“Coffee is a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your older self.”–Terry Pratchett, Thud!
I was not a coffee drinker until I moved to France.
That said, getting addicted to Java has absolutely nothing to do with the superior quality of coffee in France. Au contraire, en fait, it is pretty widely accepted that French coffee is well below standard when compared to coffee in other countries.
My newfound love of coffee does however have a lot to do with my Nespresso machine (which I have already waxed poetically about), the “break” part of the word “coffee break”, and the centuries old café/coffee culture of France.
The idea of taking a 20-30 minute break in the afternoon either chez toi or at your corner café is quite civilized, and something I never allowed myself to do in my multitasking life in America. I also love the French tradition of always having a small coffee to finish off your meal with or without one of the many delectable French desserts you may have on hand.
Au contraire: on the contrary
chez toi: at your house
I wasn’t always a coffee snob, in fact, I’m not sure that I am one. I’m pretty inexperienced. I’ve only been drinking coffee for a few years, turned on to the benefits of possibly staving off Parkinson’s disease, as it runs in my family. Watching my maman decline and eventually die from this dignity denying disease, I have chosen to cling to any remedy that offers a hope of preventing me from succumbing as well. So naturally when I saw the recent studies showing a link between prevention of Parkinson’s and coffee drinking, I very easily picked up the daily habit of drinking two café noisettes. (Which by the way has nothing to do with hazelnuts.)
I say easily, because it such a part of the French culture to have a coffee. They drink their coffees standing in the morning at a bar, sitting in a brasserie for lunch, reclining at their cafés at teatime, and of course, luxuriously finishing their final cup after dinner at a resto with a pack of cigarettes.
The Frenchies aren’t so much of a coffee culture as they are a café culture, and I think that’s where things have gone wrong in regards to a good cup of Joe. I’m not sure it matters to them what they are drinking as much where they are drinking it, and with whom. There have been many an article and blog post written about the regretfully awful coffee served in France, with headlines ranging from bad to worse: Why is French Coffee so Bad? How the French Ruined Coffee, and my favorite, How Not to Drink Black Tar in Paris.
But there is still hope. When I asked my Italian friend Sarah where to get a good cup of coffee in Paris, she said, and I quote, “There are only two places I can recommend: Coutume on rue de Babylone and the Fiat dealership (yes, no kidding, they have a bar there!!!) on the Rond Point des Champs Elysees”.
un café noisette: An espresso with a little bit of hot milk.
une noisette: a hazelnut
un restau: a cool way to say restaurant