PARIS, Sept 13 — The French New Wave (or La Nouvelle Vague) refers to a band of radical, experimental French filmmakers in the late 1950s and 1960s. François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Éric Rohmer and their peers revolutionised French cinema forever with their stylistic innovations.
Today, in the French capital, there is a new “wave” of coffee bars that bucks the trend of classic Parisian cafés. Forget sullen French waiters; chat with some friendly baristas instead. Forget French roast; try some single origin brews.
Forget café au lait; flat whites and Third Wave Coffee are here to stay.
Le Coutume Café
Start with Le Coutume Café in the 7th arrondissement. The neighbourhood is home to touristy spots such as the Rodin Museum and Le Bon Marché, so dropping by for a pick-me-up can be a welcome escape.
Opened by Frenchman Antoine Netien and his Australian partner Tom Clarke, Coutume is more than a café; they also roast their own beans which they supply to various restaurants, hotels and bars in the city. Spacious and suffused with plenty of natural sunlight, Coutume has the feel of a Melbourne coffee shop rather than a gloomy Parisian café.
Regulars don’t only drop by for the specialty beans; there is also their popular organic menu with plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options. Brunch here is a daily celebration.
However, what Coutume does best is their coffee. From regular espresso drinks to their signature siphon brews, there is a cuppa for every palate. For those who wouldn’t mind a little buzz, Coutume also stocks artisanal beers.
Located next to La Cité Internationale des Arts, an artists’ residence in the 4th arrondissement, La Caféothèque has some of the best views of the Seine.
The café is a labour of love by Gloria Montenegro, a former Ambassador of Guatemala. Lamenting the lack of good coffee in her adopted city, she started her own café and roastery. Today, La Caféothèque offers coffee from over 20 different countries, all of them single estates (no blends) and all roasted in-house by experienced roasters.
Coffee lovers enjoy their cuppas in a network of intertwined salons, each with its own unique personality. The jungle room is a city-bound sanctuary that recalls the rainforests of Montenegro’s original country. The furniture is made from rescued wood, with old paintwork chipping off.
The slightly dark backroom is a cave — a trunk in one corner filled with children’s toys, a piano in another. Rows of drawers offer samples of green coffee beans from around the globe. The bar is where the action is: baristas fine-tuning their craft in brewing filter coffee and pulling espresso shots.
Small and simple can be very good.
Hidden in a small alley in the 1st arrondissement, Télescope is a tiny café serving coffee, a few baked treats (crumbly banana bread cake or some no-nonsense granola) and zero WiFi. The interior is spare, perhaps a nod to the surrounding Japanese quarter. More likely it’s a nod to the café’s minimalist approach to good coffee.
The half English, half American owner David Flynn doubles as the barista. Here you may try an espresso made from a balanced blend from UK-based Has Bean or linger over a filter brew from Norwegian roaster Solberg & Hansen.
If you head downstairs to use the restroom, you may be thrilled to uncover a vintage vault-like cellar, which is also used for cupping sessions. For French speakers, enjoy your second cup (and third and fourth) while perusing a copy of Le Monde or Le Parisien.
The 10th arrondissement of Paris centres on the iconic Canal Saint-Martin and the myriad restaurants and cafés lining its banks. It’s worth navigating around this place to locate Ten Belles by Thomas Lehoux, famed for organising Frog Fights (basically casual competitions between baristas) in Paris.
Inside, the café is invariably filled with Bobos (bourgeois bohèmes, basically the Parisian version of hipsters) and their lively chatter; the air infused with the aroma of coffee, cinnamon and cake.
The coffee is best Chemex-brewed and paired with pastries fresh from the oven (there is a small kitchen at the back of the café run by Le Bal, a restaurant by English chef Anne Trattles). Every sip and bite promises to delight.
The best seats in the house aren’t in the half a dozen cramped tables downstairs but one floor above on a mezzanine level that overlooks all the bustle around the bar.
The brainchild of Frenchman Aleaume Paturle and Australian Paul Arnephy, Café Lomi in the 18th arrondissement is an oasis of calm in the lively African neighbourhood of Goutte d’Or that surrounds it. A brisk walk from the ethnic market, Marché Barbès, the café has an unassuming warehouse look: cue the concrete walls, peeling paint, metal beams, worn leather sofas and a vintage luggage case doubling as a coffee table.
Aleaume, who first cut his teeth making espressos in San Diego, had previously co-owned Alto Cafe (a small chain of coffee trucks) before opening Café Lomi, so he’s considered one of the pioneers of the specialty coffee scene in Paris. (Lomi is Aleaume’s nickname as a kid.) Arnephy is their resident roaster; he’s also an experienced barista, having won awards for his latte art in the past.
The head barista is Aleaume’s beautiful wife, Maribel Cruz López, originally from Mexico. Their Japanese pastry chef, Kana Izutani, had previously worked at William Ledeuil’s Ze Kitchen Gallery and bakes all the breads and pastries fresh daily.
Café Lomi’s little “United Nations” team perhaps represents the face of the “French New Wave” of coffee best: international, passionate, open and always ready to make you another good cuppa.
Le Coutume Café
47 Rue de Babylone, 75007 Paris, France
Mon-Fri 8am-7pm; Sat-Sun 10am-7pm
La Caféothèque de Paris
52 Rue de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004 Paris, France
5 Rue Villedo, 75001 Paris
Mon-Fri 8:30am-5pm; Sat 9:30am-6:30pm; Sun closed
10 rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010 Paris, France
Mon-Fri 8am–6pm; Sat-Sun 9am–7pm
3 ter Rue Marcadet, 75018 Paris, France
Wed-Sun 10am-7pm; Mon-Tue closed