Writer Jason Huffnagle is traveling all across Europe, drinking coffee and sharing with us the cultures, recipes, and traditions of the beverage all across the continent. Jason wraps up his trip with a visit to Paris.
BY JASON HUFFNAGLE
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos courtesy of Jason Huffnagle
We’ve been running this series for a while, and we’re finally on the last leg of the trip! Catch up by checking out Jason’s visits to Edinburgh, London, Rome, Florence & Venice, Salzburg, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, Warsaw, Prague, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Bruges.
An iconic city like Paris hardly requires introduction–from one-of-a-kind art pieces like the Mona Lisa to unbeatable shopping along the Champs-Élysées to architectural wonders like the Eiffel Tower, this metropolis delivers in ways most cities cannot. A certain pleasant, indefinable quality (or as the French would say, “je ne sais quoi”) pervades its resplendent cafés and busy streets. With much to see and my travels almost at an end, I was eager to take in the sights, sounds, and sips of my final destination in Europe.
Although Paris is widely regarded as a city built, essentially, on remarkable food and drink, my expectations for its coffee scene were similar to those of Italy’s: thousands of traditional cafes with ashy, over-roasted coffee, where “specialty coffee” meant Illy, Starbucks, or Nespresso. I can now happily report this preconceived notion was quite wrong, as third-wave coffee is well-represented in the French capital.
With its many locations, Cuillier has been a well-respected member of the coffee community in Paris since 2014. While their methods for sourcing and roasting have been imported from elsewhere, Cuillier is distinctly French, a fact made evident in both its elegant decor and decadent baked goods.
I visited Cuillier’s Rue de Grenelle store, which is near the Musee D’Orsay and the Louvre Museum, two iconic museums in the heart of Paris. If you have had your fill of art, which is not impossible in a city like Paris, stop by Deyrolle, a curiosity shop filled with stuffed, rare animals and other whimsical items and oddities. Or, if shopping for high-fashion is more your thing, get your couture and coffee on at their location in Paris’ famed shopping mall, Galeries Lafayette. Travelers of a different kind will be interested to know Cuillier has yet another location near the Sacre-Coeur, a massive, domed white church, with impressive interior mosaics, stained-glass windows, and a view of the city that will require turning your iPhone camera to pano.
Coutume (translated as custom) Cafe is another big name in the Parisian coffee scene, and has been roasting and serving coffee since 2010. They have an incredible, rotating coffee offering, some pretty serious eats, and are a favored spot amongst local brunch-goers. Planning a trip to Osaka or Tokyo in Japan? You can also enjoy Coutume’s craft during your next trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Coutume’s Babylone location is near Les Invalides, a massive French military history museum and the site of Napoleon’s grave. While some may be tempted to take a pass on this museum, it would be a shame to skip out on its extensive exhibitions, which include vast collections of plate armor, swords, and even some more modern military equipment like World War I-era tanks. After all, to understand Europe today is to know the impact that 20th century wars had on the continent.
Australian Chris Nielsen opened Fondation Cafe in a tiny space near Marché des Enfants Rouges. While this small shop is short on table space and toilets, they offer a surprising number of tasty tarts and other baked goods. Their all-glass storefront brings in ample natural light, or—since space is limited—beckons one back outside to to explore Fondation’s charming surroundings.
While mostly residential, this area’s winding streets and varied architecture make it an enjoyable place to simply wander and explore. If you’re looking to double-down on diuretics, go for a drink at the award-winning cocktail bar Little Red Door, where each beverage on the menu is ornately garnished and aptly named after a distinctive architectural style.
Located in a former parfumerie, The Hood has a homey, community-centric vibe that I did not find in any of the other shops I visited in Paris. With a nod to the international origins of many of its neighbors, the shop also offers a diverse food menu, including banh mi rice bowls, as well as a live music program.
As already alluded to, The Hood is in a unique district in Paris, which is made readily apparent by the number of Asian markets and Middle Eastern apparel stores. I recommend taking your coffee to-go and strolling through this melting pot neighborhood, or making the climb up to hilly Belleville Park to get dramatic views of the city.
Strada Cafe has been open since November 2014, and has two locations in the third and fifth arrondissements (municipal organizational units north and south of the Seine River). Following the trend of many of the other third-wave coffee shops I found in Paris, Strada was small on space but big on craft.
I made a quick layover at Strada’s Rue du Temple location, which is near Rue des Rosiers, one of Paris’ historic Jewish quarters. Be sure to grab lunch at L’as du Fallafel (The Fallafel Ace) so you can take in this beautiful, winding pedestrian thoroughfare with some of the best dang falafel you’ll ever have. Don’t let the perpetually long line sway you—it goes fast and is worth the wait.
The Caféothèque of Paris
The Caféothèque of Paris may be one of the oldest third-wave-esque coffee shops I visited in Paris, having been open since 2005. This shop boasts an incredible variety of coffees, with their roasting operation a mere arm’s length from the sales floor and their customers’ tables.
While in the area, you may want to visit the Shoah Memorial, which is dedicated to the memory of French Jews persecuted and killed during the Holocaust. Just a quick 10-minute walk southwest and across the Seine River to the island Ile de la Cité, you will find yourself in front of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and, a few blocks further, with its sublime stained-glass windows, the Gothic royal chapel of Sainte-Chapelle. Famed English bookstore Shakespeare & Company is also close by.
Having spent the last several months on the European road, visiting new cities and meeting other coffee people, I am disappointed to be at the tail end of my trip. While all good things must come to an end—with an exception for good coffee—I look forward to sharing some concluding thoughts and overall observations in a future reflective, post-travel piece, so stay tuned. Until then, au revoir!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Huffnagle is a freelance writer for Barista Magazine who has worked in coffee as a barista for six years. Having recently left his “adult job” in the U.S. Senate, the Alaska native is spending the next four months traveling throughout Europe. You can keep up with his coffee-fueled travels and other exploits by following him at @jasonhuffnagle on Twitter.