Coffee Drinking in Paris

Coffee Drinking in Paris
Have you ever had a really great cup of coffee in Paris? Until the city experienced the “third wave” of coffee drinking about a decade ago, most of us contented ourselves with the ordinary caoua found in Parisian cafés. It was often bitter, made from burned (not roasted) coffee beans, and the average cup was a purely utilitarian beverage, designed to satisfy a caffeine craving, but not our tastebuds. For years, I just accepted this sorry state of affairs, since the coffee ritual seemed to be more about the environment than the actual brew in my cup. One of two experiences awaited me, depending on the amount of time I had. When I was pressed for time, I’d go into a café, stand at the bar, and order a coffee with as little water as possible: a café serré or “tight” coffee. I’d demonstrate what I wanted to the busy server by turning my fist in the air, like I was gripping and tightening a wrench. Then I’d drink the stuff summarily while leafing through Le Parisien newspaper on the counter or listening to the local gossip and bar banter before heading out the door to greet the day’s tasks. Other times, I’d sit at a table and order a café allongé, one with more liquid and served in a bigger cup. I’d spend the next half-hour or so lingering over the coffee and ruminating my morning thoughts in a public place. (Which really meant just staring into space while waiting for the caffeine to kick in.) A courageous café and restaurant owner sells carry-out dishes and, of course, coffee. Photo © Allison Zinder Other sleepy customers would push open the glass door of one of my favorite cafés, and let in the green-smelling gust coming off the beautiful Square Gardette in the 11th district. And there I’d sit, wondering how long I could make one cup of coffee last while I reflected on the meaning of the dream that woke me so suddenly that morning. But even with the great coffee available to us in Paris now, the coffee-drinking experience has been upended in these pandemic times. Since cafés and restaurants are “closed” (which in Paris means that many are still open, at least for carry-out), customers drink coffee in paper cups either lingering in front of the café, or perched on a park bench – or even the curb! – somewhere nearby. Still others walk and sip, eschewing the traditional pause-and-reflect part of the coffee ritual. Other offerings at this café, besides coffee to go, are mulled wine, onion soup, and “Anti-covid” juice made from apples, carrots, lemon juice, and ginger. Who knew? Photo © Allison Zinder

Lead photo credit : Ahh, a Parisian-style and pre-pandemic cup of coffee. Photo © Allison Zinder

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Allison Zinder is a gastronomy guide and culinary educator working in French food, culture, history, and art. A certified chef and pastry chef, she offers market tours, food history tours, food-related Study Abroad programs, and Food & Beverage courses at hospitality schools in Paris. Allison has lived in France for 25 years. She is passionate about sharing her deep cultural knowledge, and has created engaging educational experiences for over 4000 clients.


  • Sonja Lind
    2021-04-26 06:28:50
    Sonja Lind
    Just wanted to know when I can make a members payment again. I think the information you share is fabulous. Wish we had an Insider’s Guide to Nice and surroundings. Thank you so much for all your hard work, much appreciated. Warmest regards Sonja