There is nothing more cliché- nor perhaps more enjoyable– than sitting at a café en terrace and sipping on an espresso. Perhaps flicking through a well-thumbed novel, or perusing the local paper, all the while watching the people walk by, going about their daily lives. And, of course, there is an art to ordering coffee in Paris.
Types of Coffee
When it comes to deciding what kind of coffee you’re going to be ordering, then you’ll want to ensure you know what’s on offer! Usually, when you simply order a coffee, it will be assumed that you just want an espresso, no milk. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other options available to you. You just need to know what to ask for…
Un expresso: If you simply ask for ‘un café s’il vous plaît,’ then you’ll probably be given an espresso. Short and to the point, sipping an espresso in an outdoor café in Paris is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Prices of expresso vary around the city, depending on the arrondissement, usually ranging from €1, all the way up to €4.
Une Noisette: No, although the word ‘noisette’ in French means hazelnut, you are not going to be given some fancy hazelnut concoction. Instead, a noisette is an espresso with a little steamed milk in it.
Café Americain: This is your regular filter coffee that you’d expect to find back home. However, not every café will offer an americano, and so instead you can order ‘un allongé’.
Un allongé: If you don’t want something as strong, or as concentrated as an espresso, but still want coffee, then ‘un allongé’ is the choice for you. The allongé typically has double the amount of water as an expresso, with the same amount of coffee.
Café crème: A rich coffee base topped with a frothy milk, this coffee is much like you standard latté or cappucino. Only made French style…
You should know…
Before I lived in Paris, I had this notion that I would eat my weight in pastries while sipping on a cute little espresso cup. All the while trying not to get my nose stuck in that little piece of porcelain (ha!). However, when I arrived it became quite clear that most sidewalk cafés don’t serve coffee with pastries. Instead, there is sometimes the option of purchasing a croissant to go together with your hot drink.
More often than not though, coffee is almost always exclusively drunk on its own, without food. If you want to get a pastry, you’ll have to go to a specialty café or visit a patisserie shop.
On ‘rude’ French People in Cafés
Even today, there’s this horrible misconception that Parisians are rude and offensive. Before I lived there, people would warn me about ‘those rude French people’ and even went so far as to inform me that it might even make my experience of living in the city of lights that much less enjoyable.
You know what’s rude? Overgeneralizations about a whole group of people! After living in the city for a year, I can safely say that the assumption French people will be rude to you if you’re not French is a gross overgeneralization of an entire population. So go into French cafés, be polite and enjoy all the different coffee combinations on offer!
My Parisian Coffee Address Book
Café Oberkampf: Situated on the trendy Rue Oberkampf, Café Oberkampf serves delicious food and great coffee. Here, you can try the house specialty, shakshuka, and opt for one of their more unusual drinks. If you visit, I highly recommend ordering a ‘dirty chai’. It’s a little like a cross between a chai tea, and latté- and is basically like heaven to drink.
Café Kitsune: Nestled in the very heart of Palais-Royal, Café Kitsuné is one of the best, and only, places in the city to find a matcha latté. If you’re looking for specialty hot drinks, then iced, chai, regular expressos and muc more are availbale in this atmospheric café. I highly recommend getting your drink to take away (à emporter) and enjoying your drink in the Palais Royal park.
Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole: Located on Rue Chanoinesse, which in itself is absolutely full of history, Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole is probably the cutest café in all the city.
Ordering Coffee in Paris Vocabulary
Even if you don’t speak very much French, it’s still very much valued and appreciated when you make a small effort. Here’s a little French Café vocabulary to help you when ordering coffee in Paris:
An expresso, please: ‘Un expresso, s’il vous plaît.’
A jug of tap water, please: ‘Un carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît’
The bill/ check please: ‘L’addition s’il vous plaît.’
Eat in/ Takeaway: Sur Place/ À Emporter