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Mar 10, 2010 08:59 AM


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:

          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.