Fondation, situated near the northern edge of the Marais, not far from Place de République, is a tiny place, where the outside seating, on the quiet rue Dupetit-Thouars, out numbers the seating inside.
Fondation is one of the new breed of French cafés that have sprung up around the capital in the last few years. It takes some of its inspiration from nearby Ten Belles, drawing in a mainly ex-pat crowd, which perhaps explains why it’s one of the few Parisian cafés to stay open in August. In style and feel, Fondation wouldn’t be out of place in London or New York, although it uses local roasters, Belleville.
There’s not much food, just a small, but impressive selection of cakes and pastries on offer, although again the choice is more slanted to British/American tastes than traditional French patisserie. Unusually you order at the counter, but pay when you leave.
One of the two branches of Coutume which opened between my visits to Paris in 2013 and 2014, Coutume Instituutti is a collaboration with the Finnish Institute. Located on rue des Ecoles, the entrance is around the corner at 33, rue du Sommerard, a stone’s throw from one of my favourite Paris museums, Musee du Moyen Ages (Museum of the Middle Ages). However, during office hours, you can also get to the café through the Institute itself, via its step-free entrance on rue des Ecoles.
Since Coutume’s running the café, all the coffee is roasted by Coutume, with the usual selection on offer. There’s a small, very French, espresso menu, filter through V60 or Chemex, plus cold brew (I visited during the summer of cold brew) and tea. However, Instituutti has a quite un-French system of ordering and paying at the counter, then waiting for your coffee, the first time I’ve seen this in a French café of any sort. Having not been to any Nordic cafés, I can’t tell if this is the Finnish influence at work.
The café itself is a large, sparsely populated space, which, if I allow myself one criticism, can sometimes feel cold and clinical.
I don’t know what the French for “hipster” is, but “Café Lomi” might be a fairly good stab. It’s the closest I’ve come in Paris to what I think of as a hipster café, right down to the undecorated walls, exposed air-conditioning conduits and bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The clientele was pretty hipster too; for example, I wasn’t the only one taking pictures of his coffee and every other person was on a laptop, Macs outnumbering Windows two-to-one. The clinching argument? It carries Caffeine Magazine. I rest my case…
Putting pointless classification to one side, Café Lomi is a café/roaster in the northern reaches of Paris. Café-roasters seem to be much more common in Paris than they are in the UK; of the limited number of third-wave Parisian cafés I’ve visited, Lomi is the third, joining La Caféothèque and Coutume when it opened in 2012. In Lomi’s case, it is a café at the front, and a roaster at the back, where the chunky Giesen turns out espresso blends and single origins both for use in Lomi and to supply other cafés and restaurants. Sadly you can’t wander into the back and see the roaster in action though…
Télescope is one of those semi-legendary Parisian cafés that’s closely associated with the rise of third-wave coffee in the French capital. I first tried to visit in May 2013, but was put off by the queue which reached out of the door and so gave it a miss. My loss.
Returning to Paris last summer, I made a point of putting Télescope top of my list and was quite fortunate to call in on the last day of my trip, which, coincidentally, was Télescope’s first day open after the holidays. Perhaps that explained the lack of queues this time around. Télescope is, by the way, pretty small, with just enough room for a few tables and the counter, which might also explain the queues on my first visit. It doesn’t take much before it’s overflowing!
Once inside, the focus is firmly on the coffee, with a regular rotation of beans from a range of roasters from around the world. The espresso typically changes every week, while there are usually two or three options through the Aeropress. Télescope also does a traditional French petit déjeuner and there’s an excellent selection of cake if you need some sustenance during the day!
Not to be confused with London’s Dose Espresso, Dose, Dealer de Café, is another Paris Coffee Spot that I’m indebted to Fancy a Cuppa? for putting me onto. It’s very useful, having advanced scouts to do the leg-work for me! Dose is on the popular Rue Mouffetard, which runs due south from near the Pantheon down towards Rue Monge and Avenue des Gobelins. It’s an area I’ve visited on many occasions, but without having the pleasure of Dose to call in on.
Dose was set up earlier this year by owners Jean-Baptiste and Grégoire (who I briefly met) and brings Brittany’s Caffè Cataldi to Paris. There’s a standard espresso menu, plus pour-over and a good selection of loose-leaf tea and hot chocolate. There’s also a limited menu of pastries, cakes (including muffins of Foxcroft & Ginger type excellence), a couple of sandwiches and a bagel of the day.
Unusually for Paris, but in keeping with Rue Mouffetard, which has an above-average number of takeaway places, Dose has a separate takeaway counter. So, in theory, you can order your coffee “à emporter” without having to go in the shop, although that would be a shame, since Dose is very lovely indeed.
