The specialty coffee movement has revolutionised Paris in the past three or four years and turned the French capital into a big player in the European coffee scene.
I hadn’t been to Paris since 2011, so when I went back for a weekend last November I had a long list of coffee places to try. Too many for just a weekend actually! Luckily I was back in Paris for work last month, just for a day and a half but enough to continue my tour of the best Parisian coffee shops!
My guide is not – and could never be – an exhaustive overview of the ever-evolving Paris coffee scene. What I am sharing here is a list of some of the most popular coffee shops in town which I have visited.
My favourite discovery has been Fragments, a stripped-back cafe in the east end of Le Marais. It’s a small shop in a tiny street and there’s no way you will just stumble upon it, you have to be looking for it. Maybe that’s the beauty of it.
I was there on a Saturday late morning and there were a few empty tables, perhaps I had missed the weekend breakfast rush. It was quiet, welcoming, relaxing. My husband and I shared a filter coffee and chatted to the owner / barista about the shop ethos and background.
Fragments offered at the time a menu entirely focused on porridge, using oats sourced from a local farm. This is the spirit behind Fragments: do a few things, produced locally and do them well. The coffee beans change with the season and are roasted in Paris by French roaster Stéphane Cataldi.
Fragments is located in 76 Rue des Tournelles, 75003 Paris, France.
Another great discovery during my visit last November was Café Kitsuné, located underneath the arcade of Palais Royal and within walking distance from the Louvre. Maison Kitsuné is a cool design brand and concept store with one coffee shop in Tokyo and one in Paris. They use coffee beans from one of my favourite London roasters, Workshop Coffee, and serve homemade cakes and cookies. In the summer they have iced coffee, ice-cream and sorbets.
My favourite drink was a Yuzu Tea, recommended to us by the barista. It was a welcoming change after the many coffees we drunk that day!
Café Kitsuné is located in 51 Galerie de Montpensier, 75001 Paris.
No guide to Paris coffee could miss Télescope. I have met the owner of Télescope, Nicolas Clerc, a couple of times at events in London, but I hadn’t been to his coffee shop until a few weeks ago. During my trip last November I arrived at the shop after it was already closed, but when I went back in June for a press trip I made sure to get there in time.
Nicolas opened Télescope in March 2012 in the 2nd arrondissement, behind the Palais Royal in a neighbourhood full of Japanese restaurants and shops. It’s central enough for you to visit, but hidden enough for tourists to ignore it.
I was there for only half an hour, a quick stop in between the press events I was scheduled to attend. I got a glimpse of what Télescope is about: a small, unassuming neighbourhood cafe serving good quality beans crafted by skilled baristas.
Telescope is located in 5 Rue Villedo, 75001 Paris.
The only coffee shop on my list to be in the heart of the Left Bank is Coutume (just a few minutes walk from Le Bon Marché department store). Coutume Café and roastery opened in 2011, kick-starting the Paris coffee revolution. I remember visiting in the summer of 2011 at a time when I didn’t know much about speciality coffee and I saw there my first ever coffee cupping sessions. The bar is sleek and modern, with high ceilings and tall front windows. Definitely worth a detour next time you’re shopping in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Coutume Café is located in 47 Rue de Babylone, 75007 Paris.
Found in trendy Canal Saint Martin, Holybelly is as famous for its coffee as it is for its Instagrammed pancakes.
I was curious to visit this popular brunch spot, so I got there early to beat the queue. We were able to get a table for two almost straight away at 10:10 on a Saturday morning (Holybelly opens at 10) but by the time we left less than an hour later there was a long queue outside.
The coffee alone, roasted at nearby Brulerie de Belleville, wasn’t exciting enough to make want to go back. I wasn’t drinking milk at the time, so I ordered filter coffee and the only choice available was batch brew filter coffee. I like to be able to choose between different single origin beans and brewing methods (though I appreciate it’s not always sustainable for coffee shops to offer this – especially very busy ones).
I liked the coffee shop and the pancakes (with fresh fruit and cream, pistachios & maple syrup) were delicious, so I get why Holybelly is so popular with tourists and expats. If you’re looking for a Melbourne style café to brunch in Paris, Holybelly is the place for you.
Holybelly is located in 19 Rue Lucien Sampaix, 75010 Paris.
Not far from Holybelly and almost facing the Canal Saint Martin is Ten Belles, opened in 2012 by Thomas Lehoux. Like the others coffee shops, it’s tiny with only a dozen seats inside.
Like Holybelly they don’t brew on demand so the only filter coffee option is batch brew. The espresso blends change seasonally. They have a small kitchen where English chef Anne Trattles bakes scones, cakes and sausage rolls.
Ten Belles is located in 10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010 Paris.
Overall I found many small, neighbourhood shops opened by passionate baristas keen to bring good coffee to Paris. The influence from London is heavy, as most of the shops I visited used beans from UK roasters.
At the moment in Paris there aren’t any of the impressive, big warehouse roasteries like you find in US or Australia. At least not yet. Given that many of the customers I’ve seen in specialty coffee shops in Paris were foreigners, it’ll be interesting to see if their style and preferences will affect the local traditions.
As the speciality coffee movement keeps growing in continental Europe, so the Paris coffee scene will keep evolving – and I will keep an eye on it!