Paris has very few things about it that inspire pity, and until recently, coffee was one of them. What a shame that such a city of beauty and food beauty would linger in the depths of darkness. What a travesty of taste that in a place where the sidewalk cafe and all its attendant idle pursuits have been perfected, what's inside the cup has been, until recently, so very poor.
The enlightenment's come, however, in the unsurprising influences of major progressive coffee regions, specifically Australia, the United States, and Scandinavia. Trends and new ways of thinking from these far less laissez-faire coffee climates have finally begun to penetrate the Parisian scene with success: an outcropping of worthy cafes and a broader acceptance of styles has begun, just now, to flourish.
Brewing enthusiastically embraced by coffee-drinking audiences internationally, but not until now in Paris, are emerging with force. Beyond the mediocre espresso preparation of dark-roasted beans is an openness towards the subtlety of filter coffees: V60 pourover cones and Chemex carafes are slowly taking up counter space, whereas the already-more-popular-in-Europe-than-its-native-US Aeropress is also maintaining a position. A good or great cup of filter/Aeropress coffee is available at the city's finer cafes like Télescope and Ten Belles; others are adding filter programs as we speak.
And what sort of coffee are the better cafes in Paris brewing? Imports, for now. Sadly, custom roasting for Télescope has ceased, meaning their own cafe must bring in coffee from outside (look for hopper-favorite Has Bean from the UK to continue alongside a cast of others). Ten Belles, another cafe that relied on Télescope beans (as well as some barista crossover) is also using Has Bean, while newcomers The Broken Arm brew up Scandinavian style with espressos from Oslo's Solberg & Hansen.
Café Lomi continues among the rare local roasters, and to many, the oft-celebrated Coutume remains an example of good, if charred, intentions. Their darker roasts remain a vestige of an old guard of coffee, despite the modern presentation. We're hopeful for new roasters emerging in coming years, as former Télescope roaster David Nigel Flynn strikes out on his own, and others catching the wave of enthusiasm—and the desire to claim what will truly be a new Parisian coffee—follow suit.
Cafe-wise, expect the above spots to continue to set the pace, alongside other shops trying to do a solid job, like Kooka Boora, Café Craft, Black Market, and others. We're also excited to see what Nico Alary cooks up when his cafe and restaurant opens later this year. Nico recently returned from a long stint in Melbourne, Australia—which included time behind the bar at celebrated Market Lane Coffee—and returned to Paris with a yet-renewed desire to elevate Parisian coffee.
"When I was freshly back from Melbourne," said Alary, "I was shocked. The French have no education in coffee whatsoever."
Paris coffee, your education has only just begun.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop this spring.