I love Parisian cafés. The marble table tops, rimmed in brass, with elaborate cast-iron feet; the colorful awnings with French scrawl; chic wicker seats braided in a perfect, repeating pattern. I can even appreciate the waiters who don’t really want to serve you. But as much as I love traditional French cafés, I have to be honest with you: their coffee sucks.
The French are not known for their cup of joe. “But what about the French Press?” you say! Sorry to disappoint you, but it was invented by an Italian. In fact, I’m pretty sure given all the cigarettes, the French don’t really mind how their caffeine tastes, so long as it works. They would probably say the terrible flavor is all part of the experience.
I’ve been caught on a cold and rainy Paris day, and all I’ve wanted was a creamy latte at a café with a pleasant view. I cheerfully take a seat, order my café crème, and upon sipping from the cup my face goes from happy anticipation, to shuddering agony. It is that bad. You are obligated to use the two sugar packets tossed on the saucer, just to mask the bitter taste. Maybe even add the after-meal chocolate in there, for good measure. It’s a painful tradeoff: ambiance without the flavor. Frenchies, don’t get me wrong! I appreciate the atmosphere…but I also just want some really good coffee.
So, I set out to find the alternative in Paris: a good, hipster coffee. A French friend convinced me this didn’t exist, but find them I did, and they are exceptional.
Check out my three favorites below!
51 Galerie de Montpensier in the Palais Royal, 1st arrondissement
I stumbled on this coffee shop a few years ago. At the time I believe it was owned by someone else, was nearly empty, had no branding and the man working the bar was very confused by my order for a single shot latte. That is clearly no longer the case. This is one of the best cafés in Paris, in the most beautiful of settings. A hop away from the Louvre and the Opéra, Café Kitsuné (which means fox in Japanese) is nestled between vintage boutiques and restaurants. During the warm seasons, they put out tables and chairs in the park in front of the café, making it an ideal place for people watching.
My afternoon pick-me-up: latte (double shot espresso), a foxy butter cookie, and a trip to the restroom to smell their Aesop hand soap. Best to get drinks to go and enjoy while window shopping.
47 rue de Babylone, 7th arrondissement
Coutume Café kept me alive during wedding visits to Paris. Bleary-eyed and cranky after the terrible mistake of taking a Tylenol PM on the plane, I was reborn amid the twisted lightbulbs. Their food is so fresh and flavorful, it reminds me of my favorite San Francisco spot. You’ll find many Americans, Aussies and French locals busy at work on their laptops. The coffee is splendid!
My breakfast picks: latte (single shot espresso), granola in yoghurt with shredded apples, and a fresh squeezed orange juice. Best way to beat off any lingering jet lag.
19 Rue du Pont aux Choux, 3rd arrondissement
I discovered Boot Café in a Paris city guide my maid-of-honor bought me, and thought it looked like an eclectic, cozy spot. It fits only about 6 people inside, but the high ceilings and colorful decor more than make up for it.
Can’t get enough of: hot chocolate and their mega pecan cookie (I am still thinking about how good it was!). A little out of the way, but definitely a must visit!