Top Coffee Towns in France

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Photo credit: Midnight in Paris



In a country where espresso is the coffee de rigueur, it’s astonishing how long it’s taken the French to acquire a taste for serious coffee. Given their innate passion for fine food and wine, you would imagine them to be right on the frontline reveling in the heady highs – cocoa, caramel, almond, pepper, floral nuances et al – of an aromatic, specialty-grade espresso crafted from the finest artisan-roasted beans money can buy.

Not so.

Coffee in France can be disappointing: traditional cafes complacently serve the same café, aka an espresso cup filled to the brim with dark bitter coffee of low-grade Robusta beans, safe in the knowledge that French café culture – the glorious pavement terraces the woven bistro chairs, the vintage zinc bars and glittering literary heritage – is hallowed.




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Photo credit: Midnight in Paris

Those all-too-often wretched Robusta beans are a legacy of the 17th and 18th centuries when France turned to its Asian and West African colonies for coffee beans. Which leaves the pursuit of specialty coffee in France down to handful of nouvelle generation coffee shops and crafts roasters, predominantly run by well-travelled baristas with foreign-honed or inspired savoir faire. Traditional brewing methods, including the French Press or cafeteria patented by French designers Mayer and Delforge in 1852, are still respected. But it is the careful sourcing – from small independent coffee farmers around the globe – and roasting of exceptional beans by craft roasters such as Brittany’s homespun Caffe Cataldi and Parisian pioneer and boutique-roaster La Cafeotheque that are ensuring a serious cup of coffee can at last be found in France.

If you are heading to France, we recommend that you add these coffee towns in your itinerary, take a moment, put down your smartphones and enjoy every sip.

Bordeaux

Where to try it:
L’Alchimiste, 12 rue de la Vieille Tour, Bordeaux; www.alchimiste-cafes.com 
MAP HERE


The Bordelais are accustomed to a quality tipple – some of the world’s finest vineyards cocoon their graceful city on the banks of the River Garonne in France’s hot southwest. Enter the Alchemist, the roaster who introduced speciality coffee to Bordeaux: Arthur Audibert – former management consultant, world traveller, devout Bordelais – learned the business from Antoine Netien at Coutume Cafe in Paris in 2013 and now crafts his own artisan coffee like a fine wine, playing with different beans, blends and roasts to transform raw green beans into coffee gold with bags of notes and nez. He roasts at Magasin General (87 quai des Queyries), a post-industrial space in converted army barracks with organic lounge-bar and grown-up play zone. Ultimate don’t-miss at his cafe-boutique on cobbled Rue de la Vieille Tour in town? Espresso with a cream-stuffed Dune Blanche cake.





Lyon

Where to try it:
La BoÎte À Café, 3 rue l’Abbé Rozier, Lyon; www.cafemokxa.com
MAP HERE



Eminently beautiful, soft-green packets of Café Mokxa coffee stand sentry by the entrance, each labelled with the farm of origin, altitude, year of harvest, roasting date and tantalising tasting notes – marzipan, honey, Tonka bean, apricot, jasmine – clearly designed to throw coffee-lover tastebuds into instant ‘I want!’ mode. This is La Boite a Cafe in Lyon’s edgy Croix-Paquet ’hood, vitrine for speciality coffee roasted each week by the country’s most significant roaster outside Paris, Café Mokxa. The brand was ahead of the French curve when it opened in 2011, and its commitment to personally sourcing beans from farms in Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador, among others, and roasting them in its own roastery to create the finest pure-origin coffee is unfaltering. Frenchman Sadry Abidi and New Zealander Rosamund Morris James are the bean nous behind Cafe Mokxa. The creative husband and wife team lived in Barcelona, trained as baristas in New Zealand, and then wisely plumped for the gastronomic capital of France in which to open their coffee shop, roastery and barista school. Their ongoing mission? To marry speciality coffee with quality food. It would seem to be working – while baristas deftly work the La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine, hip flasks of cold-brew chill in the glass cabinet next to squat bottles of organic peach juice and generous plates of peanut cookies, blackberry cheesecake and cinnamon-spiced banana bread by sister bakery Konditori.




