Text Erica Berman & Alison Goudreault
Over 16 years ago comfortably ensconced in a Left Bank cafe I attempted to order my first Parisian cup of coffee. As the waiter brusquely arrived and impatiently blurted out ‘je vous ecoute’, I realized there was a lot I did not know about ordering coffee (café) in Paris. Despite my 7 week French immersion course at Middlebury College, I had not the slightest clue as to what he was saying. With a disgruntled sigh he was off in a huff, and I was clueless with no coffee. – Erica
HOW TO ORDER A COFFEE IN PARIS
Although a grande mocha latte with a shot of caramel sounds pretty exotic, when in Paris there are a few things to note when you order your coffee.
If you want your coffee black, it’s a “cafe noir” but keep in mind it is the richer espresso version. If you want the milder version it’s a cafe Americano. With cream, it’s a “cafe au lait”. A Cappucino is a “cafe creme” although don’t expect as much foam on the cap as you may be used to. Yes Decaf is also possible but forget about asking for a half /caf soy or… (gasp)… skim.
If you order your coffee standing up at the bar it will be cheaper than if you are getting table service.
A tip of 20 cents max would be appreciated but not required.
Parisians NEVER have coffee with their desert, it will be served only after you have had your last spoonful of creme brulée.
This list should help you make that first order, and get what you want, without offending your waiter’s delicate sense of French politesse.
Je vous ecoute – I’m listening
Café noir/ Cafe express / un petit noir – small bitter black coffee
Café serré – extra strong
Café allongé – diluted with hot water
Café double/ double express / un grand noir – double Café noir
Café Americano – A really diluted Café noir (the French do not look positively on those who order this).
Café Creme – Café noir with steamed milk and foam
Café au Lait – Café noir with a lot of milk and no foam
Une noisette – an express with a tiny amount of milk
Deca / Café decafféiné – Decaffinated coffee
Café en poudre ou soluble – instant coffee
Café moulu – ground coffee
Café glacé – iced coffee (this is not something you generally find in France, nor are they particularly amenable to making it even if they could).