28 January 2011

How to order a Coffee in France

Ordering and enjoying the drink you want in France
The treasure hunt between my cups of coffee in France is as much about the location as it is the drink, but it helps to know how to order what I want to drink while traveling. There can be a difference between what is on the menu and how to best order a coffee in France. Also the terms are not exactly the same around the world, and the pronunciation a little different. More importantly there are customs to enjoying a coffee in France that took me awhile to learn. Knowledge, even about coffee, makes the discovery more pleasant. Now all you have to do is concentrate on that perfect coffee location.
A morning café north of Girona Spain. Photo by PedalDancer.com
Your coffee drink options are:
  • Un Café (café noir) (kuh-fay) : plain strong coffee usually brewed like espresso but in a bigger cup with sugar cubes on the side.
  • Une Noisette (kuh-fay nwah-zett) : a small espresso coffee with a dollop of foamed milk/cream and a tiny bit of milk (a macchiato) with sugar cubes on the side. (This is my drink of choice)
  • Un Express : an espresso
  • Double Express: double espresso 
  • Un Crème (kuh-fay khremm) : an espresso with half of warmed milk (small café au lait). 
  • Grand Crème : a larger Crème
  • Un Café au lait (kuh-fay oh-lay) : a big-size coffee with a jar of milk. May be served separately to be combined by you. Served with breakfast. (Un Crème is really the drink that the French order when wanting milk in their coffee).
  • Un Cappuccino : espresso coffee and steam-foamed milk with a sprinkle of cinnamon, or powdered or shaved chocolate, atop the foam. Served with breakfast. (Again, un Grand Crème is a better option to order)
  • Un Allongé (Café Léger) (kuh-fay lay-zjay) : an espresso coffee with double the amount of water (weak black coffee). The additional hot water might be served on the side so you may add it to your desired strength. This will taste the closest to a 'drip coffee'.
  • Un Serré : an espresso coffee with half the usual amount of water (strong black coffee).
  • Un Déca (un décaféiné)(kuh-fay day-kah-fay-uhn-ay) (un (café) faux) : a decaf coffee.
  • Un Américain (kuh-fay uh-meyhr-uh-kan) (café filtre) : filtered coffee. Dark roast and from Arabica beans, but honestly you are in France, don't order a filtered coffee!
  • Un café glacé : iced coffee.
  • Sucre - (soo-khruh) - sugar (You can request this, although cafés typically bring a cup with two cubed sugars on the dish. Since French coffee is strong, you may want to request more, or ask, "Plus de sucre, s'il vous plait," ploo duh soo-khruh, see voo play.)
  • Edulcorant - (ay-doohl-co-hrahn) - sweetener
  • Chocolat chaud - (shah-ko-lah show) - hot chocolate
Here is a link to hearing the proper pronunciation of coffee drinks in French: (Audio)
Coffee customs:
  • At Bed & Breakfasts, or homes in France, a pot of coffee and a pitcher of warm milk will be served in the morning. The coffee and milk are to be poured into a bowl and sipped holding in your hands. Don't look for a coffee mug (as I have wrongly done in the past). You may dunk your (often leftover) baguette in the coffee bowl.
  • Cappuccinos and Café au lait are ordered at breakfast only. 
  • You can drink a café noir (black) or espresso any time of day, but the only time you should drink coffee with food is at breakfast time. Coffee is enjoyed solo at other times of the day.
  • That is why you will not be served your coffee until after you have finished your dessert after dinner. It will be a small espresso and is considered de rigeur. Never order a cappuccino or café au lait after dinner, it is expressly espresso only (café noir). You may request Un Déca.
  • Unless you are with friends and plan to chat all afternoon, have your coffee at the bar, standing up. Never order at the bar and then sit down at a table. 
  • You don't order coffee to go in France. If you want a rapid coffee, stand at the bar, order un café, be polite to the proprietor, drink up, pay, and leave after your quick drink. No tipping is necessary (unless you want to become a regular).
  • Also if you are a cyclist, looking for a quick break (and a chance to use the WC) do not sit down at a table, it will take you forever to be served and pay and leave. Your 10 minute coffee break will become 45 minutes very easily. 
" I like my coffee strong, not lethal!"  ~M*A*S*H

This is a fun visual poster to Italian coffee: Coffee Field Guide by Bianchista