For a long time, the prevailing opinion of visitors to the French capital has been that the coffee in Paris is terrible. Well, it may be time to revise this long-running truism to “coffee in Paris was terrible.”
This Fall has seen a veritable avalanche of openings (Holybelly, Belleville Brûlerie, Fragments, Fondation, Coutume Lab) that have enriched the city’s specialty coffee scene with brews that are crafted by trained baristas using freshly roasted high-quality beans. And the local offer promises to get even better with upcoming launches of Lockwood and Rêves des Abyssines. So why are our cups of good coffee now running over like never before?
While researching this story over the past couple of months, I found myself sipping cup after filtered cup of Belleville Brûlerie coffee in shops with minimalist decor and nibbling anglicized baked goods (typically from Emperor Norton, one of the best purveyors in town). So the curious thought began to percolate in my head that the more the Paris coffee scene has changed, the more it’s stayed the same. When asked what made their shops unique, the constant refrain from owners and staff was high-quality filtered coffee, locally roasted Belleville beans (usually paired with a few other well-respected international roasters) and great cookies and/or pound cake. A notable exception was Nico Alary of Holybelly who passionately expounded about the virtues of the osmosis filter he keeps in the basement to purify his water, which makes sense in view of the fact that espresso is 95% water. But is it possible that in their effort to create a seriously good scene, Paris’ new coffee masters have ended up creating one that’s just as homogenized as the milk they use in their specialty coffees?
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