There is nothing that tells me that I have arrived in Paris like sitting down in a café for that first cup of Parisian coffee.
The French take their coffee seriously, and you should to. There are a number of ways to enjoy it, all of them entail sitting at a table on the terasse for endless moments of of time, watching people and life go by. I have never had a coffee in Paris that I did not like, and I don’t think that has anything to do with luck. That’s not to say that some cafés are not better than others, that’s just to say that a café serving bad coffee would not last long in this city!
Here is the short list of the most commonly ordered coffee drinks in a French café:
Espresso is shot of very strong intense coffee. Note the spelling – it is espresso, not expresso! This coffee is served in very tiny cups and for the novice just starting out – have one cup and see what happens. It’s very easy to have a caffeine overdose if you aren’t used to the strength.
Espresso Double is a small cup with two shots of espresso in it.
Café au Lait is café with steamed milk, but the coffee comes in a cup and the steamed milk comes in its own pitcher so you can add the milk and foam to your liking.
Café Crême (pictured) is café topped with steamed cream and a little foam.
Grande Café Crême same as the above, only in a large cup. This is the closest you will get to a Latte in France, and it’s not very close at all. Not all cafes have a choice of size, and sometimes if you ask for a grande they will say they only have one size.
Café Léger is espresso that has water added to it.
Café Décafféiné is decaffeinated café leger. For many years when I visited France, if someone asked for a decaf coffee they were given a pot of water and a tossed a packet of Decaffeinated Sanka. Now they are making it right along with the other drinks. You still have to ask for milk or cream if you don’t want to drink it black.
Café Noisette is a shot of espresso with a slirp of milk. It is named for it’s color, not its taste – that of a nut, a hazelnut to be exact.
Sitting on the terasse is more expensive than sitting at a table inside the cafe.
Sitting inside the cafe is more expensive than standing at the bar and drinking while standing up.
Once your coffee is ordered, you are entitled to sit at your table until closing time.
All cafes in France include a 15% gratuity in the bill. So there is no need to leave a tip.
Coffee to go?
No way. Why are you in such a hurry?