During a recent heated discussion with AB about where to go for coffee in Paris:
AB: “You don’t even like coffee!”
Me: “Well, I don’t like drinking shitty, over-roasted coffee.”

I seldom drink coffee. Once in while, especially when I travel for work and tend to get less sleep than usual, I would have some cappuccino at breakfast – partly to unblock my stuffed nose (no idea why sleeping too little causes this though) and because the coffee is usually better than what I would get at a regular cafe/brasserie. Even then, I usually only drink about a third of it before it gets too cold.

Back to Paris…

We ended up at Coutume Café @ 47 rue de Babylone, 75007, on the other side of the Seine (we usually hang out on the right bank). The striking decor is reminiscent of a Science laboratory with its white tiles and stainless steel sinks – that act as miniature indoor gardens – complete with conical flasks used to serve ‘carafe d’eau’ (tap water). Only that it has been transposed into a typical Parisian interior with its high ceilings, mouldings and oak floors.

It was crowded when we were there on a Saturday afternoon and I was feeling a little self-conscious about taking photos, so all I captured was my order of “Café Coutume”.

Priced at 6€, this is a single shot of Costa Rican coffee served with honey and a chunk of parmesan cheese (no joking!) that you’re recommended to taste in alternate turns between sips of the slightly acidic coffee. While this was an unusual pairing and took a few sips to get accustomed to the various distinct tastes, I actually quite enjoyed how the pungent parmesan and sweet honey complemented the coffee.

Coutume café @ 47 rue de Babylone01 - café Coutume honey + parmesanl64lf

Here are a few other cafes that I would recommend if you’d like to have some quality coffee in Paris:

La Caféothèque @ 52 rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 75004 – the name is a combination of “café” (coffee) and “bibliothèque” (library), which is quite apt given its extensive selection of single-estate coffee beans.

img024 - La Caféotheque ps

Opened by a former Guatemalan ambassador to France a decade ago, La Caféothèque roasts its own beans and you can try some of their excellent coffee – always served with some dark chocolate and some water – in the cafe or buy some freshly ground beans to enjoy at home.

The cafe is quite large and features several intimate salons in different styles. My favourite is the one that is all the way inside, with a lovely wall that is covered with coffee plants.

img026 - La Caféotheque

I really like these photos taken at La Caféothèque with AB’s rangefinder.

Ten Belles @ 10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010 is a little double-level cafe near Canal St. Martin that oozes plenty of style and also attracts an equally hip ‘bobo’ (bourgeois bohème) crowd. The pastries served here are made by the team at Le Bal Café – we tried a brownie and it was good (lots of butter, sugar and chocolate)!

Apparently the colourful, collapsible stools – which you can just about see on the extreme left – have been so well-received that they are now available for sale.

10 Belles @ 10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles01,5k64When I took the photo on the left, I was focused on the barista at work at the stainless steel counter. It was only when I was editing the photos (after more than a year later) that I noticed there was a couple enjoying an intimate moment right outside the cafe.

Café Craft @ 24 Rue des Vinaigriers, 75010 is on the other side of the canal from 10 Belles and offers a rather different, minimalist and relatively quiet ambience. It is both a cafe and a co-working space, which means that you can work for as long as you like (during its operating hours) if you pay a nominal fee. The coffee is well made here and the banana chocolate cake is delicious.

Café Craft @ 24 Rue des Vinaigriers02k64

By the way, I love the checkered tiled floor – as you can see in the photo below, which shows some of the notes that I had furiously made in my notebook following my conversation with a prostitute in Belleville.


For further information and recommendations on where to find good coffee in Paris:
Paris by Mouth: Percolating in Paris
The Financial Times: Aussie coffee arrives in the French capital
Good Coffee in Paris: Nice blog on some of the best spots to get a proper caffeine fix
Time Out Paris: Round up of 10 top places to enjoy coffee

24 replies on “No Shitty Coffee in Paris

  1. A man who likes coffee and uses a rangefinder. You have chosen well. I’ll pass the recommendations on as cost centre number 1 is in Paris at the moment.

