France, a country with both a history of revolution and a history of coffee drinking, is currently experiencing a paradigm shift in its coffee scene.
Coffee arrived in France at the beginning of the
17th Century, but the enjoyment of its complexities has been lost over the
years and it still lags about 10 years behind the scenes in Melbourne, San
Francisco, London or Copenhagen. Today, a slug of espresso is seen as a
necessity in the morning or after a meal to perk you up -- not something to be
savoured and appreciated for its delicate aromas.
Yet France is a country where the subtleties of
cheese and the complex notes of wine are appreciated and analysed. So why are
these advanced Gallic palates not being put to use for coffee? This is a
question Antoine Nétien and Tom Clark, the duo behind the Left Bank cafe
Coutume, asked themselves in 2011 when
they decided to follow in the footsteps of Caféotheque, an independent cafe and
coffee specialist founded in 2005 that can be credited with initiating the
speciality coffee movement in the French capital.
Located in a chic part of the 7th arrondissement
with a modern and airy decor, Coutume offers a menu of daily-changing coffees
in several incarnations -- espresso, decaf and filter -- the beans for which
are sourced by the owners and roasted onsite in the enormous roasting machines at
the back of the shop. Each drink is expertly made by baristas using top of the
range coffee-making equipment, and sommelier-like waiters explain the notes of
each variety to customers. Milk-based drinks, including cappuccino and latte,
are also available, and provide a vehicle to showcase the baristas’ expertise
in the form of fancy latte art (designs drawn on to the froth of the milk by
mixing in the underlying coffee).
But Coutume doesn’t just provide a superlative
coffee experience to its customers; they are leading the French coffee movement
on a larger scale, supplying their roasts to more than 40 other cafes and
restaurants throughout France. They also monitor, mentor and train the
businesses they sell to in order to ensure that each cup served is up to
scratch in every cafe.
Today, in the wake of Coutume’s pioneering
coffee mission, a high quality cup of coffee can be savoured in independent
coffee stores in several Paris neighbourhoods, including the brand new Black
Market in Montmartre (27 rue Ramey), trendy Télescope near Opéra, brunch specialist
Claus in the 1st arrondissement and English-inspired
Le Bal Café in the 18th arrondissement.
Coutume is also planning on opening a second cafe on the Right Bank in the
coming months, and Café Lomi, another new
cafe with onsite roasting equipment is scheduled to open
in the 18th arrondissement in September.
Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes www.unlockparis.com.