How to Order Coffee in Paris

by Alessia Armenise

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.

Left: a photo taken from above of a woman holding a latte in a mug. Right: a photo of a woman holding an espresso coffee
Top and above: @lepelotoncafe

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.

Left: a photo of a girl drinking a coffee on a terrace in Paris. Right: a photo of an empty Paris terrace.
Left: @katiedonnelly_ / Right: @javiernapi

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.

LEft: a photo of a woman drinking an iced coffee with a chocolate cookie next to her coffee. Right: a photo of Cafe Le Nemours in Paris
Left: @5pailles / Right: @lenemoursparis

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.

Left: an upclose photo of a latte in a blue mug. Right: a photo of a cafe front in paris that is decorated with flowers on its walls.
Left: Taisiia Shestopal / Right: @35mmialy

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.

Left: a photo taken from above of a table at Café de Flore in Paris, with two coffees and a book.
Left: @thenamestesa / Right: @parissecret

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!

Left: a photo of a black coffee on a white plate and mug. Right: a photo of the inside of a cafe in Paris, looking outside onto the street.
Left: @snapbythree / Right: @strollinginparis

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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.

Written By

Alessia Armenise

Alessia is a writer and creative based in Paris. After a few years working in London, she moved back to Paris and now writes freelance for media and brands, specialising in eco-luxury, slow travel and sustainability. Her work has been featured in Stylist, Milk Magazine and Grazia France among others. She also runs a sustainability and slow living focused website called Pretty Slow and hosts a podcast called Pretty Good Business. View Alessia Armenise's Website

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2 comments on “How to Order Coffee in Paris

If I can ever get to Paris, I would NEVER leave! <3

I’m in love with Paris forever.

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