Coffee Culture Around the World: The French Café
Hey there, and welcome to another entry in our Coffee Culture Around the World series!
Distinct Places, Distinct Tastes
One of the most distinctive parts of a place's coffee culture is its cafés. In many places, the gathering place the people visit to drink coffee shapes the way it is consumed regardless of venue. This week, we're going to take a look at how Café culture has evolved in one of the most coffee centric countries on Earth, France!
French Café's differ depending on where you go in the country. France breaks its regions into 5, based on climate and culture. As such, visiting a café in Paris (Central France) is very different than visiting a café in Cannes (Southern France). One thing does unite these regions however, and that is a love of coffee. We'll focus on the quintessential Parisian café experience for this piece, but we'll definitely be revisiting this diverse country in later entries!
The Parisian Experience
As in any major city, life in Paris can move fast. In France, however, food and drink are of paramount importance. It's a standard Parisian pastime to sit outside of a café and people watch for hours. In the past, café coffee was frequently mixed with chicory, as it was easier to grow and maintain. Nowadays, chicory is an acquired taste, but the culture persists.
Nearly as important to the experience as the coffee is a pastry to go with it. It is rare to stop at a café and not have a croissant or other pastry with your cup of coffee. But there's more than food and drink to be had at a Parisian café. These places are hubs of activity for their neighborhoods. Café serve as meeting places and conversation centers for people. They also serve as culinary centers, usually offering a full menu alongside coffee and pastries. Finally, sitting outdoors in a Parisian Café is a must, for it offers a view of the world.
A Piece of History
The oldest Café in Paris is Café Procope in rue de l'Ancienne Comédie. Le Procope opened in 1686, and is still in operation today. It was one of the first businesses to align with revolutionaries, and was a regular hangout of folks like Voltaire, Ben Franklin, and John Paul Jones. Post revolution it became a meeting place for intellectuals from all over the world. It still serves high class food and drink to this day!
As you can see, Parisian café culture has meant a lot to the city over its history. From people watching to revolutions, the French café is about far more than coffee!