On a recent Culturefish “Must Do” walking tour around the center of Paris, our guide Pierre enthusiastically described a major turning point of Parisian culture. During the Age of Enlightenment, the city was a hotbed of thinkers and politicians who were getting hyped up on a new drug being served around town: coffee!
The famous Café Procope, Paris’ first café, was serving this new, caffeinated beverage to the likes of Voltaire – rumored to have consumed 40 cups of coffee a day – among a star-studded cast of other enlightened historical figures, including Benjamin Franklin, Rousseau, Diderot, and Robespierre.
As our group of attentive Culturefishes sat resting our legs as we listened to Pierre’s story under the Pont Neuf on the Île de la Cité, I imagined both French and American revolutions being plotted, negotiated, and philosophized over countless cups of coffee on the Left Bank of Enlightened Paris.
Being a coffee lover with a revolutionary spirit, I was hanging on Pierre’s every word. Suddenly, I had the urge to hop on a horse – or maybe a Velib – and ride across the bridge to the Right Bank and climb over la Butte de Montmartre to pay a visit to the newly opened Black Market coffee shop.
Tucked away off the beaten tourist path of Montmartre, Black Market is far away from Café Procope, and even further from the days when American diplomats were as iconoclastic as Ben Franklin. But the vibe of this small, barebones coffee shop feels infused with the spirit of the 18th century Enlightenment.
Over the past few years, Paris has welcomed an insurgency against the ubiquitous Parisian café of the late 19th century which, despite its eternal charm and nostalgic appeal, often favors fashion over fare and is notorious for horrible coffee. While the trailblazers of this new wave of 21st century Parisian cafés have garnered much well deserved attention and attract trendy crowds (Ten Belles, Le Bal, Téléscope, Kooka Boora, Coutume Café, and others), Black Market stands quietly apart, like a new kid at school whose understated cool factor is yet to be discovered.
Maybe it’s because at Black Market, serving expertly prepared Coutume coffee and drool-inducing Rachel’s cakes was an afterthought to the initial plan. Youssef, a first-time barista and part-owner of Black Market, explained to me that his primary goal was to create a communal space where his friends could come together to reflect and exchange ideas — and local produce. While the CSA plan has yet to come to fruition, opening a coffee shop was a natural, and enjoyable, means to an end.
The earthy, Zen-like decor of the café, with its wooden tables and chairs and bounty of cheerful green plants, successfully embodies the essence of Black Market’s underlying philosophy, creating an inviting space conducive to conversation and reflection.
Over the low sounds of a thoughtful musical selection (spun from both a record player and an iPad) and the purring and sighing from the sexy Kees Van Der Westen espresso machine, locals chat and exchange ideas over the communal table, writers and bloggers sit to the side while they pour their thoughts into notepads and laptops (WiFi is free), and coffee enthusiasts rejoice as they sip filtered coffee and artfully adorned cappuccinos in this peaceful oasis.
Youssef and Baptiste were the most humble and gracious hosts during my all-too brief visits to Black Market, and I can’t wait to return to Paris for more of their coffee and conversation. There is no other place in today’s City of Light I would rather sit and think, chat, and savor a cappuccino — and perhaps plan a revolution.
27, rue Ramey, 75018
Métro: Château Rouge
Open: Tuesday – Friday: 8am-7pm, Saturday – Sunday: 10am-7pm
Note from HiP Paris: Sadly the Black Market had now closed although we hear word that they are to open in a new location new. Keep posted. 10/7/13
Fodor’s lists their favorite places for a great cup of coffee in the city of light
Another great place for a delicious cup of coffee is the newly opened Ten Belles by the Canal St Martin