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Espresso in Paris


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#1 Orik

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 06:04 PM

The best espresso we've found in Paris remains at Cafeotheque - we've been using it for two years now and it's starting to become "famous" (featured in the nytimes sub-sub-sub-blog on coffee) and sometimes crowded, but remains the only place to get a professional shot or a correctly made cappuccino every time. All roasting is done on premises and Paris isn't that big on air quality laws, so you're going to have to deal with smelling like burnt rubber on occasion.

On the other hand, a great indication of how clueless and consensus seeking food bloggers here can be is a shop called Merce and The Muse. Reading the blogs you get the impression (from everyone) that this is going to be more or less as good as Cafeotheque. Walking in you see that this might not be the case - baked goods are piled about in a sloppy way, an unappealing pot of pumpkin soup is not quite bubbling just by the espresso machine, and the espresso itself (even though I think they might have been using coffee from Soluna - the house brand of Cafeotheque), it tasted like dirty espresso machine. The milk in the cap lacked texture - this was a cafe au lait and not a good one.

Gocce di Caffe makes a perfectly acceptable Italian cup. Better than meh, but not a reason to go too far out of your way.

There are also some places on the nice block of rue Rambuteau (before it disintegrates into that thing near Centre Pompidou) that are supposed to be good (a couple roast their own), haven't tried them yet.
I never said that

#2 Ron Johnson

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 08:15 PM

where do you stay when you are there?

#3 Orik

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 01:56 PM

A very nice apartment on rue de Charonne.
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#4 joethefoodie

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 01:00 PM

There are also some places on the nice block of rue Rambuteau (before it disintegrates into that thing near Centre Pompidou) that are supposed to be good (a couple roast their own), haven't tried them yet.


Cafés Amazone? For their beans.

11, rue Rambuteau.

#5 Orik

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 06:54 PM

So, Amazone probably has some very good beans, but they're not very serious about making coffee. BAL Cafe, that you'll read a lot about, has really weird espresso and it's nearly impossible to have it as they want you to sit down for a meal nearly any time of day (and you really don't need to do that). Cafeotheque remains the most convincing option, even more so after you see how well managed their coffee inventory is.
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#6 Ptipois

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 06:26 AM

One of my favorite coffees in Paris is at Brûlerie San José on rue des Petits-Champs. At rush hour (2:30-3 PM) you have to enter the place with a shoehorn.

Lieu jaune lobbyist

Chez Ptipois


#7 prasantrin

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 03:04 PM

Oliver Strand in his NYTimes blog asks Is Coffee in Paris Improving?

The short answer is

For the most part, coffee in Paris still sucks so bad, but it’s getting better, and the scene forming around the monthly Frog Fight is a peek into what might be the city’s future. Now, a handful of Paris cafes have good coffee. Depending on who’s behind the bar, the coffee can be great.


His favourite is Le Bal, but he also mentions Le Cafeotheque and Merce and the Muse.

#8 Orik

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 03:21 PM

I can only assume he was much luckier than we were at BAL, and he seems to not have even visited Merce (good for him, but then why write about it?)

The crowd at Cafeotheque is still overwhelmingly non-French, but there were signs of genuine interest in good coffee, sort of like where nyc was in 2000, and many more random cafes are serving Italian brands than before.
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#9 Orik

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 06:48 PM

The comments on Oliver's piece are priceless.

Dear American,

Taste buds are trained during childhood. As an anglosaxon, saturated with sugar and spices from childhood, you will never be able to sample subtle variations in taste and in general, your judgement is based on absurd criteria, like beans shape and so on. That would not be a problem if through an unfortunate combination of military aggression and senseless economical policies, your world had not gained a disproportionate say on anything, from French literature to coffee. If you are one of these well learned tolerant American, then do the right thing: stay quiet and drink your filter coffee in Starbuck.




go home. if you go to a cafe to judge the coffee, you've forgotten why one goes to cafes.




I spend alot of time in Paris, and beg to differ-- lecafe est toujours super! I can't believe anyone would find fault with it-as a matter of fact, I'm forever nattering on to friends that the coffee in the U.S. should be so lucky as to be as rich, strong (but NEVER bitter) and luscious as les tasses I've enjoyed in France. For the record, I loathe Starbucks!!




I never said that

#10 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 06:50 PM

The comments on Oliver's piece are priceless.

Dear American,

Taste buds are trained during childhood. As an anglosaxon, saturated with sugar and spices from childhood, you will never be able to sample subtle variations in taste and in general, your judgement is based on absurd criteria, like beans shape and so on. That would not be a problem if through an unfortunate combination of military aggression and senseless economical policies, your world had not gained a disproportionate say on anything, from French literature to coffee. If you are one of these well learned tolerant American, then do the right thing: stay quiet and drink your filter coffee in Starbuck.




go home. if you go to a cafe to judge the coffee, you've forgotten why one goes to cafes.




