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 palettes 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 ofCaféotheque, 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.
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