When I lived and worked in Paris, coffee was the one thing that continually frustrated me. How could a country which is famous for its food and wine, serve such bad coffee? This is a question that has left me baffled on many occasions in what is otherwise my favourite country – Rachel Guernier investigates.
From an English background and having now lived in Australia for some years, I have got used to expecting a well-extracted and carefully poured coffee where a latte is a beautiful combination of a perfect espresso shot and smooth creamy textured milk (du lait velouté) poured so that the créma ribbons its way all the way to the top.
I could live without the latte art, but not without the great taste. When I lived in France, however, my taste buds were in for a shock. Bitter, sometimes burnt coffees were pumped out of machines in record time and were hard to drink without a big dose of sugar. To the amusement of my husband, I would sometimes try and ask how they made the cappuccino (I didn’t even attempt to order something that resembled a latte!) and usually the not-so-friendly waiter in his black and white outfit would reply that it was made with a long-black as a base (un café allongé). Would they make it with an espresso base? I asked with my best smile… bah non!
So, many times I would order a cappuccino hoping against hope that a weak bitter coffee with a fluffy airy “mousse” wouldn’t arrive, but usually it did! A coffee isn’t cheap either… the minute you add any milk then it is often cheaper to order a glass of wine than a latté or cappuccino!
You can understand why the French have got used to drinking espressos, as at about €2 a go (unless you stand at the bar where it is cheaper) they down it, get their caffeine fix, maybe smoke a cigarette and get on with their day, not knowing that there is a whole magical world of coffee out there that they don’t know about. It is like drinking cheap wine then one day drinking a fine vintage!
I am currently living in Sydney where I am spoilt for choice for good coffee, but whenever I go back to Paris it is something that really hits me, and I confess it spoils the café experience for me when I’m there (that and the cigarettes).
I often opt for a chocolat chaud, a citron pressé, an infusion or thé as these are always well presented and taste good, steering well away from my usual boisson of choice, le café! So, when one of my best friends, Patricia, took me to Coutume, meaning custom, on my first morning back in Paris recently, promising me “real coffee”, I was a little doubtful…
However, I was soon ordering a second café at Coutume and feeling quite at home in the industrial decor and Australian influenced café on 47 rue de Babylone in the 7th arrondissement. They serve a full array of well-extracted coffee which they roast themselves at the back. Owners Tom Clark and Antoine Netien have a great team and it is evident that they are passionate about taking the coffee industry forward in France. It was a pleasure to meet them both and The Sydney Morning Herald beat me to the punch and also recently ran an article on them which gives more information on how they launched Coutume and their vision for expansion. To read the article published on the 31 Jan 2012 in the SMH please click here.
Since returning from Paris and spreading the word to our students and fellow Francophiles, everyone seems excited. Regina Ferreira, fellow foodie and owner of Petite Paris, an Australian based company specialising in B&B accommodation in Paris, reported back after her visit, “The first sip of my Coutume coffee brought a huge sigh of welcome relief. Finally coffee that tasted the way it should in the otherwise gastronomic capital. The coffee here is as it should be; smooth and rich not bitter or burnt so you know that passionate baristas must be at work here! Paris, meet good coffee, finally!”
So it seems that Coutume is already becoming a delightful custom for Australians in Paris, and with plans to open more locations it can only be good news for those of us whose day is made richer and travel in Paris sweeter by Coutume Café.
47 rue de Babylone, 75007
Tel. +33 (0)1 45 51 50 47
Useful addresses for the café enthusiast in Paris
I haven’t had the joy of visiting these other places yet but have them on by to-do list for my next trip. Friends of mine have very much enjoyed them though … so here we go!
If you go to Beanhunter.com you will find some varied reviews about coffee in Paris. The cafés below have all got a good reputation and each offer a different décor and atmosphere so try them all and see which you prefer!
54 rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 75004
Tel. +33 (0)1 53 01 83 84
256 Rue St-Honoré, 75001
Tel. +33 (0)1 42 60 67 39
Kooka Boora Café
62 Rue des Martyrs, 75009
Tel. +33 (0)1 56 92 12 41
Article by Rachel Guernier, French Moments, Sydney
Un grand merci to Coutume’s owners Tom Clark and Antoine Netien for taking time out of their day!