I spend alot of time in Paris, and beg to differ-- lecafe est toujours super! I can't believe anyone would find fault with it-as a matter of fact, I'm forever nattering on to friends that the coffee in the U.S. should be so lucky as to be as rich, strong (but NEVER bitter) and luscious as les tasses I've enjoyed in France. For the record, I loathe Starbucks!!




love love love the use of the term "anglosaxon"

French coffee sucks. The only thing worse than french coffee is eastern european instant coffee
Why not mayo?

#11 Ptipois

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 11:30 AM

Still, reviewing yet another couple of new, small hip places and concluding that coffee in Paris "is getting better" seems a bit silly. What is important is the overall picture, not just tiny epiphenomena. The truth is that in Paris we've had more or less the same situation for a few decades, with a strong contrast between yucky ordinary troquet espresso and better stuff at some dedicated places, and the real substantial improvement happening for a couple of years now is the slow, growing shift in some corner cafés from Cafés Richard's basic blend to other wholesalers with better choice and quality. Two more or two less baristas in t-shirts and bangs do not make an improvement.

Coffee in Paris is generally atrocious for definite historical reasons (above which the writer distantly hovers, which is already something) and punctually delicious for other definite reasons (what about the many brûleries, salons de thé, well-maintained cafés (yes there are some), restaurants where they care about coffee, etc.?) but neither of his posts reflect the Paris situation in all fairness. It would require a bit more legwork and research than was obviously applied there.

Some reactions are certainly over the top but I think the condescending, superior tone in those two sloppily researched articles did nothing to prevent them. "Good" coffee is not necessarily coffee that reproduces the taste experiences that visitors - and NYT bloggers - get at home.

Lieu jaune lobbyist

Chez Ptipois


#12 Orik

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 03:25 PM

We'll have to disagree about that - there is nothing condescending in stating that coffee in Paris largely sucks, not just in a typical cafe (which would be the equivalent of saying nyc delis serve terrible coffee), but even in most cafes that are "known" for better coffee. The relative improvement from Richard to either the Italian brands or one of the local roasters is noted but it still doesn't produce very good results (for example you won't find many (any?) cafes where they manage their inventory of roasted beans and serve them when they are at the right age - nobody really cares).

Of the 20+ cafes I've tried recently (unlike Oliver, I prefer to try more places than I write about ;) ), none except Cafeotheque would be considered particularly good in New York today (even excluding famously terrible places like Flore, or famously sub-par places like Push Cafe). The improvement to seriously good coffee will only come from those hipster baristas and their influence, and there are far more than two of them by now.

But regardless of your perspective, partially digested grains of truth in a pile of chauvinistic turds is how I'd classify the responses. The idea that American Espresso in 2010 = Starbucks is especially grating... I wonder what they'd come up with if the writer had been Italian. Posted Image
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#13 Wilfrid

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 06:16 PM

I am completely alone in this, I know, but I like the standard petit noir you can buy at any bar in the morning. It has a distinctive taste, but it appeals to me. I can't help it. I think it may be a case of nostalgia playing a part in judgment - I think the flavor just tells me I'm in France. :(

#14 Orik

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 06:52 PM

I am completely alone in this, I know, but I like the standard petit noir you can buy at any bar in the morning. It has a distinctive taste, but it appeals to me. I can't help it. I think it may be a case of nostalgia playing a part in judgment - I think the flavor just tells me I'm in France. :(



Part of the problem (if you think there is one) is that the distinctive taste has been getting distinctively worse because of this:

http://www.indexmund...ffee&months=240

and this:

http://www.indexmund...ffee&months=240


I never said that

#15 Ptipois

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 10:07 PM

Oh, but I do agree that coffee (generally) sucks, not just in Paris, but in France.

The statement that coffee sucks in France (roughly speaking) is not condescending: it is only partially wrong, but it is right to an extent that does not make it sound unreasonable.

I was referring to the tone of the articles ("Watch out, I am from the NYT and I know what coffee should taste like; I haven't done a lot of research on the topic of coffee in Paris and France, but I'll give you the final word on it") and to the relative unsignificance of their revelations compared to their initial ambition. Not to the global judgement on l'express sur le zinc.

So we have two NYT posts, one is titled "Why is coffee in Paris so bad?" and does not answer the question at all; neither of them mentions the Brûlerie San José (for instance); and the second one includes the brilliant: "Since then, I’ve been back to Paris and I can report that the coffee is improving. Little by little" (which means basically that the author has visited three places). Am I all alone in considering that a bit short as field work goes?

If the author had looked a little deeper into the subject, he would have noticed, like many of us Parisians, that we've been having the hipster baristas for some time now - sometimes we get new ones, sometimes we lose one or two -, and that they are not, ultimately, what is globally making the coffee situation in Paris better. They are punctually making it more like how New Yorkers visiting Paris would want to find it.

And that is not, ultimately, how coffee improves in Paris. Making better coffee in Paris does not mean making coffee that "would be considered particularly good in New York today". Coffee has many different tastes, and there is a French taste of coffee, discernable when the historical plague of robusta beans, over-roasting, and boiling chalky water is set aside.

Lieu jaune lobbyist

Chez Ptipois