One thing I love about traveling is observing coffee culture, to experience the way people all over the
world bring coffee into their day in taste and ritual. Offering someone a coffee is a universal sign of hospitality, and when proposing a casual business meeting, a catch up with friends, or even a first date, coffee seems to be the thing we go to. France is no exception to either of these, and coffee is an integral part of the day — morning, noon, and night. Yes night! After a big dinner, the French almost always take un café. The other day as I pulled out my favourite shade of the new L’Absolu Rouge in Café Parisien (a creamy matte beige with a hunt of blush) I got to thinking about all of this and was inspired to write an article here about just that...Parisian coffee!
When in France or not, ordering coffee can seem like a foreign language. Macchiato, cortado, half-caf
breve latte...I can’t even tell you what two and a half of those are. But in France, we actually like to keep
our coffee pretty simple. It may sound complicated, but a few basics will have you covered. No matter
how you take your coffee, here’s how to get just what you’re looking for when ordering in French.
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actually, you’ll still be hard pressed to get a sugar free vanilla almond milk latte with caramel drizzle (this
doesn’t translate to French, linguistically or culturally!) but the more French and more reasonable orders
I’ve translated for you here...
• Un café — This is a regular espresso, short and strong. Not to be confused with ordinary coffee. If you want to sound very Parisian, you can say un express, s’il vous plait! with your finger in the air.
• Un double — The short way to order a double espresso, for when you really need a jolt of caffeine!
• Un allongé — This is a watered down expresso, taller and less strong and roughly translates to a “coffee lying down” which I’ve always found kind of cute to say.
• Café crème — An espresso with a lot of milk. This is the closest thing you can get to a latte at a cafe here in France, but I can’t promise they will steam your milk...
• Café au lait — Literally meaning a filtered coffee with milk, this is less common to order in France than café crème, mainly because the French drink this sort of thing exclusively at home for breakfast.
• Une noisette — An espresso with a little bit of hot milk. You can also say café noisette. It’s smaller than a café crème and so lighter on the milk. The name means hazelnut but only for its color and not its actual flavor.
• Un déca — A decaffeinated coffee. Why anyone would order such a thing I have no idea!
• Café américain — If you want a “cup of joe” ask for this and you will get regular filtered coffee, but refills aren’t a thing in France. You can also ask for un americano.
• Cappuccino — Pretty universal, the cappuccino is the same in France, served with a heap of foam and often a sprinkle of cocoa powder.