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Coffee

I find the coffee served in most Parisian cafés, bars and bistros disgusting - even in more expensive establishments. I've tracked down a couple of places that serve a decent espresso in my neighbourhood, but as my work takes me all around Paris, I'd like to find places in central Paris - the 1st ten arrondisements say - where you can grab a decent coffee at the bar for around one euro without having to add sugar to it to make it palatable. Starbucks is not an option.

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  1. Chère Anglaise,
    Have you tried Café Verlet, 256 r Saint Honoré ?
    Also, I once had a good cappuccino in a most touristy spot, Rue St André des Arts, at the café Malongo. Just telling you this embarrasses me.
    Lastly you can try my underground Colombian grocery store on 78, rue Dunkerque, where I buy my colombian coffee beans.

    1. Illy has a store on Rue Auber, in the 9th, and Cafeotheque, right by the Hotel de Ville in the 4th. You can also ask for a "cafe serré" which they will make with less water.

      I suppose I'm in the minority on this board, but I like most of the coffee served in Paris cafes. Perhaps it comes from the dreadful coffee served at most restaurants in the US. (Dunkin Donuts? Aaargh!!!)

      6 Replies
      1. re: menton1

        Menton, I am with you on this. From my perspective I found Parisian coffee in general to be far, far better than coffee found in the US & UK. However, I am also with Randy et al. finding it tricky to find really first class coffee in Paris whilst there are places in the US & UK that are head and shoulders above the average.

        I wonder if that is because the average is very acceptable so there is little demand for stand-out specialists. Whilst in the UK/US the average is so dire there is reasonable demand for quality thus specialist can thrive.

        Maybe analogous to burgers in the US, the average (not chains) is so good there isn't the need for the specialist, whilst in other countries the average is dire so you need specialists.

        1. re: PhilD

          I'm not so sure.

          Because of the influence of Starbucks, Cafe Nero, etc., today in the UK it is now easy get good coffee, at decent prices, even outside of the big cities. I recently found myself in a fishing village on the North Norfolk coast and bought a great espresso from a Fish and Chip shop.

          This is very different from 30 years ago when in England, "coffee" was instant. The first time I tried "Real coffee" - so rare that it was practically a proper noun - was on a school trip to France.

          Today however even if it is often made using the same beans (Illy), and using the same machines (Gaggia) as in Italy, where it is always better, and the in UK where it is now invariably better, I find most coffee served in Paris undrinkable.

          The terrible thing about Parisian Starbucks (which are becoming more and more common) and now I'm told McCafés is that the coffee is better than that served in most "indigenous" cafés.

          I'd prefer to give my custom to local businesses.

          1. re: vielleanglaise

            So it is probably more accurate to say that French coffee is different to Italian coffee. I enjoy both but dislike chain coffee in every country I have encountered it, and whilst UK coffee has improved it is very patchy and you usually find a decent coffee by chance rather than design. Interesting to see you cite Illy as a brand, it is fine, but IMO it is very mild mainstream coffee, French coffee is more bitter and maybe that appeals more to my taste as I tend to like Italian style coffees with a stronger flavour.

            1. re: PhilD

              It would be accurate to say Italian and French coffees are different, just like English and French breads or battery and free-range eggs are different. At the risk of seeming judgmental, in all cases I think I can say I know which ones I believe to be "better" and why....

              I refer to Illy because it's served in Paris as well as in Rome or Pisa. It could also have been the equally mainstream Lavazza. Maybe it's because of the hardness of the water and the French machines are badly calibrated, or perhaps the Italians are genetically pre-disposed making good coffee, or they have the Pope.... My point is using the same beans in the same machines (Gaggia) most Parisian cafés turn out coffee which doesn't taste as good as it does in Italy and I'm looking for cafés where it does.

              1. re: vielleanglaise

                No arguments about searching for a good Italian style coffee in Paris, if that is what you fancy more power to you. My view though is that the French have a different taste in coffee and thus their bars and cafes will serve coffee that corresponds to the locals preferences. So isn't it unfair to criticise a French product if you really want an Italian one?

                If you prefer the taste of Italian coffee (bean/machine/technique) that is good, but shouldn't you recognise that is what you are looking for?

