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Why Is Coffee In France La Merde?


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Gay Lepore



Welcome to the fascinating world of coffee in France! French coffee culture is renowned across the globe, with its own unique traditions and flavors. In this article, we will delve into the historical background of coffee in France, explore the traditional coffee culture, and uncover the reasons behind the sometimes controversial reputation of French coffee.


France has a long history with coffee, dating back to the 17th century when the beverage was first introduced to the country. Coffee quickly became popular among aristocrats and intellectuals, establishing itself as a fashionable and sophisticated drink. Over the centuries, the French have developed their own distinctive coffee rituals and preferences, contributing to the rich coffee culture that exists today.


French coffee is often criticized by coffee enthusiasts, particularly those accustomed to a different style of coffee. One of the key reasons for this is the influence of French roasting techniques. Unlike other countries that tend to roast coffee beans lightly to preserve their natural flavors, the French prefer a darker roast, which imparts a bold and robust taste. This dark roasting can sometimes result in a more bitter and intense flavor profile, which may not be to everyone’s liking.


Historical Background of Coffee in France

The history of coffee in France can be traced back to the 17th century, when it was first introduced to the country by Turkish and Ottoman traders. Initially, coffee was a luxurious commodity enjoyed by the French aristocracy and upper classes. It quickly gained popularity, spreading to the cafés and salons of Paris and other major cities.


During the 18th and 19th centuries, coffeehouses in France became vibrant intellectual and social hubs. These cafés were frequented by writers, philosophers, artists, and politicians, who gathered to discuss ideas, debate, and exchange knowledge. The coffeehouses played a significant role in shaping French culture and intellectual life, fostering the birth of literary movements such as existentialism and surrealism.


Paris, in particular, became renowned for its café culture, with famous establishments like Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots becoming iconic literary landmarks. These cafés not only served as meeting places for intellectuals but also as places for people-watching and socializing, immersing patrons in the ambiance of Parisian life.


Throughout the centuries, coffee consumption became deeply ingrained in French society. The French developed their own unique coffee rituals and preferences. From the delicate balance of flavors in a café au lait to the vibrant atmosphere of sipping an espresso at a bustling bar, coffee became an integral part of the French lifestyle.


Today, France remains one of the largest coffee consumers in the world. The French take their coffee seriously, demanding high-quality beans and impeccable preparation. While the coffee landscape in France has evolved with the rise of specialty coffee and the proliferation of artisanal coffee shops, the influence of its rich historical background can still be felt in the traditional coffee culture that permeates the country.


Traditional Coffee Culture in France

The traditional coffee culture in France is steeped in history, rituals, and a sense of leisurely enjoyment. French cafés serve as gathering places for friends, families, and colleagues to socialize, relax, and savor their coffee. The experience of enjoying a cup of coffee in a traditional French café goes beyond simply satisfying a caffeine craving; it is about embracing the art of slow living and savoring the moment.


One of the defining characteristics of French coffee culture is the importance placed on the ambiance of the café. French cafés are known for their cozy and inviting atmospheres, with comfortable seating, elegant decor, and often outdoor terraces that provide the perfect spot for people-watching. The idea is to create a warm and welcoming environment that encourages patrons to linger and enjoy their coffee at a leisurely pace.


In France, coffee is typically enjoyed after a meal, particularly lunch or dinner. It serves as a way to extend the meal and engage in conversation. French cafés also offer a variety of delicious pastries and desserts, such as croissants, pain au chocolat, and tarts, that pair perfectly with a cup of coffee. This combination of coffee and pastries is known as a “café gourmand,” a delightful indulgence for those with a sweet tooth.


When it comes to ordering coffee in France, you will encounter a range of options to suit different tastes. Some popular choices include:

  • Un café: This is a small cup of black coffee, similar to an espresso, and is the most common choice among the French.
  • Un café allongé: For those who prefer a slightly larger cup, this is a black coffee with a splash of hot water.
  • Un café crème: This is a coffee made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk, similar to a cappuccino.
  • Un café noisette: This is an espresso with a small amount of foamed milk, resulting in a hazelnut color.

