When someone thinks of Paris, one of the belle images is of someone sitting at a cafe for hours at a time, just enjoying themselves in the moment, presumably with a coffee in hand. The reality of this idea is that you can almost do that, as long as you aren’t alone and you’re drinking wine instead.
The problems I faced when moving to Paris and finding a cafe I liked to have coffee at were surprising to me. First, the coffee itself wasn’t very good; French food writer Sophie Brissard even compared it to “donkey piss.” Though I wouldn’t say it was that terrible, there was definitely something lacking, especially in a country that does so many things well when it comes to food, even at a most basic level.
Secondly, I didn’t feel comfortable sitting there alone with a book or even worse, a laptop, slowly sipping my cafe crème (similar to a latte). As you will find in most of Paris, a lot of places still do not offer Wi-Fi, which can be problematic at times. For me, I like to go to a cafe/coffee shop and work on things, taking my time, but the standard sidewalk cafe was making this difficult. The third and final problem was the concept of to go/take away coffee. It didn’t exist. In fact it is sometimes even frowned upon. How Parisians have time for coffee before leaving their house in the morning astounds me.
Maybe I’m spoiled by the coffee culture of Seattle (which goes far beyond Starbucks) but I knew that in this huge city there had to be at least one place that understood the importance of a good cup of coffee. I delved into research to find if and where these coffee shops might be. What I found was that they do exist, but most aren’t French.
Finland, Italy, the UK, Australia, and more countries had their own style and service that was more what I was used to. So I went on a quest to see what was out there. I tackled 15 spots (and I have 15 more to go to). I’ve narrowed it down to a few cafes that truly make the cut:
40 Rue Chapon, 75003, Haute-Marais
Upon first impression, the interior decorating alone makes you want to stay around for awhile. The variety of colors and patterns with the seat cushions and wallpaper definitely make you want to snap a photo after ordering. The owner, Channa Galhenage, is from London, and imports coffee from Belgium to get that perfectly roasted taste. The cafe has multiple iced coffee options (which is also rare) including one with maple syrup. The location isn’t far from the Musée des Archives Nationales and the Musée des Arts et Metiers.
60 Rue des Écoles, 75005, Latin Quarter
Finland is often described at the most enthusiastic or as one of (if not the highest) consumption of coffee per capita. So it makes sense that one of the expatriate coffee shops in Paris be Finnish. Located in what is historically and still to this day a large student area, the space is simply designed with high ceilings, but more importantly, many tables available for work space. Not only do they have syphon coffee, they even have a fidelity card. With an additional location near Invalides, Coutume is a haven for coffee lovers on the left bank, where the choices are very slim.
19 Rue Lucien Sampaix, 7010, Canal Saint Martin
Whenever I walk into a store or restaurant and see a Kinfolk magazine, I know I’m in good hands. Holybelly is a bit more like a restaurant than a cafe, but stays open in the afternoons after food service ends to serve coffee. Described as Melbourne style (another city known for its coffee), the beans come from the Belleville Brûlerie, a common dependable, and surprisingly French, supplier. The menu is simple and perfect, a sort of American/French fusion, such as pancakes with hazelnuts and fresh fruit or pancakes with eggs and bacon.
Best of luck to you, travellers, on your hunt for the best cup of coffee in Paris. You can find a map with the full list Here.