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

Un café serré

If you need a strong, small coffee, ask for “un café serré”. 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 girl with dark hair sits on red chairs drinking a coffee on a terrace in Paris. Right: an empty Paris terrace with a line of grey and white chairs and gold tables in a row.
Left: @katiedonnelly_ / Right: @javiernapi

Un noisette

If you are after a small coffee with a dash of milk ask for “un noisette”. 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 woman drinking an iced coffee with a chocolate cookie next to her left hand and her black leather hand bag and decorative cacti to her right: Right: the exterior of cafe Le Nemours in Paris with a few people sat at tables drinking coffee.
Left: @5pailles / Right: @lenemoursparis

Un café crème

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: the exterior of a cafe in Paris decorated with flowers on its walls and many people sat on the terrace as well as pedestrians passing by.
Left: Taisiia Shestopal / Right: @35mmialy

Un café au lait

If you’re missing lates, the closest thing to ask for is “un café au lait” – 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 view from above a table at Café de Flore in Paris, with two coffees, a pair of sunglasses and a book sat on the table.
Left: @thenamestesa / Right: @parissecret

Un allongé

If you want an Americano, ask for “un allongé”. 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?

Un café gourmand

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

Written by Alessia Armenise for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? 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? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.


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.


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