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Everything You Need To Know About Coffee In French

Everything You Need To Know About Coffee In French

If you have ever been anywhere in France, you know how they love their coffee. Social media, movies, and shows like Netflix’s Emily In Paris show time they put into appreciating coffee. How do you order coffee in French, and why is the coffee culture so prevalent? Let’s find out. 

Coffee in French is called café, which you order by saying “un café s’il vous plait.” The standard coffee served is strong black espresso. Milk coffees are typically served in the morning with breakfast. The French don’t drink coffee for the taste but to socialize and relax on their breaks.  

From common French coffee phrases to foods served with coffee, and from the French coffee culture to learning how their coffee is made, read along to find out everything you need to know about coffee in French. 

How To Order Coffee In French 

How To Order Coffee In French 

Whether you are learning the language, moving to France, or visiting the country on vacation, one of the most common things you should know is how to ask for coffee. It doesn’t matter if you visit a local or a little café on the side of the road; understanding the French coffee vocabulary is helpful. 

How Do You Order Coffee In A French Café?

When visiting a French café, order your coffee in French. While many waiters will likely understand what “one coffee please” means, it’s always fun to converse with locals in their language. It also shows respect for them and their culture, which they take very seriously.  

  • Here’s how to efficiently order coffee in French at a French café: 
  • Say Bonjour (hello in the daytime) or Bonsoir (hello in the evening) 
  • To ask for one cup of coffee, say, “Un café.” 
  • Always say please – s’il vous plait 
  • The full phrase would be, “un café, s’il vous plait” 
  • Remember to Thank the staff – merci 

Here are some additional tips when ordering coffee at a French café: 

  • If you want coffee before or with your food, ask. The French typically serve coffee last, after all the food and dessert.
  • If you want milk or sugar or don’t want any of those, mention it. Milk coffee is often served only around breakfast time in some cafés. A sugar cube is typically provided. Let the waiter know if you don’t want it or want more.
  • When you enter a café, let the staff know if you are there for food and coffee or only coffee. Sometimes waiters place you in different areas of the café depending on your order.
  • Be kind and curious. Even if your good manners are not returned, it is only decent to be respectful to people in their own homes, especially when they are so protective over their country, language, and culture.

Standard Coffee Drinks In French 

The most common French coffee drinks you will find around France with their French names are listed below: 


Café is the French word for coffee. Simply ordering “un café,” which means “one coffee,” they will serve you a shot of espresso. This is the standard French coffee drink and the most popularly ordered option. 

Café au Lait 

This is typically French-pressed coffee with added steamed milk. It does, however, have more milk than a typical latte. The Café au Lait is served in the morning for breakfast; unless you request it, they won’t serve it after 11 am. 

Café Americain/Café Allonge 

The Café Americain is an Americano as we know it. An espresso diluted with hot water. It is also called Café Allonge, meaning long coffee or espresso. 

Café Crème 

Café Crème is similar to a cappuccino. It is an espresso topped with a good amount of milky foam. Because of the milk, it is served for breakfast and not after 11 am unless you request it. 

Café Noisette 

An Italian macchiato could be compared to the Café Noisette. It is not necessarily a type of drink but rather a variation to distinguish the amount of milk you want. “Noisette” means hazelnut. And that simply refers to the nutty color you want your coffee to be. It has nothing to do with the flavor. 

Ordering Coffee In French: Common Phrases 

When ordering coffee in French, there is common vocabulary and phrases that are good to know. These words and phrases make it easier for servers to understand your order without messing it up due to a language barrier. 

