Frog Fight was a fun coffee competition in Paris—and then it fizzled out. Meet the folks who are looking to bring it back.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos by Albin Durand
Once upon a time, back when Oliver Strand’s now-defunct column for The New York Times, Ristretto, was still on the forefront of coffee news around the world, he wrote an article about the Paris coffee scene asking, “Is Coffee in Paris Improving?” He wrote the piece in response to an earlier article he wrote, asking why the coffee in Paris wasn’t better—and noted the barrage of angry comments and outrage that were quickly hurled his way afterward.
Although the article was meant to be a follow-up to his original piece, it quietly mentioned Frog Fight, a fun coffee competition started by David Flynn, then of Le Bal, and Thomas Lehoux of La Cafeotheque. As Oliver described it, “The throwdowns are lively, good-natured, a breath of indie air in a city where massive corporations dominate the coffee industry.” Because of the mention, folks flocked to Frog Fight, making it one of the most popular events the French coffee scene had experienced.
After that article, both the coffee scene in Paris and Frog Fight expanded rapidly. Although the Paris coffee scene in 2019 is still growing and developing, Frog Fight got lost in the shuffle, suffering from getting too popular too quickly and not having enough resources to support its goal. But now, eight years later, it’s back!
“Frog Fight was pretty much the one event on the French specialty-coffee scene that created a sense of community and shared knowledge seven or eight years ago,” says Mihaela Iordache, head roaster for Belleville Coffee in Paris, the host of the first event of the newly resurrected Frog Fight. “It had a clear format—one coffee tasting, one fun throwdown, and pretty simple rules—different host each time, coffee showcased never roasted by the host, beers, and music.” Perhaps their simplicity is what made them so popular back then, and that spirit of simplicity, fun, and community is what inspired folks in Paris to bring it back.
Frog Fight will be a series of three coffee competitions across the city—the first was held at Belleville’s new roasting space in the 19th Arrondissement. “We’ve all been waiting these past years for someone to take the lead and bring the right vibe back, when we realized, why not be that ‘someone’ again?” says Mihaela. “Belleville, Lomi, and Coutume were the original organizers, so it made sense to approach them again for a new season of Frog Fight.” Lomi and Coutume will host the second and third events, respectively.
The first night of competition was full of silly antics and fun times. At one point, competitors had to make lattes with boxing gloves on, and the crowd was encouraged to cheer them on. “We are all determined to grow this into a fun recurring event and bring the entire French coffee community together again,” Mihaela says. “The reigning champion, Marco Baresi, will have to compete and defend his title in the next Frog Fight this May.”