You don’t need to look far beyond your cappuccino froth to notice that coffee in Paris is changing, but it’s still got a far way to go. Paris's reputation as a city where one can find a “good coffee” is a status that visitors to the city are quick to question. An espresso ordered at any corner café can be very disappointing in terms of a good brew — it’s often bitter, cold and lacking flavour. Despite this, much progress has been made, even in the past 4 years.
The new coffee wave in Paris signals a departure in terms of quality and taste and shows that Parisians are open to new tastes. It’s not just happening with the appearance of artisan micro-roasters and hipster-haunted inner-city enclaves, but in homes and supermarkets too. South America, Australia and the United States have been very influential in this regard, and the new interest in evermore nuanced coffee flavours sees cafés and retailers discussing everything from variety, estate name and sustainability, to the way the coffee was washed and the altitude at which it was grown. It’s like the new wine-industry.
We’ve put together a selection of notable Parisian spots that place a particular emphasis on ambiance and the quality of the coffee. Be ready to invest at least 5 euros in a good cup.
A refuge for coffee purists just across the river from the Ile-Saint-Louis, La Caféothèque ("the coffee library") was created by Gloria Montenegro, a Guatemalan who prides herself on offering the world's finest coffees, imported in direct trade from small plantations. The beans are roasted daily in the big yellow roaster out front, filling the air with irresistible aromas, and are brewed by trained baristas, using an espresso machine from famed Florence maker La Marzocco. Inviting couches, big windows and newspapers are all on hand. Go read poetry and sip on a hot siphon coffee. Not cheap, but certainly worth a visit!
52 rue de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 +33 1 5301 8384
Métro: Pont Marie
Coutume Café was opened by a passionate French-Australian duo, whose ambition is to speed up the revival of the Paris coffee scene and wean Parisians from the substandard, acrid robusta most cafés still insist upon. Their high-ceilinged lab-cum-cafe is a coffee geek's dream: beans are roasted on site and brewed in just about every contraption known to man – including a Japanese siphon (a German invention stolen by the German’s during the war- that’s your daily dose of history!), a steam-punk cold drip machine that produces exceptional coffee in 24 hours, and the first "Strada" Marzocco espresso machine in Paris. WOW! They also do great meals and snacks.
47 rue de Babylone, 75007 +33 1 4551 5047
Opened in summer 2012 just behind the Sacré-Coeur, two new coffee converts, Youssef Loudnjli and Baptiste Gély, have transformed a dowdy insurance office into a hip café. They have no background as baristas but caught the coffee bug and immersed themselves for a month, trying to learn everything from the 10 crucial steps to a perfect espresso to tasting dozens of different roasts at Coutume, where they buy their beans. They then opened Black Market: with just half-a-dozen wooden tables, the front window filled with plants, and an ancient wooden counter, this laid-back locale is already attracting a colourful bohemian local crowd plus tourists staying in Montmartre’s many hotels. Definitely worth a visit while strolling around the pretty surrounding of Montmartre and les Abbesses.
27 rue Ramey, 75018 Paris.
Métro : Château Rouge.
KB stands for Kooka Boora (named after an Australian bird- the kookaburra), and as you’re quite likely to be served by an Aussie barista or a waitress from New Zealand, most people think that this is another Australian coffee bar implanted in Paris. But the owner is actually Frenchman Nicolas Piégay, who first got the taste for coffee when travelling around the States and then discovered specialty coffee bars in Australia, which is why you’ll see favourites like a creamy flat white, long black and mochaccino on the menu, plus a whole host of iced coffees that are served all the year round, whatever the weather. KB doesn’t roast its own beans, working with the dynamic team at Café Lomi, but they change the range every couple of months. They are also very keen on fresh milk for the lattes and cappuccinos, brought in from Normandy. A latté is not the same without real milk from happy Jersey cows!
62 Rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris
Hidden away in an unfashionable part of the 18th arrondissement, Lomi opened in October 2012. From the outside, this looks like a bland modern building, but Lomi’s architect has transformed a basic concrete space into a cool café that resembles an abandoned warehouse with rusty metal girders, peeling paint on the walls, simple wooden tables and old leather couches. So hipster ! The café has already attracted a strong local following, with a colourful mix of mums and babies, good looking fathers with well-dressed kids at their knee, building workers and students hunched over laptops, local businessmen and coffee fanatics making a pilgrimage: Lomi is also renowned in the coffee fraternity for its roasting. For a change, there are more women than men behind the bar, with a lady barista and a Japanese patisserie chef who trained at William Ledeuil’s Ze Kitchen Gallery restaurant. Oh la la !
3 ter rue Marcadet, 75018 Paris
Metro: Marx Dormoy or Jules Joffrin
Thomas Lehoux is one of the stars of the Paris barista scene, and after working in many of the best-known coffee bars here (such as Eggs and Co.), he finally opened his own café in September 2012. Ten Belles is perfectly located just off the funky Canal Saint-Martin in one of the newest and most thriving bohemian districts in town. The discrete pinewood storefront is decorated with plants and herbs, a few rickety stools sit on the pavement for determined smokers, and a blackboard provocatively announces – in English – that ‘drinking good coffee is sexy’. The café is invariably packed, often with a long line queuing outside. There are only half-a-dozen tiny tables, but a narrow staircase leads up to a cosy mezzanine with another three tables looking down over the bar. A classic Mazzocco espresso machine sits on the main counter, which is lined with cakes and pastries. The house brand changes following the coffee seasons, for example a blend from Ethiopia and Guatemala, and there is often a second grinder on the counter with ‘guest coffees’ such as Sweetshop espresso from London’s Square Mile Coffee Roasters. Worth noting when the sun comes out — all coffees and food can be taken out, perfect for a waterside picnic on the edge of the canal.
10 rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010 Paris
Métro: Colonel Fabien.
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