                In France I really like a cafe noisette after dinner, I have tried to recreate them in many other countries without success. OK a macchiato is similar or a cafe cortado goes in the right direction. But it isn't that unique noisette taste. There must be a whole combination of factors but I have learned that I am only really going to get a noisette I like in Paris.

                Anyway breakfast time, heading down to the Illy Cafe (in Sydney) for a flat white.

                1. re: PhilD

                  This kind of relativistic thinking has no place on chowhound! :) Actually I had come to the same conclusion as you Phil, that somehow the French prefer this 'bad' cafe given that I've had the same bitter but tasteless concoctions even in otherwise excellent restaurants. However I have yet to meet a French(wo)man who returned from Italy complaining about the coffee or will not admit to the superiority of Italian espresso. Which is certainly not true of wine or cheese, things that may rank a little higher on the national priorities.

      2. Check out this thread:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/664337

        You'll see from one of posts that I'd like to set up a tasting some time between March 21 and March 31. I'm bringing some fabulous coffees from a small roaster in the mountains of central Washington. Others may want to bring their favorite French or Italian blends.

        I haven't figured out how to do this without offending Chowhound guidelines. Maybe I'll have to set up a temporary website for us to gather on.

        1 Reply
        1. re: RandyB

          Thank you.

          Not wishing to seem ungrateful for the above advice, but as the proud and loving owner of a prefectly tuned old-school Pavoni machine and having the good fortune to live just above a great "brulerie", I'm all set for home-made coffee.

          I am however obliged to spend a lot of time out of the house and in different areas of Paris. What I'm after are addresses where they serve good coffee at normal prices and in a "Parisian" environment - Starbucks, I'd prefer to be dragged over burning arabica grains, even if I'm told that "McCafés" are "awsome"... it's not going to happen.

          Le Barrique on the rue Beaurepaire comes to mind as an example of what I'm looking for: a "normal" neighbourhood café where the eponymous product has the flavour, strength, bitterness, and aspect coffee should have instead of looking, smelling and tasting like warmed-up slurry.

        2. I'm a coffee nut so it's disheartening reading all this about bad French coffee.

          I guess I should now start searching for addresses of all the Starbucks located in Paris for my trip there in June.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Quimbombo

            Don't be disheartened. After reading most of the replies, I have to say that, perhaps there is something very wrong with me because I like the coffee I've had in Paris--in fact all through France, I've never had a bad cup of coffee...and I'm NOT talking about my Carte Noire either--the CN is for backup. So..don't be on the lookout for Starbucks...any cafe will give you a decent cuppa joe.

            1. re: jarona

              I also like the coffee in Paris in general, -- of course not as much as coffee in Rome mais bon...

              It is rare that I disagree with Anglaise, but I don't find Paris coffee disgusting even though it is not Rome standard. If we call Paris coffee disgusting, what do we call really bad coffee? :-)

              1. re: Parigi

                Well...I, for one, have a generic title for really bad coffee. I just call really bad coffee "Airline Coffee"!:)

            2. re: Quimbombo

              I had a hard time finding coffee/espresso "to go" in the mornings, so ended up at a Starbucks. I'm open for suggestions for local "to go" coffee in the 1st, 2nd & 8th.

            3. Actually, one of the things I long for when I think about my French vacations is dropping the luggage off and heading off to any cafe for a Croque and a coffee! Ahhhhhhhh! is the feeling I get sitting in Paris sipping that cafe. Maybe it's the atmosphere, but man, I do like the coffee in Paris. It's just so so much better than what I drink every day in New Jersey!

              Don't be disheartened! The coffee is pretty good!

              12 Replies
              1. re: menton1

                While I can enjoy dirty-water hotdogs on the streets of New York, all of Mcdonald's output, and Nutellla, I would say, and if needs be confidently argue, that each of them are not as good as a good German wurst, a well prepared hamburger, or real Gianduia...All that to say that even though it bares a resemblance and looks like the beverage produced using the same beans on the same machines as elsewhere on the planet (notably Italy), and even though Paris is still blindlycelebrated for the drink (as were French wines up until 20 years ago) I would argue, and believe that for the most part coffee served in this city isn't as good as the coffee served elsewhere in the world and wholeheartedly agree with Mcolonne's remark about relativism on these boards...yet nevertheless, and with hope in Chowhound restate the original and simple query posed at the beginning of this thread: "I'd like to find places in central Paris - the 1st to 10th arrondisements say - where you can grab a decent coffee at the bar for around one euro without having to add sugar to it to make it palatable..."

