Sugar BLUE Café

The Sugar BLUE logo: "Sugar BLUE" with "COFFEE & FOOD" underneath, written in a blue circle.Good coffee can be a little hard to find in France, especially if you don’t like traditional, dark-roasted espresso (if, like me, you do, there are plenty of places that will serve you a very drinkable cup of coffee, but woe betide you if you want a pour-over or single-origin espresso). Therefore it’s always nice when you come across a place such as Nantes’ Sugar Blue Café.

Situated right in the centre of the new town, just north of the splendid Place Royale, it had been open all of two weeks when I called by. The brainchild of joint-owners, Marlyse and Emmanuelle, it’s an attempt to bring the coffee culture of London (and increasingly, Paris) to Nantes and I wish them every success.

With coffee roasted by Caffè Cataldi of Brittany, Sugar Blue offers two single-origin espressos and a third single-origin as a filter. Equally as impressive is the food offering (its slogan is “All you need is good coffee and fresh food”). Everything is homemade and there are good breakfast and lunch menus, with a great selection of cake. To round things off, it’s a lovely spot, the perfect place for a quick (or leisurely) coffee and some food.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Sugar Blue Cafe in the heart of Nantes...
  • I was sold from the moment I saw the A-board.
  • The front of Sugar Blue...
  • ... and the view from just inside the door.
  • The communal table on the left...
  • ... the coffee table and its bench opposite...
  • ... and the round table next to it.
  • There are two chairs at the front end of the counter...
  • ... and these tables opposite the counter.
  • The view, looking from the back.
  • The counters, food to the left, coffee at the back.
  • That's quite a lot of food!
  • The coffee end of Sugar Blue.
  • Sugar Blue is full of lovely little touches.
  • All I really need :-)
  • Help yourself to a carafe of water and a glass. And some cutlery.
  • Coat hooks are an overlooked feature in a lot of coffee shops.
  • Nice pictures.
  • Obligatory light fitting shot...
  • ... sorry, couldn't resist another one!
  • There appears to be some cookies in that jar...
  • ... along with a (depleted) basket of pastries.
  • If you can't read the label, it's 'Gâteau fondant au chocolat' (chocolate cake to you & me)
  • Worth a closer look.
  • The caramel cake.
  • So, down to business... Let's take a look at the coffee menu.
  • The current selection...
  • Something from the (extremely) shiny espresso machine I think.
  • My espresso...
  • ... and in close-up.
  • Tasting notes for the coffee.
  • My Yirgacheffe Wote.
  • I'll leave you with all the cake they forced me to eat...
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Sugar Blue occupies a long, thin spot on the pedestrianised rue de l’arche sèche. I knew from the moment I saw it’s A-board that it was for me. Its glass front is split into four equal parts, one of which is the door (on the right). The other three form a sliding window which can be full closed or one-third/two-thirds open, the latter an excellent option for letting in some air on hot summer afternoons.

There’s a bench outside, mostly for the cigarette smokers, but the bulk of the seating is inside. There’s a long, communal table on your left as you come in, with benches on either side. Opposite is a low coffee table with its own bench, followed by a round 4-person table. Beyond this comes the counter on left and more seating, in the shape of four high-tables, on the right. These are up against a very comfortable padded bench on the right-hand wall and each has a chair of its own. Finally, two high, blue metal chairs sit at the front end of the counter, backs to the door.

The counter is an ‘L’-shape, running along the left-hand wall and continuing along the back wall of Sugar Blue. The food, cake and till are arranged on the counter to the left, with a big chalkboard menu behind it, while the counter at the back is given over to the coffee-side of things, with a two group La Marzocco, grinders for the two espresso beans and a third for the filter.

Thanks to its glass front, Sugar Blue’s interior is pretty bright, aided by the décor. Two of the three walls are painted white, while the third, on right, is painted Sugar Blue blue. This goes well with the wooden floor and the light wood of the counter, giving it a natural feel. The atmosphere was rounded off while I was there with some pop classics playing quietly in background.

All the coffee is from Caffè Cataldi. Emmanuelle, who had previously worked in the likes of Paris’ Café Lomi, was the first to admit that they were still finding their feet with the choice of beans. I tried the second of the espresso beans, a Finca la Coptita Bio from Mexico, which was very well made, but a bit too bright and acidic for my tastes.

I followed this up with a Yirgacheffe Wote, which was prepared using a cafetiere (interestingly, cafetiere in French, at least in Sugar Blue, is “French Press”…). If I’m honest, this probably would have been better served by a V60 or Aeropress, but it was still a good cup of coffee, which improved as cooled.

I was there mid-afternoon, so didn’t get to try any of the impressive selection of homemade food, which included sandwiches, quiche, tarts and wraps. However, I was made to try an extensive selection of the cakes (honestly, Emmanuelle insisted; how could I refuse?). I had samples of the chocolate cake, lemon tart and caramel cake. They were all good, but the lemon tart was excellent, really sweet and sharp. However, the caramel cake was even better, with a rich sponge infused with a sticky layer of caramel. Sadly I had to leave before I could go back and eat the rest of the cake…

4 RUE DE L’ARCHE SÈCHE • NANTES • 44000 • FRANCE +33 9 83 24 19 24
Monday 08:00 – 18:30 Seating Tables, Bar, Bench Outside
Tuesday 08:00 – 18:30 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Wednesday 08:00 – 18:30 Service Order at counter
Thursday 08:00 – 18:30 Cards Mastercard, Visa (€5 minimum)
Friday 08:00 – 18:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Saturday 09:00 – 18:30 Power Limited
Sunday CLOSED Mobile N/A
Chain No Visits 28th August 2014

I’m indebted to Wilfred Gilbert (via Coffee Content) on Twitter for pointing me in the direction of Sugar Blue in the first place.

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