Each time my husband and I visit Paris, we have to reacquaint ourselves with how to order coffee in Paris! You walk into a Paris cafe in the first thing you want to know is how does French coffee ordering work?
During a recent trip to Paris, my husband and I noticed a distinctly new difficulty in coffee ordering. Our coffee of preference while in France is the “noisette.” An espresso which just a kiss of hot milk. It's called a noisette (hazelnut in English) because of the color of the coffee.
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Not complicated right? For nearly a week, no matter where we went, which Paris cafe we visited, even to places we had frequented many times, it was nearly impossible to get the correct version.
We got regular coffee with milk. Both coffee with hot milk. Regular coffee with cold milk. Espresso with no milk. Espressos with cold milk. It was bizarre!
If it had been anywhere else but Paris I would just shrug it off, but this was Paris!
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That got me thinking about the extensive types of French coffee drinks that are available to order. I thought it might be fun and useful to describe the different types and how to order coffee in Paris, even if Paris coffee shops do their own thing! These are the ones that I am familiar with if any of my Parisian blogging buddies want to chime in, please do!
French coffee types
- Un café – plain coffee with nothing added, strong and (usually, not always) brewed like espresso but served in a bigger cup
- Un café au lait – coffee with steamed milk, you will sometimes get the coffee served in one pot or in the cup, and then a pitcher of steamed milk/cream
- Un café crème – coffee served in a large cup (as opposed to a normal size cup) with hot milk/cream
- Un café americain – filtered coffee
- Un expresso or un express – espresso – that one is easy!
- Un noisette – espresso with a hint of hot milk/cream in it
- Un crème – espresso with half of hot milk/cream (served in a coffee cup rather than an espresso cup)
- Un allongé – espresso coffee with double the amount of water, basically a weak black coffee
- Un serré – espresso coffee with half the usual amount of water, basically strong black coffee, in Switzerland this is called a ristretto (it is what I drink every morning from my Swiss Nespresso machine
- Un double – a double espresso
- Un déca – decaf coffee
If you want anything beyond that, you better go to Starbucks. But don't expect that you will be able to order anything like a “half-caf-half-decaf-extra-blah-blah-with-no-foam, etc.” Never going to happen!
Coffee etiquette in France
So the French are a little “picky” on this but believe me, it is worse in Italy! In restaurants, you can drink a café noir (black) or espresso any time of day, but the only time you can drink it with food is at breakfast.
Also, you will not be served your coffee until after you have finished your dessert, no matter what! The only way to get around this is to order a café gourmand. Normally it is customary to have an espresso (or a deca espresso), so if you try to order something that has milk/cream, they will look at you a bit strange or ignore you, but my husband and I still do it.
You have now been educated in the ways of coffee à la France. Go forth an order.
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Great places for Coffee in Paris
Here are a few great lists of coffee spots in Paris from friends that live there:
> You can find great new coffee spots in Lindsey's book, The New Paris.
> My friend Kasia has her favorite Coffee Picks too.
> David Lebovitz shares where he thinks you can get a good cup of coffee in Paris.
> Haven in Paris shares cafes that have opened recently.
> Paris by Mouth has a listing of coffee places by arrondissement.
> My friends at La Cuisine Paris have put together a great map of their favorite coffee places.
How about you? Anyone else have any coffee-related travel stories?
And if you are heading to Paris anytime soon, consider purchasing a Paris Pass before you go, it will save you money on many Paris attractions, leaving you more money for coffee!
Illustrations commissioned from Linden Eller.
For a visual summary of this post, check out my coffee in Paris web story!
I am married to a French man, lived in France for 3 years, and have been to Paris more than 50 times. I am always a tourist so the information, tip, and tricks I share are created to help you!
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- Look for fares using sites like Skyscanner or Expedia.com.
- For France (Paris) coming from the West Coast, I typically fly Air France or United. From the East Coast, I typically fly Air France or Delta.
- If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. Not only will you have a spot to relax before your flight and charge your devices, but you can eat and drink for free (without paying crazy airport prices!)
- I use Expedia.com, Booking.com, and Hotels.com to find lodging. Always check the reviews on TripAdvisor before booking!
- For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. When traveling in Europe, I use AutoEurope to make reservations. They find the best rates and allow you to compare different car rental agencies. I typically book with Sixt.
- For transportation from the CDG airport to anywhere within Paris, consider pre-booking with Get Transfer. It is one way to be stress-free and you can request an English-speaking driver.
- Tours + Atractions
- I book tours with companies like Viator and GetYourGuide. Both have a wide variety of activities for every travel style. Other companies to look at include Tours by Locals and Withlocals.
- If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City.
- Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities.
- If you are looking to buy tickets to attractions, check out Tiquet.
- Don't Forget Travel Photos
- One of my favorite things to do is to get photos taken of me while on vacation. Flytographer is a great option with photographers all over the world.
- Peace of Mind
- It’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. I always travel with insurance and would recommend SafetyWing, SquareMouth or Travelex Insurance are good options.
- Should you have any trouble with flight delays to the extent you feel you deserve compensation, I encourage you to check out and use AirHelp. I used them and for 1 claim I got compensated (transparency: a 2nd claim did not, but I was still glad I tried!).