                1. re: vielleanglaise

                  Last fall there was a bit of debate about the importance of context or place in the enjoyment of food. I think that applies to menton1's comment about a croque and a coffee. I'm thinking more of dipping a croissant into a café allongée.

                  My coffee brewer friends call the café allongée "coffee murder" for being way too long a pull. Anyone who really likes flaky croissants would consider dipping them in anything to be a felony. Somehow, I still occasionally like to do it, but only in France.

                  1. re: vielleanglaise

                    I think you miss the underlying point about "relative". It is relative to the national taste not across countries. The French like a style of coffee that suits their tastes, generally more bitter than the Italian style. Similarly, I am certain there are many people in US who prefer their style of hotdogs to the German wurst. Both are good products in their rightful places: will French national taste change to Italian style coffee? Will New Yorkers reject the hot dogs they "blindly celebrate" and start eating German wurst? I am not certain they will.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      Ironic that the NY Times just did a huge 4 page detail about coffee culture in New York, and about how much it's improved in the last decade. This underscores what a poster said earlier about really good coffee being available here if one seeks it out. I also remember the coffee being like swill in the UK, but that's a while back, perhaps that's changed as well.

                      That being said, I still long for my next opportunity to sit at a cafe in Paris and sip my coffee!

                      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/din...

                      1. re: menton1

                        So, when is someone going to open a cafe with GOOD espresso/coffees in Paris??? Clearly, there is a need. Even if "good" coffee is a matter of taste, there is an undeniable consensus that virtually without exception, coffee sucks in France and several other European destinations. I'm surprised the Italians haven't clued in and moved over to supply the French with a proper espresso (I say this objectively, despite being of Italian heritage).

                        1. re: orangette

                          I think, based even on the posters on this thread, that there is NOT a consensus that the "coffee sucks in Paris". I think it was 50/50 right here. I'm on the side that likes the coffee in Paris. I think it definitely does NOT suck!

                          1. re: menton1

                            I do but I didn't want to get into a big fight over it.
                            About a year ago I was backpacking from Paris to Rome and when I hit Lucarno I had an hour's wait at the train station and enquired whether the barista made his coffee French-Swiss or Italian style (the border being about 1 klick away). Ans Italian of course. I had two.

                          2. re: orangette

                            Orangette: In a similar vein I am very surprised British entrepreneurs haven't opened lots of pubs selling good British real ale, after all how can anyone think Kronenberg 1664 is a decent beer....!

                            But back to coffee, I thought there were a few places in Paris with decent "Italian" style coffee. If memory serves me well I think I had some reasonable Italian style coffee in the cafe on the first floor of Bon Marche.

                            Why hasn't there been an Italian invasion? Probably because there isn't a market for it, the French like their coffee the way they drink it.

                            1. re: PhilD

                              But that just negates discussion - we're not talking about flavours of icecream here. Sure, there are French people who like their coffee, but there are a bunch of them who don't.

                              The comparison to Italian - and not Turkish coffee - is because the two products are so similar: expresso = espresso, serré = restretto, machiatto = noisette, crème = capuccinno, but a lot of the time,the French do it wrong.

                              I recently spent some time from Café Richards (a big wholesaler here). I was giving his coffees a bad rap, and he explained to me that it wasn't the beans, but the machines: especially the grinding machines which of which the stones are often blunt, or badly calibrated. The café, or restaurant, we were in, was a case in point. We tried an espresso before and after he changed the stones: it was day and night.

                              You CAN get good coffee in Paris not necessarily made by Italians - I mention on this thread the Barrique, where I think they're North African Jews, near the Canal St Martin, but I could also cite l'Astrance, I'm not sure of Pascal Barbot's ethnic origins.

                              Sure, a load of people here are satisified with crappy coffee - like a bunch of people living here eat crappy bread and Camembert - I think it's justifiable to seek out, and judge the best.

