A very fine espresso in a hard to photograph black cup from Coutume, complete with carafe of water.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.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Coutume, another cafe which is having the road outside dug up!
  • The takeaway bar, as seen through the front window.
  • Stepping inside, you are greeted by this view from just inside the door.
  • The counter is on the right (this is the view from 2013)...
  • ... while it looked remarkably similar a year later on my return.
  • The main seating area, meanwhile, is over on the left.
  • This is the view from my return in 2014. Again, not a lot had changed.
  • More of the seating. This is the claustrophobic bit at the back.
  • And in 2014. I should point out that the tables were set for brunch the following day.
  • In 2013, I arrived late in the day, when the staff had already closed up the back of the cafe.
  • However, these both looked like interesting places to sit and drink coffee.
  • This is what it looked like on my return in 2014.
  • On my original visit in 2013, Coutume was still roasting the coffee at the back of the store.
  • However, by 2014, the roaster had been moved out to a dedicated facility, leaving this space.
  • The view from the back of the store (from 2014).
  • I was obsessed by light bulbs even on my first visit in 2013...
  • ... and nothing had changed in 2014!
  • Coutume proudly shows off its baristas' achievements. Here from 2013...
  • ... which had been addded to by the time I returned in 2014.
  • Coutume is a major bean retailer in its own right.
  • There's quite a decent range :-)
  • Here it is, bagged up, ready to go.
  • However, by 2014, the bins had gone and all the beans were for sale in bags.
  • However, if you'd like to drink it there and then, there's quite a choice too.
  • The espresso machine was looking very shiny...
  • ... and there was some very interesting apparatus at the end of the counter.
  • There's also a lot of kit you can take home with you if you feel so inclined.
  • So, to business. There had been problems with the espresso machine all afternoon. I imagine the barista is on the phone to the engineer: 'we've got Brian's Coffee Spot in, we've got to get the machine fixed NOW!' You think not? Oh well, I can dream...
  • Fortunately, the machine was soon working again and produced this very fine espresso...
  • ... along with this excellent macchiato.
  • I also had this fine slice of cake. For the life of me I can't now remember what it was, other than it was very nice.
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I came all the way to Paris just to visit Coutume and the espresso machine broke in my honour! Well, sort of. Coutume was actually my final stop before going back to my hotel, grabbing my bags and heading off to Gare du Nord for the train home and the espresso machine was fixed especially for my visit. Except that what really happened is the espresso machine, which had been playing up all afternoon, had just been fixed when I walked in. Timing is everything.

That said, if the espresso machine hadn’t been working, it wouldn’t have been a disaster since Coutume also offers V60 filter, syphon (for two) and cold-brew, as well as hot chocolate, tea, fruit juice, soft drinks, beer and wine. I was spoilt for choice.

As it was, I had an espresso which I followed up with a macchiato. With hindsight, maybe I should have had a V60, but I wanted to see how Coutume’s coffee, made in its own café, compared with the way Black Market made it. As it was, there was little difference. The espresso was still a little too fruity for my palette and while it went well with the milk in the macchiato, it didn’t quite have the same wow factor that the Has Bean Jailbreak at Ten Belles had.

Other than that, I could find no cause for complaint and the service was faultless. I was provided with a carafe of water as standard (always a nice touch) and both drinks were well presented: the espresso in a classic (and hard to photograph!) black cup and the macchiato in a very fine glass.

The interior was spacious and stripped back, with walls tiled to about 1m in height but bare above, elaborate coving around the edges of the ceiling hinting at a more glorious past. It’s a strange space, with large windows at the front and funky light bulbs, with the feel of two narrow shop-fronts knocked together. The right-hand side is dominated by a massive tiled counter on which sits the espresso machine and all manner of other coffee-making paraphernalia. There is also a large cake cabinet built into the counter and what looks like a food preparation area behind that. Right at the back is the roaster where Coutume roasts all its beans.

The main seating is opposite the counter behind what would be the other shop-front. It consists of two rows of square tables, pushed together in communal fashion. There are also a few isolated square tables and, further back, a bizarre, narrow space with another row of tables and walls on three sides which looked distinctly cramped and claustrophobic.

I picked a poor time to visit, right at the end of the day, when the staff were clearing up. Despite this, I really liked Coutume and would like to come back during the day. As well as coffee and cake, Coutume does food and you can buy a wide range of beans. It’s also the one place that was obviously doing coffee to go from a small takeaway bar right at the front of the café. This is something that seems to have been slow to catch on in France; I can’t imagine going into most traditional cafes/bars in France and asking for “un café a emporter”.

47 RUE DE BABYLONE • PARIS • 75007 • FRANCE +33 1 45 51 50 47
Monday 08:00 – 19:00 Roaster Coutume (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Bars
Wednesday 08:00 – 19:00 Food Brunch/Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 19:00 Service Table
Friday 08:00 – 19:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 10:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 19:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits Original: 24th May 2013
Update: 29th August 2014

You can also see what fellow-blogger Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato made of Coutume (she also visited Télescope) and what I made of it on my return in 2014.

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4 thoughts on “Coutume

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