How Australian transplants became among the several important factors behind flourishing specialty coffee in Paris.
BY MOLLY HEADLEY
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo courtesy of Coutume
It’s 11 a.m. on a random Tuesday morning. The pre-work espresso rush has ended, and it’s not lunchtime yet. Yet, on Rue Lucien Sampaix in Paris’ 10th arrondissement, there’s already a line outside Holybelly 5, a specialty-coffee café that began with an idea that was revolutionary to the city—treat specialty coffee in Paris with the same respect as the food.
To anyone living in a city with an established coffee culture, this might seem like a given, but surprisingly, Paris’ speciality-coffee culture is still in its fledgling phase. However, Australian-inspired cafés and restaurants like HolyBelly, Coutume, Hardware Société, and O Coffee are among the many international players that are reimagining the Parisian coffee experience, one flat white at a time.
Taking a Step Back
To get an idea of how far the Paris coffee evolution has come, we have to go back in time.
In 2008, coffee was an afterthought in the city, considered a morning energizer or an evening “digestive aid.” Yet, it was rarely celebrated in and of itself. The same year, across town, an Australian was about to throw out his law degree in favor of pursuing a license for a specialty-coffee cart: a move that would eventually be part of a shift to transform Paris into a place that could support dozens of specialty cafés—and a whole lot of avocado toast.
Pioneering Specialty Coffee in Paris With Coutume
Tom Clark, the aforementioned Australian, didn’t initially envision a career in coffee. Like many of the café owners on this list, he first fell in love with Paris, and the hunt for good coffee came later. After a student exchange in Paris, Tom went back to Australia. There he dove into the country’s specialty coffees. He soon realized that he was ready to move back to France, but he wanted to bring a bit of Australia’s F&B culture with him. “I wanted to show people that coffee can have as much complexity as wine if done properly,” Tom says. Coutume was born when Tom met award-winning roaster and French cofounder Antoine Nétien. In 2011, the duo tossed the coffee cart idea and opened a brick-and-mortar specialty café in the 7th arrondissement.
“It’s important to note that while there has been an international element to the coffee movement, the specialty-coffee scene in Paris is its own thing,” Tom says. Coutume’s tagline, “cafés d’exception,” reflects the most all-important of French ideals: the hunt for perfection.
Parisians Bring Australian Influence Back to the Motherland at Holybelly
In 2013, the French duo Nicolas Alary and his wife/partner Sarah Mouchot co-founded Holybelly in the hip 10th arrondissement after a five-year sojourn in Australia. “We were lucky to be in Australia during the golden era of specialty coffee,” Nicolas says. “Things were really creative. When we came back to Paris, it was impossible to go back to any other type of coffee.”
Nicolas and Sarah saw an opportunity to serve coffee with truly standout cuisine dreamed up by Sarah. These were still the early days of specialty coffee in Paris, and the Parisian coffee renaissance. “Ten years ago, if you walked into a bank and talked about specialty coffee, no one wanted to touch it,” Nicolas said. “Today, you go to a bank and tell them you want to do eggs and good coffee and you walk out with a loan.” Nicolas feels that the evolution is natural: “Most Parisians have a taste for good stuff; good bread, good chocolate. It’s only logical that coffee will follow.”
An International Affair at Hardware Société
Great food and coffee are things that Di and Will Keser, co-founders of the Hardware Société’s quartet of international cafés in Melbourne, Paris, and Barcelona, can get behind.
The original Hardware Société opened in Melbourne in 2009, and Hardware Société Paris opened in 2016. “We knew we had something to offer,” says Di Keser. “It wasn’t just about replicating the Australian coffee experience. Paris is a foodie place, so you need to hit the tone right.”
Surf’s Up at O Coffee
The right tone is something Matthew Sloane and his partner, French barista Tim Teyssier, also focused on when they dreamed up O Coffee, a surf-style café near the Australian Embassy in 2017. “What we wanted to do was to bring the Australian café scene to Paris, not just for the coffee but as a home away from home,” Matthew says. “Somewhere you can go to have a coffee and a chat as well.”
Luckily for all of us, thanks in large part to the inspiration of Australian café culture in Paris, good coffee has finally become less elusive to find than the perfect Parisian apartment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Molly Headley is a freelance journalist who writes about the F&B industry and arts & culture. She’s lived in the countryside of Idaho, an arts conservatory in Michigan, the gritty-glitz of L.A., poetic Paris, foodie London, and exhilarating Ho Chi Minh City. Travel has always driven her next move, but home is wherever she can sit with her laptop and a really good cup of coffee. In addition to writing, she currently teaches cross-cultural communication and storytelling at Leonardo da Vinci University in Paris.