Black Market

Black Market, proudly serving coffee from Parisian roasters, Coutume.Black Market is probably my favourite of the third-wave coffee places that I visited in my recent (and far too short) trip to Paris. It effortless marries third-wave coffee with the look and feel of a traditional French bar/café in the streets of the 18th Arrondissement. After my recent rant about attitudes to Parisian coffee, it’s good to see somewhere combining new and old so well.

The coffee, from Parisian roasters Coutume, is made with as much love and care as any I’ve seen and the menu is commendably short, with just espresso, café long (espresso with hot water; think Americano/long black), noisette (espresso with a small amount of milk; think cortado/machiatto) and café au lait (espresso with more milk; think small cappuccino/flat white).

The interior is similarly uncomplicated, with wooden furniture blended with plain walls and a tiled floor. I really enjoyed it, although some might find the music annoying. Although mellow, it was quite loud when I was there. On the other hand, apart from the barista, I had the place to myself for a large part of my stay, so it added something to the atmosphere and didn’t feel that intrusive.

February 2014: Sadly Black Market has closed, which is a real shame. However, the owners, Youssef & Baptiste, have now opened Fragments, Paris, their new venture in the La Marais.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

Black Market, in the 18th Arrondissement, is not far from Gare du Nord (Eurostar terminus from London) and Sacré-Coeur, a major tourist draw. However, it is very much off the beaten (tourist) track. While I was there, midday on a Thursday, it was quiet, so quiet in fact that I thought it was closed. “10:00 – 18:30 sauf Lundi” it said on the sign and for a moment I pondered with my schoolboy French if Lundi was in fact Thursday! Part of the problem is that although the inside is very bright, from the outside it looks extremely dark, in keeping with its name. However, I plucked up my courage and stepped inside.

I’m glad I did since it’s a lovely little place, a small, open rectangle, with plain walls and a tiled floor. Fitted out in natural wood, the counter’s at the back, tables scattered between it and the windows. In all there are three four-person tables, one two-person table (mine) and a large table for six, with a bench outside for the smokers.

Black Market serves a very stripped-back coffee menu, including (if you ask nicely) a pour-over which wasn’t on any menu I could see. There’s also hot chocolate, chai latte, green tea and fruit juice, along with an equally short cake menu. I went for an espresso, which, while slightly too sweet for my palette, was otherwise very fine. It was served with a small carafe of water, always a good sign.

I spent quite a while chatting with co-owner Baptiste while he was making coffee. He’s another who weighs the espresso as it extracts (a technique that I first became conscious of at Didn’t You Do Well) and he takes great care throughout the whole process. Nothing is rushed and he exudes an air of calm, going methodically from one step to the next. It was, surprisingly, a very relaxing experience.

We also talked extensively about the challenges of bringing third-wave coffee to a very traditional and conservative market such as Paris. Opened 10 months ago with co-owner Youssef, Baptiste admitted that Black Market was a labour of love and that converting the locals could be hard work. Baptiste told me that while he had won over some of the younger people, the older locals were more resistant. Bizarrely (and neither of us understood this) his coffee has been described as “too bitter”. Bitter is the one thing I wouldn’t call Black Market’s coffee!

Compared to somewhere such as Ten Belles, which is aiming for the international market and looks as if it could move seamlessly to London or New York, Black Market feels very French. Despite that, while I was there, only half the customers were French. Black Market’s reputation, however, is global, as attested to by a family of Kiwis who had specifically hunted it down after reading about it in Air New Zealand’s in-flight magazine. ..

I’m pleased to say that things had heated up by the time I left, with the aforementioned Kiwis, an American and two French people in, and, just as I was leaving, a party of three French people arrived. It was still not what you would call busy, which was a shame since I suspect that Black Market has a lovely atmosphere when buzzing with customers.

27 RUE RAMEY • 75018 PARIS • FRANCE
www.facebook.com/pages/Black-Market-Café
Monday CLOSED Seating Tables
Tuesday 10:00 – 18:30 Food Cake
Wednesday 10:00 – 18:30 Service Order at Counter
Thursday 10:00 – 18:30 Cards Cash Only
Friday 10:00 – 18:30 Wifi No
Saturday 10:00 – 18:30 Power Yes
Sunday 10:00 – 18:30 Mobile N/A
Chain No Visits 23rd May 2013

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