The French have, some would say deservedly, a terrible reputation in the specialty coffee community. I tried to find a few good cafes to review while I was in Paris over the holidays, a little ray of hope for the French coffee scene, but unfortunately most of the time they were closed due to special holiday schedules. However thanks to a tip from reader Matija I managed to visit Cafe Lomi before heading to the airport on my last day.
As it turns out, Cafe Lomi is a small roastery and workshop, not a public cafe. Despite appearing busy when we knocked on the door, Aleaume Paturle of Lomi was kind enough to invite Claire and me in.
In our quest for coffee we had interrupted a little barista jam between Thomas Lehoux, training for the French barista championship, and David Flynn, formerly of Murky Coffee in Washington D.C. We had a nice chat and learned about their Frog Fights barista meet-ups, which appear to be growing more and more popular – especially after being featured in the NYT several days after we’d talked to them.
That kind of energy brewing under the surface of the French coffee scene is a good thing. As Oliver Strand at the New York Times has written, the coffee in Paris is generally quite bad. If you look at the reader comments on his articles, you’ll see a lot of silly nationalistic (and misplaced anti-nationalistic) umbrage. But the fact remains, the overall standard for coffee is quite low in Paris. This is because many of the basic tenets of quality coffee practice are not observed. Sure, the same could be said of most major cities in the US, but over the past decade you’ve seen an ever expanding number of cafes and roasteries that are pursuing a higher level of craft and generally raising the bar across the industry.
Cafe Lomi has a pleasant storefront that is completely anonymous when they’re closed (I know because I tried finding it three or four times haha).
While high end (or aspiring) cafes and roasteries are popping up all over the place in the US and abroad, if you’re looking for a good coffee in Paris you’re basically limited to La Cafeotheque. Unfortunately when I tried to visit they were closed, but by all accounts they have been the standard bearer for the Parisian specialty coffee scene – sourcing and roasting quality single origin coffee and attempting to maintain some level of consistency and quality in staff training. (Map)
Oliver Strand also suggests visiting David at Le Bal, and I’ll second that recommendation.
So, I look forward to visiting Paris again some time. Hopefully we’ll see Frog Fights and other barista gigs pushing the level of knowledge and quality upwards! With such a rich gastronomic tradition, France is long overdue for a coffee revolution.
A few more random touristy photos from Paris :)
Inside the Pompidou, which was excellent! Their de Stilj exhibit was one of the most comprehensive I’ve ever seen. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Pompidou Center has great views of the city.
Acide Macaron – owned by Jonathon Blot, trained by Alain Ducasse. I’m not a macaron connoisseur, but these made me a believer.
Christmas day organ recital at Notre Dame Cathedral