Doesn’t it just seem like literally every French person you meet is a coffee drinker? Whether you like the taste or not, coffee is built into the French lifestyle. Morning, afternoon, or evening in France, someone will suggest you grab a coffee (or 2).
Here are a few sips of information on how to drink your coffee like a proper Frenchie, what to eat with it, and some fancy French words to make you sound ever so très chic.
Your typical cup’o’joe doesn’t exactly exist on the european continent. But if you want something quite similar, go for a…
Café Americain or Café Allongé
An “americano,” as it’s known in the states, is what the French would (appropriately) call a café americain (kah-FAY ah-may-ree-KUHN) or café allongé (kah-FAY ah-lahn-JAY). That is, it’s a diluted version of their café that many americans expect when they order a simple, “coffee.”
Café or Café Express
You might call this an ‘espresso,’ but it’s what you’ll get in Paris if you order a coffee from the bistro bar. It’s highly concentrated and comes in a teeny tiny cup that makes you want to stick up your pinkies.
You can call it simply “un café” or “un café express” (kah-FAY ex-PRAY) which basically just means a quick coffee. The waiters in Paris are very efficient with their French and love to abbreviate, so you’ll occasionally hear it called just “un express” as well.
Some French will take their café with sugar (two raw sugar lumps come with every order), but cream or milk is a rarity, unless you order a…
Café au Lait
Usually people think this is spelled, “Café Olé!” because that’s how it sounds, but it is actually just the French words for “espresso with milk.” Once you know this, you suddenly want to order everything au lait because you sound like a matador.
“I’ll take my tea au lait, olé!”
In any case, a café au lait is usually just a café and a bunch of steamed milk in a cup or bowl. Voilà!
A variation on the café au lait is the café noisette (kay-FAY nwa-ZEHT). Although “noisette” means “hazelnut” in French – do not be fooled – this is not hazelnut flavored coffee.
Ordering a noisette means you want just a splash of milk in your espresso. The name comes from the rich hazelnutty color the espresso gets when mixed with just a little lait.
When in doubt, just avoid these American coffee habits:
No blended coffee
No flavor supplements (eg. hazelnut, peppermint, vanilla)
No whipped cream (unless you’re having a chocolat chaud (hot chocolate), and even then…)
Some just drink a café at the counter without food, but my favorite French morning ritual is to grab a piece of croissant and dip it in my bowl of café au lait at home or in my little cup of café at a bistro bar. Baguettes also make good dipping devices.
Coffee in France also does its duty as a meal closer. You can drink it after dessert and after cheese, as the final note of the dining symphony. If you’re capping your dinner with a coffee, though, I do recommend you go décaf.
How do you take your coffee? Let us know in the comments below.