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Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

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Paris, France
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Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

I know this has been done to death, and will probably open up a whole can of worms, but here it is anyway - having watched many unhappy tourists (US, British, Italian, German...) this weekend in a few different cafes, I think it bears repeating. The quality of coffee in the average Parisian cafe is not what one hopes for. Ordering - and getting - something close to what you would like can help make things more bearable. There are better coffee places opening up, and you can make decent coffee at home, but if you go out, here's what to expect in the average cafe:

Cappuccino should be drunk in Italy, period. In Paris, what you almost always get is an impressive souffle of froth and some useless brown water. Sometimes there's more brown stuff sprinkled on top. Costs a lot, looks impressive, absolutely no flavor. Definitely worth a trip to Italy.

"Cafe au lait" is what you drink at home, in your pyjamas, usually out of a bowl that you have had since childhood. When you want coffee with milk in a cafe, order "un cafe creme" or "un grand creme" - for a large cup of coffee with about an equal amount of milk, or "un noisette" for a small espresso with a drop of milk in it. I find "cafe creme" way too heavy on the milk, so I order "un double noisette" - a double espresso with a little pitcher of hot milk alongside.

Iced coffee is not always available, but when it is, it's listed as "un cafe frappe" (frah-PAY) - a tall glass of strong black coffee shaken with some ice and usually a lot of sugar, sometimes served over ice, sometimes not. You can ask to have it made without sugar, "sans sucre", and I'm sure you could ask for milk to be added, though I have never done this - "avec un peu de lait". I have seen "cafe glace" (glah-SAY) in a few places, and would expect it to be the same thing.

Cafe Liegeois (lee-ehj-WAH) can be very good, but more often than not it seems to fall in the same category as Cappuccino. Lots of show, pricey, but not a great beverage. If you want to try it, it's a little bit of coffee, chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, and a ridiculous amount of sweetened whipped cream, usually with brown stuff or chocolate curls scattered over the top. Sort of like an ice cream sundae gone astray.

I've left out two others, since I never order them: "cafe allonge" (ah-lawn-ZHAY) - espresso with an equal amount of hot water added, and "cafe americain" - which I think is the same, only with more water. I don't order these, since I believe some things are worth prolonging, but the taste of cafe coffee is not one of them!

Hopes this helps some folks...

Toronto, Canada
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41. Re: Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

....okay, you're a coffee angel. Thank you, I am about to leave on the 11th, and your post will DEFINITELY make my transition easier. Your line about, 'definitely making a trip to my beloved Italia,' truly made me laugh. "Un double noisette" it is..... I shall toast you, with my first Parisian double noisette. Merci-

Toronto, Canada
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42. Re: Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

...one more question, after I ask for the "un double noisette" do I ask for 'un petite lait chaud' or something like that, so get the hot milk on the side....? Please excuse the French, and no pun intended... it is all about the preparation, and I do land at 6 am. Lord have mercy-

Le Bugue, France
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43. Re: Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

No, no, no...the whole idea of a noisette is that it looks like a hazelnut in color because the milk has already been added to it to get it to that color. If you need/want extra milk I suppose you could ask for du lait en plus, but frankly, I don't mess with French waiters with persnickety requests.

With a noisette, the lait does not come on the side. That's the whole point. If you want the milk or cream on the side order a café crème - and it may come on the side or not, but it'll be there.

Pennsylvania
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44. Re: Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

I have always ordered un cafe creme (or un grand creme) and the milk is never on the side. Delicious!

Sydney, Australia
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45. Re: Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

Having just returned from Paris, I must say, I thought the coffee was fine. Hubby always has un allonger & I order a creme with a double shot of espresso in it.

It beat any 'flat white' that I have at home here!

Paris, France
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46. Re: Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

Add me to the list of people who have never heard of 'un chose.'

On the news the other day, they came up with the regular chestnut (not noisette) about Paris cafés scamming tourists. The reporters pretended to speak little or no French and one of the things they ordered was 'coffee with just a little milk.' While several reputable places made the effort to understand that they wanted a 'noisette' one of the places did not hesitate to serve a 'grand crème' for 7 euros.

As to the people who say that the coffee in Paris or France is 'bad,' just keep in mind that coffee in each country is designed to correspond to local tastes. What you like at home is not necessarily what the rest of the world likes. And even when buying something in a supermarket like a jar of 'Cap Colombie' Nescafé, it might seem logical that would be the same across Europe, but it isn't -- for that particular product, there are different formulas for France, Belgium and Switzerland.

Paris, France
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47. Re: Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

I first heard of "un chose" around 20 years ago. It's very popular at sports cafés (golf, tennis) during the summer. I'm not sure if waiters in city bars are aware of it. I'll try ordering one next time to see. There are also its two brothers, "un machin" et "un truc". I like machins, but I've never found out what a "truc" drink was like.

As per kerouac's post, it took me a few months to work out that Nescafé was not the same in every country. I had always assumed it was something in the water or milk.

If anyone's looking for a really strong coffee in France, do like my colleague who asks for a "café court" or a "café serré".

Paris, France
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48. Re: Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

StCirq - oui, mais non! "Un noisette" always has the milk added. Everywhere I have ordered "un double noisette", the milk arrives on the side, unbidden - most of the time it is hot milk.

AllThingsParisian - if you order "un double noisette", you should not need more milk. Actually, on days when I suffer from a severe caffeine deficiency, I often follow up with "un double espress'", just to use up the left-over milk from the first drink. This can get pricey, especially if it is a fine day to sit on the terrace - and pay terrace prices!

Reminder to all first-time visitors - so you don't get sticker shock...

*** "Un double" anything will cost twice as much - no volume discounts.

*** Terrace seating is prize real estate - you pay for the view, so drinks are most expensive here. Drinks inside cost about half this price, and the cheapest is standing at the bar. Food prices are the same, inside or out. You do have the right to remain at your table for as long as you wish, although sleeping there is strongly discouraged.

*** All prices are posted outside, so you can see them before you enter and check your finances. There are no surprises, unless you just can't add.

*** Neighborhoods and "buzz" have a great influence on prices. A trendy cafe or restaurant will often be more expensive than a neighborhood place - though not always! A sidewalk cafe on Champs-Elysee will charge 8 EU for a double espresso, where a charming cafe on a side street one block away will charge about half that, and my favorite "bar-tabac" charges even less...

*** While sitting at your table, dreamily enjoying the view and pondering life's quanderies is encouraged, setting up shop with a laptop is not always welcomed or even permitted. It's a French thing - pen and paper give you instant credibility, but a laptop doesn't! That said, there are plenty of places where people are typing away like crazy. Always ask before you blog - or go to Starbucks...

Bedfordshire...
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49. Re: Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

Going - I was not having a pop at Australians in general, just at this one poster on a similar thread a couple of years ago. He obviously didn't share your sense of humour :). My paternal grandmother and her family emigrated to Oz way back, so I have no axe to grind with you colonials :)

Bedfordshire...
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50. Re: Tips for ordering coffee in Paris...

Just as an aside to all this highly scientific discussion about coffee, in my befuddled state this morning I put insufficient coffee in the filter machine and the result was rather too weak for my taste. La Princesse said 'I'll drink it, I don't care how weak and watery it is' :)