    1. Merci 🙂 Hope your elder daughter is not chalking up too many bills while in Paris (though that is something for her husband/her to worry about instead)!

      1. I think she is on expenses – working on fashion week or something or other. Fashion and Andrew are two words that normally don’t get written in the same sentence but her mother understands.

  2. Have to agree with Andrew. 😉 You should shoot his camera or pick up one for yourself.

    BTW, I found a good deal on a new old stock black X100, and should have it sometime next week. Actually ordered one way back when they first came out (IIRC September 2011), but chickened out when I saw reports of the infamous SAB. Kind of funny that I’ll be getting one almost two and a half years later.

    1. Maybe if I get down to finding a good printer/developer in Brussels, I might make use of his camera more.
      Great that you’ve found a good deal on the all-black x100. Bet the price must have been really good now that the x100s has been launched. I’ve never heard of the sticky aperture blade issue… the only thing that took a while to get used to is the relatively slow focusing (auto & manual). Enjoy shooting with your new arrival (soon)!

      1. Understand what you mean – where we live (pretty much in the middle of nowhere) that’s a big problem, but surprised to hear that’s a problem in Brussels. You could always try an entry-level digital rangefinder like a used Epson RD-1. Personally, it’s not about film vs digital, but how simplified things are shooting a rangefinder. The black x100 was a little over 50% off from it’s initial US (very high) price. The hard/lucky part was to find one at all, since they’ve been discontinued for about a year and a half or so.

        1. Hmmm, I was thinking of black-and-white film development when I made that comment, so maybe quality and reasonably-priced colour film development is much easier to find here. I shall keep a look-out for a secondhand rangefinder – I am not really familiar with camera models (aside from whatever I’m using) so will definitely keep your recommendation in mind 🙂

          >50% savings on the x100 is significant. Given that the improvements made on the x100s are not that groundbreaking, now’s a good time to get the x100 at a ‘bargain’ .

  3. Thanks for the tips! How bizzare that in a city like Paris one has to look through binoculars to find good coffee! Which in any case is way too overpriced! I’ve only been to the Cafeotheque but would definitely try cafe Coutume and some of the others next time!

  4. What a fascinating pairing, and I love the décor at Coutume. I hardly ever drink coffee (I like the taste but not the aftertaste) but while we were in Kyoto I noticed a ton of tiny, intriguing-looking coffee shops/roasteries around there. Have you had coffee in Japan?

    1. We were in Tokyo for just a few days and we stayed in the Yanaka neighbourhood which had quite a few independent / cosy coffee places. I didn’t have any coffee though. But now that you’ve mentioned your observation in Kyoto, I did a quick search online and it’s interesting, though not surprising, to learn about Japan’s coffee culture and its kissatens (coffee shops)!

      1. What an interesting article! It’s true — the kissatens I noticed around Kyoto did seem to fit the “small and moody” description, which is partly why I stayed out of them. I can muster my courage for foreign-country “small and moody” if it’s something I’m really committed to, but since I’m such an infrequent coffee drinker, it wasn’t worth nerving myself to go into one. 😉

  5. Loved this post. I love Ten Belles and Coutume. Next time you’re in town, check out Fondation as well.

    PS I just picked up a Foca Sport II, a French-made rangefinder from the 60s!

    1. Will make a note of Fondation – thanks for the tip! Have fun taking photos with your rangefinder. Maybe it’s time I look around for a secondhand one for myself 🙂

  6. I have an X100 that sits in the dry cabinet. Never use it as I bought the X100s. I have heard so SAB but I don’t remember it as a problem. I’ll have to check. The X100s is a very nice piece of kit.

      1. The X100 is good but if you trade in and up to the S you will find it faster, better at focussing and generally nicer. I really like the focus peaking ability. I use it in manual a lot too. Worth shelling out for it although there may be an even better version soon so maybe wait a bit!

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