A Thirst for Good Coffee Transforms Paris Cafe Culture

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Paris may be synonymous with cafe culture, but artisanal coffee shops are apparently another matter entirely. That distinction may now be diminishing, however, as expat entrepreneurs from the coffee-loving United States, Australia, New Zealand and beyond are bringing to the city on the Seine their taste for boutique beans and bespoke brews, offered up lovingly amidst a spare aesthetic some describe as “Brooklyn.”

Yes (er … oui?), according to the Washington Post, hipster New York-and-Seattle-style coffee shops are becoming de rigueur in Paris.

“The only thing really wrong with our cafe culture is our coffee,” Nico Alary recently told the Post. Alary is a Melbourne-trained French barista who opened Holybelly, one of the growing number of specialty coffee shops in Paris, and one of the few where you can get your coffee in an actual mug.

Perhaps you are surprised that a city where quietly sipping cafe au lait, munching a croissant and watching the beautiful people stroll by wasn’t really all that into high-end coffee before?

“While Paris had a robust café culture, until recently the city did not have a coffee culture, at least not one focused on the quality of what was in the cup,” Anna Brones, founder of the website Foodie Underground and author of the book Paris Coffee Revolution, wrote last month in Fresh Cup Magazine. “Shots were harsh, bitter, and over-extracted, made of coffee sourced from French industrial coffee giants. In a culture known for painstakingly focusing on the food served on a plate and the wine poured into a glass, how could the quality of the coffee be so bad?”

How indeed? In any event, it’s all changing.

In recent years, Paris has embraced higher-quality coffee, Brones, who is originally from Oregon, notes in Fresh Cup. She adds, “Today Paris leads the way in the French specialty coffee scene, influencing other cities around France, and around the rest of Europe.”

However, the Post observes, Paris’ coffee shops are bringing their own “French twist” to their filtered cups. Because wages are higher and volume is lower, a good cup may cost a bit more than it does in the U.S. But some of the shops, including Alary’s Holybelly, are finding their economic equilibrium by offering their customers an array of food options to order along with their java.

A good cup of coffee with a side of yummy French food? C’est magnifique!

Photo courtesy of iStock