In terms of Paris’ third-wave coffee scene, La Caféothèque has been around forever, first opening its doors nine years ago when even the London scene was in its infancy. Since then, it’s been steadily going about its business, that of educating the French coffee-drinking public that there’s more to coffee than “un café, s’il vous plait”.
Of all my Parisian Coffee Spots, it feels the most French, from its look and feel, all the way down to the ownership and staff, all of whom were French. La Caféothèque roasts all its own coffee, with owner and head roaster, Gloria, working the 3kg Toper in the front of the store, from dawn until dusk (and often beyond). You can have any of 20 different beans (all single origins, no blends here) via any of 10 different brew methods.
When it comes to seating, you’re also spoiled for choice. There are two counters (three, if you count the retail counter as you come in), with four separate salons, spread around a sprawling old building located across the Seine from the Ile St Louis. With a small selection of food and a mouth-watering range of cakes, tarts and pastries, there’s something for everyone.
I first became aware of Loustic after a tip-off from Fancy a Cuppa?, who I’d sent ahead to scout out Paris for me. It’s a lovely spot, tucked away on rue Chapon and, while not far from the Pompidou Centre, it’s off the regular tourist track.
Unashamedly blending French café culture with speciality coffee, Loustic is the brain-child of Channa, an ex-pat Brit, who has lived in Paris for the last 13 years. He seems to have managed it as well, with a customer split of about 70% locals to 30% tourists/ex-pats, a much higher ratio than several other Parisian speciality coffee places I’ve visited.
Loustic itself is long and thin, but a masterpiece of internal design, with a clever use of mirrors giving it a much bigger feel. At the same time, it’s split into three distinct seating areas, giving it a cosy, sometimes intimate, nature. The coffee is from Caffènation in Antwerp, while the tea is also very good (as vouched for by no lesser an expert than Mr Fancy a Cuppa himself). To round things off, there’s an interesting array of cakes and a selection of savoury tarts for when you need that little bit more.
The last time I visited Coutume, the (relatively) old, established player in Paris’ third-wave coffee scene, I arrived just before closing on a day when the espresso machine had just been repaired, having been broken all day. It was also my last stop before heading back home on the Eurostar.
This time, in a nice piece of symmetry, I decided to make it the first stop of my visit. So, having arrived from Nantes, I turned up just before closing on a day when the espresso machine had just been repaired, having been broken all day … Some things never change!
I was there at the invitation of Connor, one of Coutume’s baristas, who had been following my progress around France. He made me a lovely cup of an Ethiopian Nekisse through the V60, a rich, complex brew which matured as it cooled. While I drank it, I sat (out of the way) at the bar at the front and chatted with Connor about all the things that had changed since my last visit.
Angelina is something of a Paris institution, a grand Salon du Thé which exudes class, even more so than the venerable Café de Flore. From its shop on the rue de Rivoli, on the north edge of the Tuileries Gardens, it’s been serving the folk of Paris (and its fair share of visitors too: judging by the accents, faces and amount of English being spoken, Angelina is a major tourist draw) with exquisite cakes, artery-clogging hot chocolate and fine coffee since 1903.
While you might go to Café de Flore or its neighbour, Les Deux Magots, for the coffee, the people watching or the general ambience, with Angelina, you are definitely paying for the elegant surroundings and the (quite possibly literally) to-die-for patisserie such as the legendary Mont Blanc or the signature hot chocolate, l’Africain.
If you can’t get to the rue de Rivoli (or can’t get in!) there are other branches around Paris (plus one in Lyon and nine in Japan!). Alternatively, rue de Rivoli has a takeaway counter (useful for the budget-conscious). I’ve only tried the branch in the Louvre, which, while serving the same excellent fare, doesn’t quite have the same class as the rue de Rivoli original.
Coutume is something of an old hand in the (relatively new) Parisian third-wave coffee scene. On the left bank, on the relatively untrodden (by tourists, at least) rue de Babylone, it is both a roaster (which supplies the likes of Black Market) and a café in its own right. Of the three third-wave cafés I visited on my trip to Paris in May, character-wise it sits between Ten Belles, which felt as if it had been lifted straight out of Soho, and Black Market, which felt like a little French café/bar.
On the one hand, Coutume felt undeniably French, particular since it was the only one of the three to offer table service. It also seemed to have the most local custom. On the other hand, if I closed my ears and took down the menus, it too could have been lifted straight out of Soho, with its tiled counters and bare, undecorated walls.
Not that this is any criticism; of the three, I preferred the coffee at Coutume, although it was a close-run thing with Black Market. I also loved the atmosphere, it being a great place to drink great coffee.
August 2014: you can see what I made of Coutume on my return visit in 2014.