Hello – Bonjour (Day) 

Hello – Bonsoir (Night) 

Coffee – Café  

Black coffee – café noir  

One coffee – Un Café  

One coffee please – Un café, s’il vous plait 

Decaf cofee – un café deca or un deca  

Double shot of espresso – Café allonge  

Milk – Lait 

Sugar – Sucre 

No sugar – Sans sucre 

Coffee with milk – Café au lait 

Coffee with sugar – Café au sucre 

Two coffees please – Deux cafés 

Coffee with cream – Un café crème 

Strong coffee – Un café serre  

Iced coffee – Un café glacé  

Light coffee – Café léger 

Drink – Boire 

Eat – Manger 

Oui – Yes 

Non – Non  

Merci – Thank You  

French Coffee Traditions And Customs 

Coffee is a huge deal among the French. They don’t just drink coffee; they live it. It’s a part of their culture, traditions, and lifestyle. Let’s understand why. 

Understanding French Coffee Culture 

Cafe in French

French coffee culture is a significant part of the French lifestyle. The coffee culture consists of a few factors: 

Coffee shops: 

Forget about all of France. If you just walk around Paris, there is a coffee shop at almost every corner. These little cafes offer drinks like tea, coffee, and wine and light food items like croissants, pastries, desserts, and bread. 


It is usual for restaurants to offer/provide coffee after your meal. Most people drink a regular espresso or café au lait with or after eating. 

People watching: 

Coffee culture also includes people-watching. This means customers will sit at coffee shops (commonly at the tables outside), sipping on a café while watching people go by. Sometimes you can find people reading the newspaper, reading a book, or, these days, scrolling on their phones. 

Work breaks: 

Work breaks are taken extremely seriously by the French. And during these breaks, they visit a coffee shop and enjoy a café. Even if they don’t need it, they do it out of tradition, habit, and social norm. 


One of the most significant parts of French coffee culture is that they don’t drink coffee for taste. They aren’t concerned with different types of coffee, variety of flavors, or aesthetics. The French drink and enjoy coffee to socialize with friends, colleagues, and family. 

The History Of Famous French Coffee Houses 

France has some of the most famous coffee houses. These coffee houses are renowned for their delicious, alluring food, drinks, and ambiance. They are also steeped in a wealth of history, especially in Paris, since it is an ancient city. 

Here are 5 famous historical coffee houses: 

Les Deux Magots 

The classic Paris coffee shop translates to ‘’the two Chinese figurines” and is considered by many to be the most famous in all of Paris. Its history dates back to 1812 as a fabric and novelty shop. The owners moved to the current location in 1873. In 1884 it was transformed into a café. 

Café La Rotonde 

Café Rotonde, based in the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris, is a brasserie famous for its food artistic milieu. It was founded in 1911 by Victor Libion. It was a common gathering place for notable writers and artists during the interwar period.  

Café Des Deux Moulins 

This café, “two windmills,” is located in the Montmartre area of Paris. The name comes from two historical windmills nearby. The coffee house featured in the Amelie as a workplace for the main character. Soon after, it became a standard tourist attraction. 

Café De La Paix 

De La Paix is a Napoleon III style café designed by Alfred Armand, also famous for designing the Grand Hotel, which is home to the café. It opened in 1862 and became a popular destination for many due to its proximity to Palais Garnier. The future King of the UK, Edward VII, also visited the café. 

Café De Flore 

This is one of the oldest cafes in Paris, named after the goddess of flowers and the spring season in Roman mythology. It opened in 1880 during the Third Republic. Charles Maurras wrote his book there, and the cafe quickly became a famous spot for writers and artists alike. 

The Art Of French Coffee Making 

The French use one of the easiest and quickest (after drip coffee) coffee-making methods. They steep the coffee grounds in hot water and press them out to be left with the coffee. This pulls a lot of flavor from the grounds resulting in a strong, delicious drink. 

But for the French, the art is the roasting process. They level-roast coffee beans longer than regular dark roasts until they are smoky, rich, and dark. This provides the bold, intense flavor in their espressos. It is also why we have French-roasted coffee as an option for robust coffee today. 

How To Appreciate Coffee Like The French 

To truly enjoy coffee like the French, you must savor every sip. Sit, relax, or enjoy social time as you drink coffee and try to be present. It means no to-go coffee or hustling while you gulp it down. Enjoying coffee like the French requires appreciating a slow-paced life. 

