One of my favorite things to do in Paris in the early mornings is to sit at a café with a cafe crème and enjoy the beautiful city before it comes alive. I remember the first time I went to Paris, I was a bit confused about how to order coffee. There are several ways to order coffee in Paris you should know about that are very different from the states.
First, always say Bonjour when you enter any café before sitting down. This is just basic French etiquette to always keep in mind.
The price of your coffee will differ depending on if you are sitting outside on the terrace or standing inside at the bar (bar is zink in French). A bar is a great place to people-watch everyone coming and going for their espresso before heading off to work. People don’t stand and eat at the bar but you will notice croissants sitting on the bar, make sure to ask first, and don’t just grab one.
Also, Parisians typically do not put milk in their coffee anytime after the noon hour, they stick with a café noir(black) or espresso. You can order coffee in Paris with milk after this time, but you will definitely look like a tourist at this point.
Second, there’s some etiquette on when you should be drinking your coffee and eating at the same time. You can order a café noir (black coffee) or espresso at any time of the day. However, the only time you can order coffee with food is at breakfast.
They will not serve you an after-dinner espresso until you’ve finished your dessert. Most people have espresso after dinner but not with milk or cream. Again, you can order one with cream but you will stand out.
In regards to milk options, there’s usually only one and it’s whole milk but they won’t ask your preference. Please don’t try and order almond, soy, fat-free, or dairy-free because it doesn’t exist.
Here are several ways to order coffee in Paris that I am familiar with. I am sure there are other options and I believe each cafè or specific coffee shop might have its own specific version. But, this will at least get you started. If anyone else knows of anything different please let me know.
My personal favorite is a cafè créme which some might consider a latté. It’s coffee with warm frothed milk that’s creamy and incredibly tasty. This is not the same though as a Café au Lait.
Café Americain or Filtré
This is the equivalent of drip coffee in the states, hence the name.
Espresso with hot water, which is added to dilute it. This is also similar to a drip coffee but more bitter.
Just as it’s called, a shot of espresso. You can also order un double, which is a double shot of espresso.
A shot of espresso with a little steamed milk.
Strong plain espresso basically but served in a larger cup. The taste is usually pretty bitter and it’s served with a sucre (sugar) packet on the side. If you aren’t a fan of bitter or strong coffee, then you’ll want to pass on this one.
Un Café au Lait
Fresh ground coffee with warm steamed whole milk served in a large bowl.
Looking for the best places to get coffee in Paris, here are a few articles from people who live in Paris.
- David Lebovitz offers his take on where you can find the best cup of coffee in Paris, he keeps this post updated.
- La Cuisine Paris also put together this handy google map of their favorite coffee spots around the city.
Hopefully, these tips will be helpful next time you order coffee in Paris.
Few Extra Notes…
- Sugar is labeled as SUCRE, and is either on the table or will come on the side of your cup.
- A few phrases which will help you order your coffee are being able to say the name of the coffee followed by, please. For example, un café crème s’il vous plaît’.
- Most coffee in Paris at cafès is not available for takeaway. However, if you visit a specialty coffee shop, they are more like to have takeaway cups available. I find though, it’s more enjoyable to sit at a cafè enjoying your coffee.