Paris Travel Planner   Coffee (Café) in Paris, France
French coffee may be different from what you're used to—quite different. Here's how and where to buy it, and how to get what you want.  


Serene - a novel of the Belle Époque, by Tom Brosnahan


Un Café, s'il-vous-plaît...

If you sit down in a Paris café and order un café, s'il vous plaît (a cup of coffee, please), the waiter will bring you a café noir (or café express), a small espresso-sized cup containing a few spoonfuls of dark, fragrant, medium-dark roast (not black/burnt) strong espresso coffee.

On the saucer will be a few cubes or tubes of sugar, and perhaps a tiny treat: square of chocolate, chocolate-covered almond, etc.

If you like strong espresso with a few drops of milk, ask for a café noisette (nwa-ZET).

Every sip of coffee fills your mouth with the fragrant, intense flavor of the brew. We find it delightful. (Here are some prices.)

A Bold Jolt

For an extra bold jolt, order a double express (DOOB-luh eks-PRESS), or even a café serré, an espresso made with only half the normal amount of water, and therefore doubly concentrated.

(I assume you could even order a double espresso serré, with a caffeine jolt powerful enough to enable you to glimpse, if only for a moment, the key to world peace, but first you may want to check to see that the café-bar is equipped with a working cardiac defibrillator.)

Café American Style

If you want less concentrated American-style coffee, and more of it, find a café that offers café filtre (filter coffee) (not all cafés do). It will probably be dark roast, from Arabica beans, closer to Starbucks flavor than the normal cup of medium-brown-roast American coffee.

You may also get away with asking for a café allongé (ah-lohn-ZHAY, "extended" coffee) or even an Americano, a shot of espresso in a larger cup, accompanied by a small pitcher of hot water with which to dilute the coffee to the desired strength.

Café au Lait

At breakfast, many Parisians prefer café au lait (also called café crème): strong espresso coffee with hot milk. Traditionally, at home, café au lait is served in a bowl, but in a café or restaurant it will come to you in a large cup.

From mid-morning through the afternoon you might prefer a cappuccino, espresso coffee and steam-foamed milk with a sprinkle of cinnamon, or powdered or shaved chocolate, atop the foam.

Iced Coffee

On a hot summer day you may prefer café glacé, iced coffee.


You can order any sort of coffee déca (DEH-kah) or décafféiné (also glibly called faux—fake): decaffeinated.

Coffee Etiquette

Traditional French restaurant etiquette dictates that you can drink a café noir any time of day or night, but the only time you can drink coffee with food is at breakfast.

It may make sense to you to sip coffee with your rich dessert/pudding/sweet after dinner, but it does not make sense to the French, so you will not be served your coffee until after you have finished your dessert (except for café gourmand—see below).

And if you feel like having a café au lait or cappuccino after dinner, the waiter will look at you in surprise and consternation, as though you have dropped from outer space, and will politely explain to you that one does not drink such drinks after dinner, only café noir, and will then do his or her best to fill your milky order, if possible. More...

Café Gourmand

Café Gourmand, an ever-more-popular French coffee-and-dessert combination, is a small cup of medium-roast espresso coffee on a plate with several small sweet treats such as mousse au chocolat, cheesecake, crème brulée, ice cream or sorbet, or macarons. The coffee is served plain black, with sugar on the side if you want it, but no milk or cream.

The café gourmand trend goes against the French dining tradition of drinking coffee only after one has finished the sweet course. We like it because the fragrant bitterness of the coffee contrasts nicely with the sweet taste of the desserts.

Café Gourmand, Paris, France
Café Gourmand with espresso coffee, chocolate mousse,
raspberry cheesecake, caramel éclair and lemon gateau.

Paris Restaurants

Paris Cafés





Street Food

Saving Money on Meals

Restaurant Etiquette


Paris Girls Secret Society, a novel by Tom Brosnahan


French coffee: café au lait & café noir, Paris, France

Paris's most common cups of coffee: Café au Lait (or Café Crème) on the left, and Café Noir
(or Café Express) on the right.

Déjeuner français: café au lait & croissants...



rue de Seine, Paris, France

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