French coffee culture also emphasizes the importance of taking the time to truly appreciate the aroma, taste, and texture of coffee. It is common to see people sitting at a café, slowly sipping their coffee while engaging in deep conversations or reading a book. This emphasis on savoring the moment and enjoying the sensory experience of coffee is what sets the traditional French coffee culture apart from other countries.


Why French Coffee is often Criticized

French coffee is not immune to criticism, as it often receives mixed reviews from coffee aficionados around the world. The reasons behind these criticisms can be attributed to certain aspects of French coffee culture and preparation methods.


One of the main factors contributing to the criticism of French coffee is the preference for dark roasts. French roasting techniques involve roasting the coffee beans for a longer period of time, resulting in a dark and bold flavor profile. While some enjoy the intense and robust taste that comes with this style of roasting, others find it to be overly bitter or burnt. The dark roast can potentially mask some of the subtler flavors and nuances that lighter roasts can offer.


Another aspect of French coffee that is often criticized is the high level of acidity. The dark roast can elevate the acidity in the coffee, leading to a sharp and tangy taste. This can be off-putting to those who prefer a smoother and more balanced cup of coffee.


French coffee is also known for its small serving sizes. A typical cup of coffee in France is only a few ounces, similar to an espresso shot. This contrasts with other countries where larger cups of coffee are commonly consumed. Some people may find the smaller serving size to be inadequate, wanting a more substantial cup to satisfy their coffee cravings.


In addition, the traditionally strong nature of French coffee can be overwhelming for those who prefer milder or more nuanced flavors. French coffee is known for its powerful and full-bodied taste, which may not appeal to everyone’s palate. The strong flavor can sometimes overshadow the more delicate notes that can be found in specialty coffees.


It is important to note that while French coffee may receive criticism from some, it is also deeply appreciated and loved by many. The boldness and richness of French coffee have its own unique charm and character. It is all a matter of personal preference and taste.


Fortunately, the evolving coffee scene in France has seen the rise of specialty coffee shops and roasters that offer a wider range of coffee options. These establishments focus on sourcing high-quality beans, experimenting with different roasting techniques, and providing a more diverse selection of coffee flavors. They cater to those seeking a different coffee experience and aim to challenge the traditional notions of French coffee.


Ultimately, whether you love or criticize French coffee, exploring the coffee culture and trying different coffee varieties is a delightful journey that can deepen your appreciation for the rich world of coffee.


Influence of French Roasting Techniques

The French have developed their own distinct approach to roasting coffee beans, which has had a significant influence on the flavor and character of French coffee. French roasting techniques differ from the lighter roasts commonly found in other countries and play a crucial role in defining the taste profile of French coffee.


French roasting involves a longer roasting time at higher temperatures, resulting in a darker and more robust roast. This extended roasting process allows the beans to develop deep caramelization and rich flavors. The resulting coffee is characterized by a bold and intense taste, often with bittersweet notes and a fuller body.


The dark roast associated with French coffee can be attributed to the cultural preference for a strong and concentrated flavor. French coffee is known for its ability to pack a powerful punch, making it the perfect companion for a morning wake-up or after-meal pick-me-up. The dark roast is also believed to complement the French dining culture, where strong flavors are valued and savored.


However, the French roasting technique also comes with some trade-offs. One of the potential downsides is that the prolonged roasting process can diminish some of the more delicate flavors found in the coffee beans. Lighter roasts tend to preserve the distinct characteristics of the beans, allowing for a more nuanced and complex cup. In contrast, the dark roast of French coffee can overshadow the subtle nuances, resulting in a stronger, more homogeneous flavor.


Another impact of French roasting is the increased level of oil on the surface of the coffee beans. The longer roasting time causes the oils within the beans to rise to the surface, giving the beans a glossy and oily appearance. While this can contribute to a richer mouthfeel, it can also lead to a heavier and potentially greasy sensation in the cup.


Despite the potential drawbacks, the French roasting technique continues to hold its place in coffee culture and is celebrated by many. The bold and robust flavor profile produced by this style of roasting appeals to those who enjoy a stronger coffee experience. It pairs exceptionally well with milk, which is why café au lait and café crème are beloved choices in French coffee culture.


