French coffees explained

French coffees explained

Are you thinking of visiting France this year and wondering if you will be able to feed your caffeine habit to your liking? Let me give you a rundown of what you will get in your typical French café.

Though the fashionable latté has made its way to France you won’t find it on the traditional French café menu. Should this be your go to beverage you may want to head to a recognisable chain such as Starbucks or Notting Hill café, also in big cities such as Paris, Lyon, or Bordeaux (and many more) you’ll find indie baristas who will have a classic latté selection.

That said, let’s look at the traditional French coffees you will want to taste for your general culture. Should you order a ‘café’, you will be served a small shot of expresso in an expresso cup, and as is the case with all coffees in France there will be an optional sugar on the side. A ‘Noisette’ is the same as a ‘café’, with a few drops of milk or cream (generally milk). In this same range of expresso sized coffees, you can also order a ‘deca’ which is a decaffeinated version of the ‘café’. All three of the above options are made with ground beans and generally a professional barista grade expresso machine.

If you prefer bigger coffees you will want to opt for a ‘café allongé’  which is the French equivalent of the ‘café lungo’ , and is a long double (sometimes single)  expresso made either through adding a little water to the expresso shots or pulling a long double expresso. It’s basically a diluted version of an expresso. The ‘café americain’ or ‘americano’ is filtered coffee, and not as strong as a ‘café allongé’.

A ‘café crème’ is quite close to a cappuccino in that it is an espresso shot with milk, sometimes frothy, if you want to be sure to get the frothy milk you will need to order a ‘cappuccino’.

You will be able to order all of the above beverages from morning until night. As take-away coffee is less cultural in France, typical French cafés will be full early in the mornings as workers stop in to drink a ten minute coffee at the counter, and again after lunch as a traditional ‘café’ is the meal closer. In fact in some traditional cafés an expresso taken at the counter can be cheaper than being served one at a table.

Weekends are for taking long ‘people watching’ coffees on terraces, which is in fact the French national sport. Do not however sit yourself down at a table laid for lunch hour or dinner, if you only intend on making a coffee stop – that is unless you wish to meet the wrath of a French waiter – scary (and that’s a whole other blog post). Finally, make sure you know what you want to order as a coffee menu will not necessarily be provided. Have fun in France!


Bye for now,


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