What Food Goes With French Coffee? 

food and coffee in French

While food pairings are a personal preference, the French enjoy a cup of coffee alongside their traditional food as a standard practice. That means they choose specific food options with or before their coffee.  

Best Food and Coffee Combinations in French Fashion 

  • Cheese plates
  • Charcuterie
  • Bread
  • Salad
  • Soup
  • Terrine
  • Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • beef/pork/chicken

Classic French Breakfasts with Coffee 

  • Croissants
  • Tartine (sliced bread with butter and jam)

Popular French Pastries that Go with Coffee 

  • Macarons
  • Profiterole
  • Pain au chocolate
  • Éclair
  • Mille feuille

Pairing Coffee And Wine: A French Tradition  

This seems odd, but the concept is not unusual in France. The French call it “café au vin” (coffee with wine). To understand why it is so significant, you must realize that they do not randomly mix the two drinks to make it. Instead, it is created as a cocktail. 

Café au vin is made using cooled-down brewed coffee with wine and additional ingredients for desired flavors like orange peels, tannin, spices, etc. The ingredients are then combined in a blender to create a unique drink.  

Several variations include yeast and even cappuccino and port or hot coffee with wine drunk in the winter. Cabernet, chardonnay, and sherry are some of the drinks used for this purpose. 

What Are French Coffee Brands And Roasts? 

The French have specific coffee brands and roasting levels that make their coffee unique and give it its flavor. 

3 Top French Coffee Brands 

Legal Le Gout: uses only organic Arabica beans since 1851 and has no GMOs. 

Carte Noire: a blend of only pure Arabica coffee beans offered in regular and decaf options. 

Leroux: flavored with chicory plant for a woody and slightly nutty flavor, used for hot or cold drinks. 

Roasting Technique Of French Coffee  

As mentioned, the French roast their coffee beans longer than other strong roasts until they are smoky and dark. The internal temperature reaches 464 degrees Fahrenheit, and oils appear on the surface. 

Flavors Of French Coffee 

Due to the roasting technique, French coffee flavors are highly robust, bitter, and charcoal-like, with a hint of sweetness. This masks the original taste of coffee beans because of the intensity and bold profile. 

How To Choose The Right French Coffee 

The best way to choose coffee most authentic to French flavor is to look at roast (temperature and technique), brands, and flavor profile. 

The Difference Between French Coffee Beans And Blends 

French coffee beans refer to coffee from a single coffee bean origin. These are bolder and have a more exotic taste. Blends include different beans that complement each other, combined to balance out the flavor. 

Equipment Used To Make French Coffee 

Do you want to recreate French coffee at home? You can use a coffee maker device called French Press to achieve that. 

How To Use A French Press 

For 2 cups of coffee in a French Press: 

  • Boil 2 cups of water (let it sit for 30 seconds before use).
  • Grind your beans coarsely.
  • Add 4 tablespoons of ground beans to the French Press.
  • Pour the water over the ground and close the top without pressing.
  • Allow it to steep for one 1 minute.
  • Stir the coffee and allow it to sit for 3-4 minutes.
  • Push the mesh strainer downwards to press the coffee grounds to the bottom.
  • Pour the coffee into cups, serve, and enjoy.
  • Milk and sugar are optional.

Tips For Making The Perfect Cup Of French Coffee 

If you want the best and closest to traditional-style French coffee at home, here are some tips to follow: 

  • Serve the coffee hot and fresh
  • Use strong roast coffee beans and a French brand.
  • Use a medium grind for the beans.
  • Add enough milk to give your coffee that “noisette” – hazelnut – color.
  • Steep the coffee for minimum 5 minutes to achieve that robust flavor.

Final Thoughts 

French coffee is not for everyone, but if you enjoy a bold cup of espresso, then be sure to try it out. Remember, to truly appreciate coffee in the French style, relax, sip slowly, and possibly engage in people-watching while you’re at it! That’s how they do it in the city of love! 


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