It is worth noting that the rise of specialty coffee has introduced a broader range of roasting styles and profiles in France. Artisanal roasters are exploring different roasting techniques, experimenting with lighter and medium roasts, and aiming to highlight the unique flavors of the coffee beans. This diversification of coffee offerings provides an opportunity for coffee enthusiasts to explore a wider spectrum of flavors beyond the traditional French roasting style.


Overall, the influence of French roasting techniques has played a significant role in shaping the distinct flavor profile of French coffee. Whether you appreciate the bold and intense taste that comes with a dark roast or prefer a more nuanced flavor profile, French coffee offers a unique experience that reflects the rich coffee heritage of France.


Preference for Small, Strong Coffees

One notable aspect of French coffee culture is the preference for small, strong coffees. Unlike countries where larger cup sizes are common, the French typically enjoy their coffee in smaller servings. This preference for concentrated coffee is deeply ingrained in French coffee traditions and reflects the cultural values surrounding coffee consumption.


There are a few reasons behind the French preference for small, strong coffees. Firstly, the small serving size allows for a more focused and intense flavor experience. French coffee is often brewed as an espresso or a potent shot of coffee, delivering a robust and powerful taste that captures the essence of the beans. By keeping the serving size compact, the French can fully appreciate the concentrated flavors and the depth of their coffee.


Another reason for the preference for small servings is the emphasis on quality over quantity. French coffee culture places great importance on the craftsmanship and preparation of each cup of coffee. By keeping the servings small, baristas and coffee lovers can focus on delivering a meticulously made beverage. The attention to detail ensures that every sip is a moment of pure enjoyment.


Besides, the small, strong coffees align with the French appreciation for slow and intentional living. Taking the time to savor a small cup of intensely flavored coffee allows the French to fully immerse themselves in the present moment. This ritual of mindful coffee consumption is a cherished part of the French lifestyle, where enjoying the simple pleasures of life is highly valued.


The preference for smaller servings also aligns with the French dining culture, where careful consideration is given to portion sizes. In France, meals are often composed of multiple courses, each presented in moderation to be savored. The same concept extends to coffee, where the small, strong serving complements a meal without overwhelming the palate. It serves as a perfect digestif to conclude a delightful dining experience.


While the preference for small, strong coffees is deeply rooted in French coffee culture, it is important to note that the coffee landscape in France has evolved in recent years. The rise of specialty coffee has introduced a wider array of brewing methods and serving sizes, catering to diverse preferences. Coffee shops and roasters are now offering pour-over coffee, cold brews, and other alternative brewing techniques, accommodating those who seek different experiences.


However, the tradition of enjoying small, strong coffees remains an integral part of French coffee culture. It is a testament to the rich heritage and appreciation of the art of coffee. So, the next time you find yourself in a charming French café, embrace the small and mighty cup of coffee, and allow yourself to be transported to the heart of French coffee culture.


The Art of French Coffee Preparation

French coffee preparation is a delicate and intricate process that embodies the art of creating the perfect cup of coffee. From the selection of high-quality beans to the precise brewing techniques, the French take pride in every step of the coffee preparation journey.


One crucial element in French coffee preparation is the choice of beans. The French value the quality and origin of their coffee beans, often opting for Arabica varieties known for their nuanced flavors and aromatic profiles. They appreciate the complexity of flavor that comes from beans sourced from different regions and strive to source the freshest beans available.


Grinding the coffee beans is another vital aspect of French coffee preparation. The French prefer a relatively fine grind, which allows for optimal extraction of flavor during the brewing process. This finer grind ensures that the water and coffee come into contact for an appropriate amount of time, resulting in a more robust and flavorful cup.


The French have long favored manual brewing methods, with the French press (or cafetière) being one of the most popular methods of coffee preparation. The process involves combining hot water and coarsely ground coffee in a glass or metal container, allowing it to steep for a few minutes before pressing down the plunger to separate the brewed coffee from the grounds. The French press method produces a full-bodied and rich cup of coffee, retaining the oils and flavors of the coffee beans.