                              1. re: vielleanglaise

                                vielleanglaise: If it's the "machines not the beans" then all the nay-sayers on this thread better pay attention, because just about EVERY machine used in France is made in Italy!!!

                                1. re: vielleanglaise

                                  Ice cream may not be a good subject to open up lest we get side tracked into the relative merits of Italian gelato versus French custard based ices.

                                  So to stay on subject. In my view there are two issues, first the quality of the bean, the grind, the extraction etc. This all requires skill and good equipment. Thus there will be good places and bad places in any city, as us coffee lovers know we need to search out the best. From my experience I got a 50% hit rate in France, compared to 80% in Italy and urban Australia, and only about 1% in the UK. Yes, even in Italy it is quite easy to get bad coffee; coffee my colleagues at our offices in Milan and Turin downed with great enthusiasm, but I didn't appreciate it.

                                  I put that down to the second issue, that of national taste. A well made coffee in France will still be different to a good coffee in Italy and that is down to local tastes. In my experience Italian coffee is smoother, and French coffee has more of a bitter edge.

                                  I seem to be lucky and both appeal to me, and I don't believe I like "crappy coffee". I do seek out and judge the best, that is why I disagree with the use of the word "most" in the OP i.e. " find the coffee served in most Parisian cafés, bars and bistros disgusting" and with the generalisation " there is an undeniable consensus that virtually without exception, coffee sucks in France and several other European destinations."

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    So coffee served to you here appeals to you, good on you. But how can you "disagree" with the word "most" in the the original post, when the OP (me) is stating an opinion (the use of the expression "I find" at the beginnning of the sentence). I'm stating an opinion, and more importantly, trying to find the places that serve the coffee that appeals to me.

                                    It would be fun to have an icecream war though.

                    2. "Coffee" is a broad term. There is morning coffee, which is excellent at our hotel. There is afternoon coffee, that which you take at a cafe or terrace. And after dinner coffee, probably an espresso, sometimes available as decaf.

                      If you are staying in an apartment, you have the additional complication of sourcing beans or grounds.

                      And then there was the early morning coffee I sought at a SNCF bar. Requesting a coffee to go, I was referred to a seat at the bar where they made me a short coffee, served in the traditional tiny cup. No coffee-to-go at a train station. You're not in Kansas any more, Dorothy.

                      1. I hope some of you coffee-lovers will join me and bring a sample of your favorite beans. Please see the stick post on this board and do not reply here.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: RandyB

                          Well, this is definitely a touchy subject and I will give it a go when I'm in Paris next month. I will be staying in an apt. so I plan to brew my own. I'll buy some beans in Paris - heard some good things about a few roasters (sorry, their names escape me at the moment).

                          My final comment on the subject is that, overall, I have fewer bad cups in Italy than anywhere else and not such great luck in the rest of Europe. In the U.S. and home in Toronto, I know where to go, so that's an advantage.

                          1. re: orangette

                            In heaven the Italians are in charge of the coffee and the French make the pastry!

                        2. Adam, from A Life Worth Eating, just responded your query. Gocce di Caffé, in the Passage des Panoramas, makes awesome true Italian coffee.

                          There's also a place on rue des Petits Champs, just by rue Sainte Anne, a tiny spot where dozen of people pack themselves juste after lunch, standing. I find that the Lavazza expressos, from the little machines with the doses, are often (but not always) better than most. That's what you get in the TGV (the high-speed train) for instance.

                          There are very few cafés with good coffee. More importantly, the barista is who makes the good coffee, and they change often in most coffees. I know of no coffee that makes good coffee, only good baristas.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: souphie

                            On my long winding way back home (Paris) the past 24 hours, under and over the dreaded ash, I cannot tell you how happy I was to find an Illy place just before boarding my AF flight this AM, where I relished the doppio ristretto; it ain't hard guys.

                          2. Some possibly encouraging news from the NY Times today. "For the most part, coffee in Paris still sucks so bad, but it’s getting better. ..." http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/20...

                            The author recommends roasters la Caféothèque (4ème), le Bal (18ème), and Café Lomi (17ème). I haven't tried any of these, so I have no personal recommendation.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: RandyB

                              Since the author wrote the first column, the news is that he went to three more small, hip places. To him, that's how coffee improves in Paris. Hm.