In an earlier blog post entitled, Coffee… Coffee… Coffee… ( https://bellandainparis.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/coffee-coffee-coffee ), I wrote about my love affair with coffee and how it began as the result of a rather unusual twist of fate in Paris, 1990. Since that time, my tastes have refined and an increased desire to learn more about the substance that has become a rather intricate part of my everyday life has developed. I am far from a coffee expert, but have been making it my mission to learn.
I started noticing the slightest and most subtle differences in a simple cup of espresso. As with fine wine, I learned that each coffee has traits, flavors, and aromas that identify and define it. There is even something called a Grand Cru. Who knew? Okay, maybe you did, but like I was saying, I was a total novice. The more I learned and I drank coffee, the more frustrated I became. No matter how much coffee I drank, I couldn’t find an espresso with substance here in Paris. I mean really, how hard could it be to find a decent espresso in a city that is famous for its gourmet food? I was dismayed that even in some of the finest restaurants in Paris, I was left with regret after ordering an espresso at the end of a dinner that could easily have been rated as one of the best meals of my life.
Maybe it’s the romantic in me that created some kind of myth that Paris and coffee go hand in hand. In the movies and in everyday life, it is very typical for the French to grab a coffee with a client, colleague or a friend. Due to the large population of coffee drinkers here in Paris, I imagined that they would be sipping good, if not amazing coffee in those Paris cafés. I played along, drinking sometimes the undrinkable to be sociable, and not to appear impolite. Then, I reached a point when I had truly had enough. I decided to begin a search to find THE perfect espresso/coffee in Paris. I started changing coffee and cafés like people change socks. I made up excuses as to why I needed to meet at coffee locations in which I had never been. Each time, my hopes of finding a delicious coffee were met with disappointment… Talk about busting my romantic Paris myth!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the luxury back in the day that enables us to do a quick search on the internet to find what we need with the flick of a finger. Being an expat certainly didn’t help much either. I had no idea where to even begin looking and literally had no one that I could ask. I know that Paris might not be as large as New York, but at least I knew where to go when I was there. Here, in this beautiful city, it was hit and miss with a whole lot of burnt and bitter coffee misses.
As luck would have it, years later, in the age of Twitter and Facebook, I met a real Parisian who brought me to a place in Paris that changed my notion of finding the one perfect coffee. I realized that I was going about this entirely the wrong way! The truth is that there can be many a perfect coffee… one only needs to find a place that takes coffee seriously. After giving this a lot of thought, I decided to save my fellow coffee drinkers the trouble that my very own taste buds had been inflicted by letting you in on what I consider to be a coffee paradise in Paris. For me, this place is La Caféothèque… Even the name is appropriate! http://www.lacafeotheque.com
As soon as I walked through the door, a large coffee roaster greeted me, as if to say, you’ve found the right place.
The odor of freshly ground coffee nearly made my head spin with joy. Yes, this was indeed going to be an experience! I couldn’t wait to order my espresso, so when the waiter arrived, I quickly said, “Bonjour! Un espresso, s’il vous plaît.” He looked at me with a gentle smile, and kindly showed me a menu. I looked at the menu, only to discover that this menu was dedicated to their coffee selection. My surprised expression must have given away the fact that I was going to need a little time to decide. The server smiled again, and asked if I would like a little explanation of the menu. I felt like a giddy little school girl. Had I just found THE place to drink real coffee? It sure looked like I had, so I made myself a promise that if I couldn’t find a decent coffee here, I was going back to drinking tea.
I listened intently as this kind server pointed out that each coffee was classified by country and by the grower’s plantation. There was a description of each coffee’s essence and hints of flavor. I was amazed to see such a vast array of small coffee growers from around the world: Guatemala, Brazil, Peru, Ethiopia, Panama, Dominican Republic, Malawi, and Cameroon, among others. This is the first time I had seen such a detailed traceability of origin, with such a humane approach to coffee selection. I ordered my coffee and then sat back to soak in the decoration of this café. La Caféothèque is not your typical Paris Café, but that is just one of the things that makes this place special.
Suddenly, I heard the sound of coffee being ground. I looked over to the counter to find my server grinding the beans to be used for my espresso. I tried hard to contain myself from screaming, Yes! Finally! This was going to be my very first freshly ground espresso since I left New York! The aroma reached me before that of my coffee, and I couldn’t help but think how stupid I must look sitting there by myself with a big silly grin.
The espresso was served with a piece of chocolate, a glass of water and a smile. Wait, where am I again? Oh right, Paris! Service and a smile… Wow! This is something I truly appreciated, especially since I had stopped asking for water when I got several dirty looks for having given the other waiters more work in a couple of other Paris cafés.
I sat there and just stared at my espresso for a moment. It looked so rich, almost creamy but with no milk. Finally, a coffee with substance! I took little sips and moved the espresso around my mouth. From that moment on, I was sold. Whenever possible, La Caféothèque has become my meeting place. It has since grown in size and in what it offers clients, but fear not. I was pleased that they remained faithful to that small café spirit. Instead of making one huge room, they added two completely new smaller rooms. In addition, they hold art expositions with coffee themes, concerts, and coffee classes.
As many of you know, I’m normally an espresso kinda gal. However, this is not to be missed… It is as beautiful as it tastes.
La Caféothèque serves their coffee drinks in many forms, but I have yet to be disappointed by the coffee of the day. Each coffee brings me closer to a better understanding of what I love and enjoy.
To get the most out of your experience, I recommend a morning visit during the week to avoid the crowds… Perhaps you will even see me there. Oh, and you might want to get some of that coffee ground up to go… I always do!
Is it possible to find a truly wonderful espresso or coffee in Paris? Definitely, it just took me a while to do so. Do you have a favorite café of your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and other cafés in Paris or anywhere else in the world.