The Best Coffee in Paris


With a wave of Aussie baristas setting up shop in Paris, the city’s coffee is being given a welcome injection of Australian craftmanship.

While Paris is famous for its lovely cafes, even the cutest Montmartre setting can’t disguise the truth: a Parisian cafe crème; composed of mediocre robusta beans, indifferently extracted, and a few sad bubbles of long-life milk, is largely undrinkable. The situation is so dire that the famed Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon boasts a €5.5 Nespresso – as though it were a good thing. But thankfully the coffee scene is finally changing, thanks in part to an unlikely Antipodean influence.

Leading the charge is Coutume, a cafe and coffee roasting and distribution operation founded by Australian Tom Clark and Frenchman Antoine Netien.

In 2006, Canberra-born Clark spent a year in Paris on a student exchange: “I had an amazing time finding the best baguette, the best almond croissant… but the entire year was dire straits for coffee. The French have very good palates from their wine culture and they have a tendency to think about what’s in their mouths. There’s wine, cheese and even tea tastings, but coffee was left out of the puzzle.”

Having worked in hospitality in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane, Clark was convinced there was a market in Paris for great Australian-style coffee. “The Australian cafe scene is 15 or 20 years old. We have a lot of the savoir faire, the curiosity to experiment and the presentation of service – a very technical preparation made to look easy and accessible. Specialist coffee is particularly rock ’n’ roll and young; I’ve seen baristas with tattoos of tampers on each arm. Coffee is part of us, we live and breathe it.”

Clark’s French business partner, Antoine Netien, fell in love with coffee on a trip to Melbourne. “On his first day he went into a bar and had a coffee and it blew him away,” says Clark. After an impromptu demonstration by a friendly barista (“Antoine’s mind was abuzz with coffee”), Netien then spent the next five years working in and around Melbourne cafes, culminating in his winning a Golden Bean award in 2007. “With Coutume, we’ve founded a French brand with art de vivre. The two cultures are very compatible at the end of the day,” says Clark.

In the short time that Coutume has been open; another six or so Anglo-style cafes have opened in Paris, including two of Coutume’s latest clients. Black Market, a sweet cafe on Rue Ramey (at the interesting end of Montmartre), is presided over by a couple of hipsters who always have time to talk about their passion for coffee. With its Scandinavian-style interior, collection of pot plants and chilled soundtrack, Black Market is a dreamy spot for curling up with a book – or a laptop – over a well-brewed cup of coffee.

Across town you’ll find the newly opened Cafe Madam, located in an eclectic area between the trendy eating street of Rue Montorgueil and the discount fashion stores of Porte Saint Denis. The drawcards here are the super-friendly service and a menu that incorporates Coutume coffee and plates bearing French and Lebanese influences. We love their yellow Marzocco espresso machine and the hand-painted signage.

Located in Pigalle, Kooka Boora, founded by Frenchman Nicolas Piégay, who discovered his passion for coffee during a two-year stint in Australia, has a laidback vibe and international staff. “Originally there was no coffee scene in Paris,” says Piégay. “Coffee is [perceived] as a common, everyday product – a hot drink with a caffeine fix to warm you up and wake you up. More and more specialty coffee shops will open in the next few years in France – with passionate people and demanding customers.”

Antipodeans are drawn to Kooka Boora for their excellent flat white, which Piégay attributes in part to Franco-Australian specialty coffee roaster Café Lomi, which recently opened its own cafe and roasting house, a lofty industrial warehouse in a slightly sketchy part of the 18th arrondissement. It’s not a neighbourhood in which you’d want to flash an iPhone, but the adventurous traveller will be rewarded with an excellent latte and delicious cakes and tarts cooked on the premises.

Talor Brown, a Melbourne barista who worked at Seven Seeds and Market Lane Coffee before landing at Coutume cafe, reflects on what the Australian cafe culture brings to Paris. “We offer a different style of service – friendly and communicative. In Paris you don’t talk about the coffee – you just drink it and go.” On the other hand, she says: “The French are very curious and happy to pay for artisanal things. I think the French are a lot more prepared for a change than we were.”

Coutume café, 47 Rue de Babylone, 75007 Paris; coutumecafe.com.
Black Market, 27 Rue Ramey, 75018 Paris.
Cafe Lomi, 3 Ter Rue Marcadet, 75018 Paris, cafelomi.com.
Cafe Madam, 150 Rue Saint Denis, 75002 Paris.
Kooka Boora, 62 Rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris.

Text: Rachael Antony
Photographs: Robin Delestrade and Matthew Larson

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Comments
6 Responses to “The Best Coffee in Paris”
  1. Fabulous post, we walked Paris looking for good coffee in May.A Melbourne barista was working a coffee cart outside Printemps that became our saviour.

  2. Anne says:

    Thank you for this – up until now I have survived on coffee at Les Deux Magots (the people-watching is pretty good) whenever I’ve visited Paris, but I shall definitely try Coutume Café when I go back in a couple of weeks 🙂

    anne

  3. Sarah says:

    Great article. Parisian myself but having spent 5 years in Australia I couldn’t imagine being back to Paris without my daily latte .
    I would advice you not to go to Coutume on a Sunday , way too packed…
    My favourite is definitely the Kooka Boora in the 18th near Pigalle.

    Also to the writer Rachael, get your sources right about the Rue Marcadet, it’s not because an area is multicultural that it’s straight away dodgy…
    In that case Smith st in Fitzroy is the dodgiest place I have ever been to…

    • Rachael says:

      Sarah, you are spot on about the Sunday rush at Coutume (note, you can get a take-away and have it in the park 2 mins from here). In relation to your comment about the Rue Marcadet… I personally love this neighbourhood, but there’s no doubt that the Goutte d’Or can be on the iffy side which is why the Mairie de Paris is now making a big push to improve the area with infrastructure, social housing and encouraging new business, like the lovely Cafe Lomi, to set up there. In a decade it might even be as bobo-friendly as Smith St now! I hope you enjoy your next latte in Paris! Rachael 🙂

  4. pixelrites says:

    O a beautiful post – know all about cafes in Oz – look forward to a cafe in Paris x

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