Paris

Where to try it:
Belleville BrÛlerie, 10 Rue Pradier, 19e, Paris; https://cafesbelleville.com
MAP HERE

« La Fontaine de Seattle », @LaMarzoccoCafe. — D’ici quelques jours, le temple de @LaMarzoccoHome à Seattle accueillera un peu de Belleville dans son café durant 1 mois. 4 semaines de fêtes aux couleurs de Belleville et de @lafontainedebelleville où seront servis une sélection d’assemblages et d’ « origines » de @cafesbelleville. RDV dès le 10 Octobre à @LaMarzoccoCafe ! — In a fews days, @LaMarzoccoHome’s FlagShip will host a part of Belleville during 1 month. We’re proud to be part of their #RoasterInResidence program as their first French Roaster. You will be able to taste our special « Assemblage » and cafés during those 4 special weeks in Seattle! Rendez-Vous on 10/10! — #Seattle #SpecialtyCoffee #Roastery #Belleville #JeBoisDuBelleville #Paris #RoasterInResidence #LaMarzocco #LaMarzoccoCafe
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Powerhouse of Parisian roasters since 2013, Belleville Brulerie is a hub of coffee excitement. Hidden behind an understated steel-grey facade in staunchly working-class, multicultural Belleville in eastern Paris, this artisan roastery requires dedication to track down and only opens its doors to the public one day a week. Professional Saturday-morning dégustations (cuppings) – please don’t wear perfume – allow groups of eight to swirl, smell, slurp and spit the week’s freshly roasted beans around a large bespoke table hand-crafted in Serbia for the occasion. Cuppings are led by celebrity torréfacteurs (roasters) David Flynn and Thomas Lehoux, whose nouveau French Roast turns the popular French Roast style – a dark roast typically slammed as bitter and burnt – on its head. Taste fruit, sugar, spice and prepare to be smitten.





Coutume Café, 47 rue de Babylone, 7e, Paris; www.coutumecafe.com
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Coutume stands out from neighbouring chic Rive Gauche boutiques. Its innovative cafe-roastery is an airy industrial space, with retro furniture, tropical plants and a long coffee bar where baristas describe their coffee beans with the same enthusiasm as a wine sommelier. The cafe is a pioneer of digital detox, with laptops and tablets banned to encourage conversation over coffee. The back of the space has a state-of-the-art roasting machine surrounded by sacks of coffee beans from plantations across the world, and Coutume supplies cafes and restaurants across Paris. Open through breakfast and lunch, the kitchen proposes healthy organic produce such as beetroot carpaccio with tabbuleh, while for your coffee, choose between a V60, latte, cortado or the espresso of the day, hand-pulled on a Synesso Cyncra. The choice of beans changes regularly, and includes Ethiopian Demisse Endema or Finca Deborah Gefha from Panama.


Lomi, 3ter rue Marcadet, 18e, Paris; www.cafelomi.com
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Tourists rarely wander into this gritty corner of Montmartre, but Lomi is always packed with a mix of colourful neighbourhood locals and coffee enthusiasts drawn by its reputation as one of the most exciting craft roasters in Paris. The cafe section looks like an old abandoned factory, with rusty metal girders, peeling paint on the walls, simple wooden tables and old leather couches. A glass wall at the back separates the roastery and lab area for testing the seasonal beans that are imported from more than 20 countries, as well as a space for cuppings, barista workshops and espresso classes. The food is simple, tasty and freshly cooked, and includes the challenging Cafe Fromage, a spoonful of tangy Bleu d’Auvergne cheese dipped into an espresso. The more traditional option would be a Gisuma, Chemex-filtered coffee from Rwanda; a lively, buttery, taste with hints of black tea.



Loustic, 40 Rue Chapon, 3e, Paris; www.cafeloustic.com
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With a sassy name (‘Smart Alec’ in old Breton) and sharp interior by hotshot Parisian designer Dorothee Meilichzon (think vintage-print Hermes wallpaper and exposed stone), Loustic is the good looking espresso bar of London barista Channa Galhenage. When he opened on backstreet Rue Chapon in Paris’ 3e arrondissement in 2013, Loustic was resolutely new wave: Paris had a dozen-odd specialist coffee shops at the time, compared to the 40 or so today. Beans arrive fresh from Antwerp roaster Caffenation and European guest roasters, and fans can sample a range of espresso and filter coffees (AeroPress, Chemex or V60). The fashion set’s coffee of choice? A Loustic latte glace, aka ice, maple syrup, cold full-cream milk and a double espresso mixed in a 250ml glass beaker.

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For more discoveries about the famous coffee towns around the world, you might want to have a copy of the latest Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour book.


Where’s your favorite café in France?


xoxo, Blair





4 LOVES AND COMMENTS:

  1. What lovely and chic coffee places to choose from. I think my favourite is Cafe Moka, with the couple from Barcelona. I live in Italy half the year, and caffe moka is very big here! I feel very French just reading this!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not really a coffee drinker, but I think I will go with Loustic and Coutume Café in Paris because that's how the coffee looked like when I had one. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many cafes not also offers tea and pasties!

      Delete

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