Erica Berman is a serious coffee drinker. No joke. Long frustrated by Paris’ less-than-stellar coffee scene, she is overjoyed to see that some serious brewsters are finally taking hold of Paris. Be sure to check in next week for our review of Frog Fight, the buzz-worthy (and caffeinated!) competition where Paris’ best baristas battle it out. – Geneviève
I don’t drink coffee in Paris. Why should I? It’s expensive and mostly bad and the waiters are often surly and unfriendly. No self-respecting coffee drinker should have to subject themselves to overpriced Parisian sludge served with a sneer.
I long ago gave up on the idea of great coffee in a sunny café by the Seine, and content myself to home brewed beans, leaving cappuccinos and friendly cafes for Italy.
Happily, changes are taking place in Paris. Just as the artisanal baguette was reborn after a long period of low quality bread on the Parisian bakery scene and interesting types of non Lipton tea are popping up in shops and cafes around the city, all of a sudden good, even great, coffee has arrived and a pro-artisanal coffee movement is on the rise, albeit only in a select few Parisian spots.
A young breed of — often foreign and mainly male — baristas who believe in their product and technique, and are eager to share their passion, are helping to open up the Parisian coffee scene to amateurs and seasoned coffee pros alike. Their excitement is catchy and the new Frog Fight barista competition is quite the hit.
The café gourmand at Caféothèque – Kattebelletje
I am certainly no coffee expert and do not claim to know or understand all of the innovative new techniques that are currently on the market (from fancy espresso machines to the cold-drip and the elusive coffee siphon pot), but I do know what I like, and that is quality coffee and thickly foamed cappuccinos made with fresh milk.
After some very pleasant sampling, I am happy to present my 5 top Parisian coffee spots. All use fresh milk and either torrefy sur place or buy their beans freshly and locally roasted.
1. Kooka Boora – One can not be in a hurry or on a budget in this uber trendy 6 month old café in the 9th SOPI area behind Pigalle. Regulars line up for the 10 am weekend/ 8:30 am week day opening and patiently wait while the barista crafts a perfect brew. The thick foam on my wonderful cappuccino was definitely worth the wait! Don’t miss the terrace for sunny days to come. Rose Bakery is just down the street, a perfect combination.
Kooka Boora – Erica Berman
2. Coutume Café – The new baby on the Paris coffee scene and host of last week’s Frog Fight this 5 week old café is located behind the Bon Marché in the chic 7th. Run by partners Tom Clark and Antoine Netien it is a hip and happening spot to have a morning brew, tasty lunch or a weekend brunch. Many exciting things are on the way at Coutume Café — from new machines, larger in-house torrefaction for roasting up to 12 kilos at once, barista and roasting courses, coffee cupping (tasting, pairing, inhaling), art exhibitions to homemade baked goods and hopefully more Frog Fight competitions. This innovative café uses not only a high quality espresso machine, but also the syphon Hario, conical drip, and cold-extraction techniques to make the perfect cup of coffee.
I stopped by for a cappuccino and a chat with Tom the other day. His positive energy and excitement was catchy and his cappuccino delicate and delicious.
Despite some friendly rivalry in the Frog Fights, Tom feels the new breed of coffee shops have mainly banded together to help push forward the coffee culture they love and want to share. A goal? Create a movement to unite against the big monopolies and push specialty coffee into the city of light.
The challenge is that, when it comes to coffee culture, the French seem to favor functionality over actual enjoyment of coffee. His hope for the Parisian coffee scene is to integrate an amazing product into the culture and to never sell out.
3. Espresso and Ristretto – I stumbled upon this hidden gem of a café on one of my infrequent forays into the 11th . A tiny spot on the rue de Charenton behind the Place de la Bastille, this unassuming cafe caught my eye and pulled me in. Owned by the friendly barista Arnaud Laroche and assisted by Leigh, an America barista from Seattle, this petit café that has been around for over a year and a half and my latte macchiato was one of my best Parisian coffee experiences yet. All of Arnaud’s beans are picked up at le Havre, torrefied in house and for sale sur place. For Arnaud, the challenge is to get the French to change their habits and understand real coffee at the right temperature. He dreams of a larger café with outdoor tables…. A suivre!
4. Caféothèque – With their opening in 2007, Caféothèque is the oldest on the new Paris coffee scene. This tiny, well respected, spot on the quai by the Hotel de Ville was the first to start this serious coffee movement by truly embracing artisanal coffee for Parisians. They brew, torrefy and sell beans in this cute comfy and unassuming space.
Caféothèque – Kattebelletje
5. Le Bal Café – This cool, trendy, and well hidden café is an arty foodie haven tucked down a mellow dead-end street behind the busy Place de Clichy. In business since Sept 2010, they have combined great coffee, fresh lovely food, carefully selected wine (with former Rose Bakery and St John’s Bread and Wine chefs in the kitchen and two former Willi’s Wine Bar staffers out front), with modern art (art bookstore and gallery attached) to create an ultra original and super comfy space. I can’t wait to come back and try the incredibly yummy looking brunch and hang on the sunny terrace.
Let us know your favorite Parisian coffee spots. Where have you had a great cappuccino or espresso in the city of light? What have I missed?
1. KB Café Shop – 62, rue des Martyrs 75009 Telephone : 01 56 92 12 41, Metro : Pigalle, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette or Anvers
2. Coutume Café – 47, Rue de Babylone 75007 Telephone: 01 45 51 50 47, Metro: Sevres Bablyone
3. Espresso and Ristretto – 67, rue de Charenton 75012 Telephone: 09 52 72 20 77, Metro: Bastille
(Note: News has it that this cafe has since closed sadly.)
4. La Caféothèque – 52, rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, 75004 Telephone: 01 53 01 83 84, Metro: Pont Marie or Hotel de Ville
5. Le Bal Café – 6, Impasse de la Défense, 75018 Telephone: 01 44 70 75 51, Metro: Place de Clichy or La Fourche
- More on the best coffee in Paris.
- Buy your freshly torrefied beans at Cafe Lomi.
- Barbara Austin discovers Le Bal Cafe and Restaurant for Girl’s Guide to Paris.