Another commonly used brewing method in France is espresso. The French espresso machine, often found in cafés, uses high-pressure water to extract the flavors and aromas from finely ground coffee. This method yields a small but powerful shot of coffee that is the foundation for many traditional French coffee drinks, such as café crème and café au lait.


One important element of French coffee preparation is the attention to detail and precision. From measuring the coffee grounds to ensuring the water temperature is just right, the French take pride in the technical aspects of brewing a perfect cup. Each step is carefully executed to optimize the extraction of flavors while maintaining consistency and quality.


In addition to the brewing process, serving and presentation play a crucial role in French coffee preparation. The French understand that a visually appealing and well-crafted presentation enhances the overall coffee experience. A perfectly brewed cup of coffee is often accompanied by a small glass of water to cleanse the palate and a delightful pastry or biscuit to complement the flavors.


Ultimately, French coffee preparation is not just about the mechanical process of brewing coffee. It is an art that requires care, skill, and an appreciation for the subtleties of flavor. It is a celebration of craftsmanship and attention to detail that elevates the coffee experience to a whole new level.


Whether enjoyed in a quaint café or in the comfort of one’s home, French coffee preparation is a beautifully orchestrated dance between tradition, technique, and taste. So, the next time you sip a carefully brewed cup of French coffee, take a moment to savor the artistry that went into creating such a delightful and satisfying beverage.


Popular French Coffee Drinks

When it comes to coffee, France boasts a wide array of delicious and unique drinks that are adored by coffee enthusiasts. These popular French coffee drinks reflect the rich traditions and flavors of French coffee culture, offering a delightful range of options for every coffee lover.


1. Café au Lait: This iconic drink combines equal parts of strong brewed coffee and steamed milk. It is typically served in a large bowl or cup, allowing for leisurely sipping. Café au lait is often enjoyed at breakfast or during a relaxed afternoon break, paired with a buttery croissant or pain au chocolat.


2. Café Crème: Similar to a traditional cappuccino, café crème is made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk, topped with a layer of foam. It is often served in a small bowl or cup and is beloved for its creamy texture and indulgent flavor.


3. Espresso: A classic staple in French coffee culture, espresso is a concentrated shot of coffee that packs a powerful punch. It is a popular choice for those seeking a quick pick-me-up, and it serves as the base for many French coffee drinks.


4. Noisette: The term “noisette” translates to “hazelnut” in French, which reflects the color achieved by adding a dash of warm milk to an espresso shot. The milk creates a nutty and slightly sweet note, making it an intriguing and flavorful option.


5. Café Allongé: For those who prefer a longer and milder coffee, café allongé is the go-to drink. It is made by adding hot water to an espresso shot, creating a coffee with a slightly more diluted taste and a smoother flavor profile.


6. Café Américain: Similar to a cup of drip coffee, café américain is made by adding hot water to a filtered coffee concentrate. It is a popular choice for those who prefer a larger cup of coffee and a more familiar taste similar to what is commonly found in many American coffee shops.


7. Café Viennois: This indulgent drink consists of a shot of espresso topped with a generous portion of whipped cream, often dusted with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings. Café viennois is a delightful treat that brings together the rich flavors of coffee and the creamy sweetness of whipped cream.


It’s worth noting that these are just a few of the many coffee drinks enjoyed in France. Each region may have its own unique twist on traditional recipes or local specialties that showcase the diverse coffee culture across the country.


Whether you choose to embrace the simplicity of a café au lait or indulge in the decadence of a café viennois, exploring the world of French coffee drinks is sure to be a delightful journey for your taste buds.


The Rise of Specialty Coffee in France

In recent years, France has witnessed a remarkable rise in the popularity and appreciation of specialty coffee. As the global specialty coffee movement gained momentum, French coffee enthusiasts and entrepreneurs began embracing new flavors, brewing methods, and a deeper understanding of coffee culture.


