 a month. Wow!
Coffee is big business and the Parisians know how to capitalize on the unique cultural phenomenon and tradition - café culture.
Let's take a look at the various coffee orders you can make at a café and how to best place that order.
Now of course, a chic P'Nicher knows that upon approaching a café, they must offer a charming "bonjour" as a proper and polite greeting.
Before just sitting down at an open table, you should ask "je peux m'installer?" (zhuh puh mahn-stall-ay?")
You can take a little note that it is often times cheaper (by about a Euro) to take your coffee standing at the bar inside (known as "le zinc").
Whether you choose to take your coffee standing at le zinc or seated, inside or outside, you'll have several options of your morning potion to select from. You'll order your drink (and a croissant or pain au chcolat) with a s’il vous plaît and merci.
Un expresso is the classic go-to order. If you ask for "un café s’il vous plaît", you will most likely be offered and espresso.
If you order an espresso - it is actually pronounced in France as expresso, where the X is sounded. While prices will vary, the typical range for this icon is about €1, all the way up to €4.
Un Café Crème is rather like the artist formerly known as café au lait. It's also a bit like your traditional latté or a cappuccino, which you can also order, but served in a smaller cup.
Typically, this milky brew is only served at breakfast, and while we've gotten some quizzical looks ordering it in the afternoon, it was worth it - too delish!
Une Noisette is a bit of a "faux ami."
You'd be right to expect a hazelnut drink as "noisette" literally translates to hazelnut, but with this drink order, you will receive an espresso with a splash for steamed milk in it.
Sounds good to us!
Un Café American or Americano will be the closest order to the regular filter coffee you'd find back home. That said, it's true that not every café will have this on their menu, so you might want to look for...
Un Allongé, which is the more relaxed sister to an espresso. An allongé order will typically have double the amount of water as an espresso, with the same amount of coffee bean.
Un Déca order will get you a decaffeinated espresso. That said, if you prefer to order another drink but also want it served decaffeinated, just add the word déca to the end of your order: un café allongé déca, un café noisette déca, etc.
Not a coffee drinker? Pas de problème. Here are some typical tea and cocoa orders...
"Un thé nature" (uhn tay nah-toor) - a plain tea, no milk
"Un thé au citron" (uhn tay oh see-trohn) - same as above, but with a slice of lemon
"Un thé au lait" (uhn tay oh lay) - plain tea, milk on the side.
You can also order a chocolat chaud or hot chocolate. We will do a "cocoa crawl" soon, so we hope you will subscribe to Parisian Niche and join us...
Now, just when you think you have come to the end of your menu of coffee options, there's more!
You can also order un café gourmand.
This is an espresso served with a selection of sweet treats. You can have everything from fresh fruits and berries, to mini pastries, cookies, crème brûlée, and even a mousse au chocolat.
We'll explore more about this gourmet delight soon, so hope to serve you again in the Parisian Niche...
Now that you are enjoying your coffee and ready to pay your check, do you tip? We have explored tipping in Paris heavily in another post, but in the meantime, while not obligatory, a rounded up or extra Euro would be truly appreciated by your charming Parisian server...
When I am lucky enough to grab a cuppa in Paris, I head to:
Cafe Kitsuné (several locations)
51 Gal de Montpensier, 75001
Métro: Pyramides (Lines 7, 14)
9, rue Joseph de Maistre, 75018
Métro: Abbesses (Line 12)
30, rue Dussoubs, 75002
Métro: Réaumur - Sébastopol (Lines 3, 4)
Café Le Nemours
2, place Colette, 75001
Métro: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre (1, 7)
106, rue de Turenne, 75003
Métro: Filles du Calvaire (Line 8)
KB Café Shop
53, ave. Trudaine, 75009
Métro: Pigalle (Lines 2, 12)
Back in Black
25, rue Amelot, 75011
Métro: Bréguet - Sabin (Line 5)
What do you think, P'Nichers? Was your favorite on the list or do you still dream to visit one of these charming cafés in person? We'd love to hear in the comments below, et à bientôt!