Ordering a coffee in French

So this is a blog I’ve been thinking about for a while:


Anyone who knows me knows of my love affair with this liquid gold. When I gave it up for lent and then got back on it after a few weeks my co-workers saw a HUGE difference they said it was as if I was someone else. I need coffee. It even has a placebo effect that if I am holding a cup of coffee that I already feel more awake than I was before. Here though coffee is a WAY OF LIFE. and you’ve got to know how to order it.

First rule is that a coffee served at the bar and sitting at a table are ASTRONOMICALLY DIFFERENT in price. It can be three times the cost to sit down and have a coffee. If you want to have a quick coffee, find a café with stools around the bar or just stand.

Un café/ Café normale: One espresso with a cube of sugar on the side. rich, dark and foamy.

Un double: double of the above for those who need an extra jolt.

un alongé : Americans, THIS is your coffee. An esspresso shot with double the water it is easier for you to get use to than a burning esspresso right off the plane and allows you to sip a little bit longer when sitting on a terrasse.

Un crème: shot of Espresso with 2 parts steamed milk and foam and very rarely with real cream. Do not order: Café au Lait you are going to get some sort of snobby answer back just order un crème.  WARNING: you have to be careful when you order this coffee. There are some places that will charge you a ridiculous price for a 1/2 milk, 1/2 coffee drink in the same sized cup as a “normal” (a little smaller than a shot glass) so basically you might spend 4 euros on a shooter of milk. Don’t be afraid to send it back coffee costs the bar nothing. Be sure that they serve it in tea mugs. If you order a crème and they serve you a sip of coffee, they are trying to rip you off. Just leave and feel free to use the word “escroquerie”. Otherwise In my opinion this is the best coffee to order. Creamy and enveloping but VERY RICH (why it is mostly consumed at breakfast but you are ok to order it whenever) and can cost you a pretty penny some places. (3.20 at the bar as of 23/05/2012). If you don’t want coffee flavored  milk there is a good medium between these coffees.

Une noisette: Single shot of espresso cut with cold milk. This coffee has nothing to do with a hazelnut (of which the French are so VERY fond). This is my favorite! You get the full experience of the espresso without feeling like you just dumped a full bag of Maxwell’s House into your mouth. The price is also VERY good at usually only a few cents more than a normale. A lot of bartenders will roll their eyes at you with this coffee because it is sort of known as the French’s way to get a crème for cheaper but ignore them because this is really my suggestion for the best coffee. (i even order a double and get a nice thing to sip on). If the bartender says he doesn’t have noisette you can ask him for “un café avec une goutte de lait froid”.

There is also café Italienne which means percolate coffee. You can get it in all these forms but it is A LOT stronger! Talk about a kick in the pants. Espresso has much more water mixed into it. Cafe Italienne is a little bit like licking the filter but it is REALLY good to drink. I would not however order it for your first coffee in France, you need a little time to adjust the taste of French coffee and the whole set up before you venture into that realm.

A HUGE issue for the French, one even more than who is President, is the cost of coffee. You have to be really careful when you pick a place for coffee. You may have three places with three extremely varied prices on the exact same coffee right across the street from each other. The best indicator is usually to pick the one with the most young people in it. Where there are college kids there are low prices. There are cafes that I call “corner cafes”(inventive I know). They are all on well…corners and usually wrap around both of the crossing streets. They all look the same. Clean, brass fixtures, awnings, the same woven chairs, the same Neon signs with loopy script usually with a DUH kind of name stating the streets in front of it + the word Cafe. These are DANGEROUS tourist traps (with a few exceptions). Just walk five doors down to a Cafe that is flat against the street, you’ll save about a euro on each shot of coffee maybe even more. Also remember this phrase “C’est quoi dans votre avive la meilluer place proche d’ici pour prendre une café?” if you are at a checkout counter or in a store don’t be afraid to ask someone where they would choose to get coffee. French people love to give their opinions, just like anyone in my little home town would love to tell you where to get the best Hamburger, the French are delighted to point you in the direction of the coffee place to which they are loyal.

And of course the best place to drink it is always the terrassse

Me a coffee and an icecream. Couldn’t be happier.

A+ EmilieinParis


About Emilie

I'm a small girl with big ambitions and very little common sense it seems. I decided after I graduated from college that I would move from my little city of Lafayette Louisiana to the raging monster city that is Paris. In 4 months of planning I have now uprooted everything I had in an amazing town to live in a truly wild place where I have no idea WHAT I am going to do. But isn't that the fun of it all. So here is cheers to getting lost, breaking hearts, starving, and many wonderful adventures that come along with finding yourself.
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9 Responses to Ordering a coffee in French

  1. Mike Baldwin says:

    This is my favorite entry yet! Bravo A !

  2. Pingback: a place for good coffee in Paris | Emilie in Paris

  3. Last time I went to France (a couple of years ago) I was advised to order the creme if I wanted something a little more-ish than un cafe. We are planning a trip with my niece in June (she’s 13, it’s her dream), so I might try the noisette. For me, espressos/cafe are drinks for on the go, cafe au lait for breakfast. There has to be something over which you can linger…maybe the noisette fits the bill? Thanks for an informative post.

    • Emilie says:

      The crème is certainly for any time of day though it is good at breakfast because it is heavy even so that it is hard to drink in summer. It is just that they are so EXPENSIVE starting at 3.20 at the bar these days. The noisette is the price of a normal coffee usually because the milk is not heated and there isn’t as much. You can also just ask “avec un petit lait” after you order too and sometimes places will bring you a little milk on the side and that’ll even give you a little more (though it is rare). The best thing for “lingering” would be the àlongé which is the esspresso with a little hot water…it tends to last.
      i’m glad you found it informative hope you guys will make it to some of my “favorit spots” while you are here

  4. Will be studying your blog for all the best places, don’t worry! I want this visit to be special for my niece. Of course, there is the weight of expectation….By the way, how sympathetic is Paris to nut allergies? Everything in the States and here in the UK (where I live) is specially marked out, but it would seem rather a mine field in patisseries etc.

    • Emilie says:

      They are not at all sensitive to it. However peanut oil is SO rare here so that is a plus. But all cafes serve nuts so if she is super allergic be very careful. They do put almond paste in most everything when it comes to pastries but it is a just a matter of asking “est ce que il y’a du pâte d’amande?”. When you see something green it is most always pistachio. I have a friend though that has a nut allergy and he does ok in the city. It is just not a common thing here for whatever reason.

  5. Thanks for this advice!

  6. Pingback: Amazing panoramic view and pie too! | Emilie in Paris

  7. Pingback: Sur le Terras | Emilie in Paris

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