Have you ever ordered a coffee in Paris and found yourself stunned when it finally arrived at the table? You’re not alone. Cappuccino, ristretto, and macchiato have no space in French coffee culture and if you think that using the original Italian name will be enough to get you what you want, think again. French cafés have their own ways of preparing these classic coffee variations. To help you navigate the somewhat-confusing café menu, we’ve prepared an easy guide to ordering coffee in France.
Ask for “un café serré” if you need a strong, small coffee. In fact, if you ask for a simple espresso in France, you’ll have their version of the equivalent Italian espresso, which contains about double the amount of water, making the French coffee quite a bit weaker than the original Italian version.
Ask for “un noisette” if you are after a small coffee with a dash of milk. Many people – me included – make the mistake of asking for a macchiato. The word macchiato is not widely understood in France, and the result is usually a coffee served in a big cup filled with milk.
Ask for “un café crème” if you want to try the French cousin of the cappuccino. While a cappuccino is made with frothed milk, the café crème is made with liquid creme. The visual effect is very similar, but the French version is a lot heavier than the Italian one.
Ask for “un café au lait” if you are missing lattes – but remember it’s not exactly the same! Lattes have been made mainstream by chains like Starbucks, but it’s still quite rare to find a “real” latte in a traditional French café. If you ask for a café au lait what you will get is an espresso served in a glass cup, topped with warm milk.
Ask for “un allongé” if what you want is an Americano. In some cafés they might understand if you simply ask for an Americano, but the exact equivalent in French would be un allongé, so why waste an occasion to impress a French server?
Ask for “un café gourmand” if you need something sweet to go with your espresso. The concept of a café gourmand is extremely French… and it’s such a good idea! The coffee is usually served with no less than three different kinds of mini desserts, often French pàtisserie classics like a madeleine, crême brûlé, and chocolate fondant. It’s the perfect end to a meal and a great afternoon snack.
However you like your coffee, it’s always better to know what to ask for in French!
- Now you know how to order coffee, here are some cafes in Paris to visit!
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Written by Alessia Armenise for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person (when possible)? Check out new marketplace shop and experiences.