Specialty coffee refers to coffee that is sourced from exceptional quality beans, carefully roasted, and brewed to showcase the unique flavors and characteristics of the beans. This focus on quality and attention to detail has sparked a revolution in the French coffee scene, challenging traditional norms and elevating the coffee experience.


Artisanal coffee shops and specialty coffee roasters started to emerge in major cities across France. These establishments prioritize sourcing ethically and sustainably grown coffee beans, often working directly with small-scale farmers and cooperatives. By establishing direct relationships with producers, they can ensure transparency, fair trade practices, and support for sustainable agriculture.


One of the key drivers behind the rise of specialty coffee in France is the younger generation’s demand for a different coffee experience. As French consumers became more exposed to international coffee trends and flavors, they developed a curiosity and desire to explore beyond the traditional French coffee offerings. This demand, coupled with the influence of global coffee communities and the internet, fueled the growth of specialty coffee culture in France.


Specialty coffee shops in France focus on craftsmanship and precision in their coffee preparation. Baristas undergo extensive training to master various brewing methods, such as pour-over, AeroPress, and siphon brewing. These techniques allow for greater control over the brewing process, resulting in a more nuanced and flavorful cup of coffee.


Beyond the technical aspects, specialty coffee shops in France prioritize creating immersive and welcoming spaces. They pay attention to design, ambiance, and creating a comfortable environment for customers to relax and appreciate their coffee. It’s not just about the beverage itself; it’s about the entire coffee experience.


Furthermore, specialty coffee in France has been instrumental in promoting coffee education and knowledge-sharing. Coffee cupping sessions, workshops, and public tastings have become more common, allowing coffee lovers to deepen their understanding of different origins, processing methods, and flavor profiles. This emphasis on education has encouraged a more discerning and informed coffee community in France.


As specialty coffee continues to gain traction, French coffee enthusiasts are also exploring innovative flavor combinations and experimenting with local ingredients. They are embracing the concept of “terroir” – the idea that the characteristics of the soil, climate, and culture of a specific region can influence the flavor of the coffee. This approach has led to the emergence of unique and distinctive French specialty coffees.


The rise of specialty coffee in France has undoubtedly enriched the coffee landscape, providing coffee lovers with a broader range of flavors, brewing methods, and experiences. It has introduced a wave of creativity, innovation, and passion into the French coffee scene, challenging traditional perceptions and celebrating the diversity of coffee culture.


Whether you choose to indulge in the bold flavors of traditional French coffee or explore the nuances of specialty coffee, France offers a delightful journey for coffee connoisseurs seeking the perfect cup.



French coffee culture is a fascinating blend of history, traditions, and taste. The rich heritage and distinct preferences of the French have shaped a coffee culture that is both celebrated and sometimes criticized. From the historical background of coffee in France to the rise of specialty coffee, the French have continually evolved their coffee preferences, adapting to new trends and embracing innovation while holding onto their cherished traditions.


The preference for small, strong coffees, the art of French coffee preparation, and the popularity of traditional and specialty coffee drinks have all contributed to the unique coffee experience found in France. French coffee shops and roasters have made significant strides in sourcing high-quality beans, perfecting brewing techniques, and curating an environment that celebrates the rich sensory pleasures of coffee.


While French coffee has its own distinct characteristics and flavors, it is important to remember that coffee preferences are subjective and personal. The criticisms and preferences that surround French coffee serve as a reminder of the diversity of tastes and the continual exploration of the coffee world.


As the coffee landscape in France continues to evolve, embracing specialty coffee and the expanding global coffee culture, new flavors and techniques are emerging. French coffee lovers are exploring different origins, brewing methods, and flavor profiles, embracing the idea of a more diverse coffee experience.


Whether enjoying a traditional café au lait in a bustling Parisian café or savoring a meticulously brewed cup of specialty coffee in a boutique coffee shop, French coffee offers a journey of taste, history, and sensory pleasure.


So, whether you find yourself in France or just appreciate the richness of French coffee culture from afar, take a moment to appreciate the artistry, craftsmanship, and passion that go into every cup. With each sip, you are embracing a centuries-old tradition and indulging in the vibrant tapestry of French coffee culture.