Café au lait, au lait, au lait, au laait…

I drink too much coffee, it’s a drink which I am dependent on (in fact I am drinking my second cup of coffee writing this). I aspire to be a version of myself who wakes up does Pilates and drinks Matcha Tea. Until then, I prefer the back aches, muscle rigidity and intense highs and lows of coffee. Thankfully, the Parisians are fond of the simple joy of a Café au lait.

It’s hard to imagine a street corner in Paris where you can’t get a coffee. For me the charm of Paris lies here. There is a culture to protect: Coffee in Paris is not from Nero, Costa, Starbucks etc. Every café is unique – run by a person(s) with memories, ideas and dreams.

With so much humanity (relative to the sight of Starbucks on every London corner) running through its veins, it’s no surprise then that so many writers and intellectuals, have spoken so often of taking inspiration from Paris. James Baldwin wrote parts of Go Tell it on the Mountain from Café Flore (below). And Hemmingway was known to frequent Café Les Deux Magots.

One morning I was in Marcello, an upmarket café on Rue Mabillon in Saint-Germain-Des-Prés. I was looking for my morning coffee, which I have found goes perfectly with croissants and GMAIL. Marcello had filter coffee on the menu. This caught my eye as most coffee in Paris is espresso coffee. I have a drip coffee maker at home, and often find filter coffee can have much more flavour. I ordered one filter coffee (with one free refill) and a croissant. The coffee was extraordinary. It was light, not acidic, almost creamy and left an almost refreshing aftertaste. On my second refill I was enthusiastic to tell the waiter just how good it was: With one thumb up, and accentuating the e’s in coffee, I said: ‘Coffee. Bon’. I will learn French one day. Florent, the waiter, spoke English and was enthusiastic about telling me how he made the coffee using a drip filter and so on. Before long he was letting me in on a specialist café, run by some friends, located in the ‘trendy’ Marais area of Paris. After getting him to repeat the name of the café about four times and handing him my phone to google it, we finally got the info.

The next day we went down to Marais to find Terres De Café. It turns out they are a roaster of coffee too. As you would expect the shop is cute. It’s one of those places where a lot of thought (and money) has gone into the design and look. Easy to pass it off as pretentious, but I like things that look good and are designed intriguingly.

Despite drinking a lot of coffee I can’t claim to be an expert. I know enough to know what I like. Again, the coffee here was really impressive. I found this brew clean and crisp. I had several cups. My wife had a cappuccino which also tasted almost sweet, although no sugar was in it. The Barista said he preferred using UHT milk in coffee, which seemed odd. But produced a taste I enjoyed.

The trend towards refined coffee is often aligned to Hipsters and gentrification. It can be fetishized too much, but truthfully this coffee tastes amazing and whilst relatively expensive to the street corner café au lait, it’s nice to have on occasion. I hope that the next generation of writers find as much inspiration in their Ethiopians brews as the likes of Hemingway and Baldwin took from Café Flore.

See the Google Map below for locations.

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