I’m not too sure why France, or Paris I guess would be more accurate, is perceived as a major player in coffee culture. Is the term ‘french roast’ or ‘french press’? Could it be a mutation from there famed café culture? Or, perhaps, it’s a complete invention, created by marketers to make us coffee-crazed people buy tea-towels with two French lovers wearing striped shirts and berets seated at a table sipping on bowls of café au lait.
France calls espresso, expresso. Café au lait isn’t even a proper drink.
Luckily, Paris has a blossoming third-wave coffee culture. A city that used to be a coffee desert is earning it’s stripes, so to speak. When I went there in January, I was shocked at the quality of cafes that were there. Not only did I not have a single bad coffee, I actively enjoyed each one, proclaiming them all the best cup I’d ever tasted. French third-wave cafes are exciting as they mix the traditional French-style café and an American-style one. There will be food, probably an awkward form of table service and French drink names. It makes an experience that could feel culturally monotone exciting and foreign.
The first place I headed to for coffee on my trip to Paris last week was The Broken Arm, one of the most recent openings. It’s a combination concept-clothing shop and café. Unlike some similar models (think Happy Bones), the café is right up front so you won’t walk by thinking that the clothes and people are too hip for you. I went there early on Friday morning and found a pleasingly empty café. A space like this would never be empty in New York.
Much to my delight, I ordered a noisette. A noisette! Once again reunited with my favorite coffee drink. New York, keep your cortados; London, have your flat white and Italy, please, please, hang on to your macchiatos. I’ll take my noisette every day, merci beacoup.
Perhaps I was biased, deprived from noisettes for way too long, but all I could think on my first sip was perfect. Okay, it might not have been perfect, but it was gosh darn delicious. The small cup was rich, creamy and perfectly satisfying. There was a head of lemon with a berry-sweetness aftertaste. I also thought it tasted a bit like bittersweet dark chocolate, which might have been bitter sans milk, but with milk was sweet enough to satisfy a mid-morning snack-craving without giving your veins a sugar hit. I could go on and on about that coffee, throwing some overwrought adjectives to describe the robins-egg blue cup, but I’ll stop and save you. Go, do something fun, may I recommend a macchiato from Joe?
Oh, and like all the other third-wave cafes in Paris, The Broken Arm seemed to be frequently primarily by American expats. Just after I arrived, a couple men came down, ordered American coffee and proceeded to talk about my home-neighborhood in NYC. That was the beautifully steamed milk on the top of the noisette … or something like that.
Do you enjoy coffee stores in unique locations? What’s the strangest place in which you have ever bought a cup of coffee?