The Best Paris Coffee Shops
Kooka Boora Café, photo by
Kooka Boora Café, photo by
Think of Paris and inevitably thoughts of its famous cafe culture won’t be far behind. Planning a trip to the City of Light goes hand in hand with planning to spend time people-watching from a pavement cafe, sipping your café noisette and watching the world go by. Now, I hate to burst the bubble here, as loitering in a Parisian cafe is probably one of my favorite things to do, but on the whole French coffee tastes like the stuff of nightmares.
Seriously, the coffee very nearly always tastes burnt, the milk is either scalding hot or freezing cold and usually the foul tasting sterilized UHT kind, oh and you can forget asking for a latte or espresso as barista culture is largely non-existent.
But, take heart, good places do exist. You can live that Paris pavement cafe dream. Just make sure you go to the right place.
I found Torrefaction Aouba (30 Rue d’Aligre (12th)), thanks to the heavenly scent of the beans roasting away. I followed my nose, ran in there and bought a bag of his finest at once, then stayed to chat with the friendly owner and drink a teeth-rattlingly good espresso at his little counter. The marché d’Aligre is just around the corner from Ledru-Rollin metro – and for my money is one of the most authentic and least touristy in town. It’s also where you’ll find one of Paris’s great wine bars, the Baron Rouge, stop by for a post-coffee glass of wine.
Just ten minutes stroll from Notre-Dame on the Ile de la Cité, Café Malongo (50 Rue Saint-André des Arts, (6th)) is probably one of the best coffee bars in the area that will serve you the cappuccino or espresso that you have been craving after a long slog soaking up the local culture. Café Malongo is a brand of store-bought coffee in France, but they make a more-than decent brew here and you can pick up great coffee apparatus too. Admittedly, the chairs aren’t especially comfortable, so sit up at the counter and talk with the friendly staff instead.
I discovered the Vélo café (Place de la Bourse (2nd)) quite by chance as I was tottering past the Bourse one day after a trying morning wrangling with the French postal system (my advice – avoid if possible). I was never so glad to see a little coffee cart in my life. The barista here serves wonderful shots of life-giving espresso and I think this is the only mobile cafe of its kind in Paris. Go see her, make sure she stays!
I was transfixed by the amazing coffee pots in Cafe Coutume (47 Rue de Babylone (7th)) which roasts its own beans on-site. Huge, bubbling away and fired by what looked like a giant bunsen burner, here was theatre and coffee combined! Luckily their coffee tastes just as good as it looks and with Coutume beans making their way into other cafes across the capital, burnt beans could soon be a thing of the past. If you’re around at the weekend, stop by for brunch as the cafe often turns itself over to guest chefs for the weekend who whip up satisfyingly rib-sticker breakfasts.
My first ‘good coffee find” in Paris, I will forever have a soft spot for Cafe Kooka Boora (53, avenue Trudaine (9th)). I’d been without so much as a latte for almost two weeks and was seriously contemplating how bad it could be to just pop back to London, just for a cuppa, when a new friend recommended this place. Anne, I will be forever grateful to you as Kooka Boora is wonderful. Whenever I’ve been in, it’s been staffed by expert Australians or New Zealanders and their clientele is a rag-tag bunch of students, expats and the occasional passing Parisian coffee fan. This is laptop-office HQ for many and the wonderful thing is you can buy a cup and stay for hours. No one ever seems to mind. Their flat whites are ambrosial and the cakes are fairly special too. If you get the right seat, you can even see Montmartre.
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