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French Coffee 101: How to Drink Coffee Like a Parisian

French coffee croissant

Whether you’re traveling to France or just want to feel French for a day, why not try drinking coffee like the French? You may wonder what the most popular coffee drinks are and how to order them. And you may be surprised to learn the truth about common French coffee myths…

Keep reading to become an expert on all things French coffee! You’ll be passing as a local before you know it.

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What is French Coffee?

French coffee refers to the particular way that the French drink their coffee. It’s not necessarily made with French roast coffee beans (which just refers to the roast level), and it probably doesn’t come from a French press. French coffee is typically small cups of espresso drunk at outdoor cafés or restaurants.

French cafe

Is the French Press Really French?

Surprisingly, the French press isn’t particularly French. It was invented by two Frenchmen in 1852 but didn’t become popular until two Italians patented the design in 1928. French presses have been popular all over the world ever since, but not especially in France, where coffee lovers largely stick to espresso.

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The 8 Most Popular French Coffee Drinks:

1. Café

What is espresso?

If you order a simple café in France, you won’t be served a regular cup of black coffee. In keeping with most of Europe, the classic coffee in France is espresso. Order un café and you’ll receive a small cup filled with a rich shot of espresso.

2. Café crème

cappuccino cafe creme

A café crème is essentially a cappuccino — but don’t let the French hear you calling it that! This creamy drink is made with a shot of espresso and a dollop of steamed milk.

3. Café Americain

black coffee

This is the French term for an americano — a shot or two of espresso mixed with hot water. If you’re desperate for a cup of black coffee in France, this is as close as you’ll get!

4. Noisette

Noisette means “hazelnut” in French, but this coffee doesn’t have any added flavoring. The name comes from the light brown color of the drink, which is essentially a macchiato. That’s a shot of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk. This is a very popular French coffee drink.

5. Café serré

French espresso cafe serre

This French coffee drink is for serious coffee lovers only! It’s a shot of espresso made with half the water, resulting in a very concentrated, fairly bitter cup. Toss this one back without grimacing and we’ll be impressed…

6. Café viennois

French cafe viennoise cocoa powder

Prefer something a little sweeter? The Café viennois is made with espresso, whipped cream, and cocoa powder. How decadent!

7. Café déca

Should kids drink coffee?

If you’ve already overdosed on caffeine, you’ll love this one: déca means “decaf” in French! Order a café déca to skip the caffeine in your favorite drink.

8. Café gourmand

cafe gourmand espresso and macarons

Prefer not to drink coffee on an empty stomach? There’s a French coffee term for that! Ask for a café gourmand and you’ll receive a classic café (shot of espresso) along with a tray of small pastries (petit fours).

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Milk and Sugar

The French do drink their coffee with milk and sugar — sometimes. Sugar is often served with café, on the saucer or tray. Some French people dip a sugar cube into their espresso, let it soak for a moment, and then eat it! You can order a café au lait (coffee with milk) at a restaurant or coffee shop, but this is generally an at-home drink.

French coffee with croissants and macarons


What do the French eat with their coffee? A classic breakfast choice is a croissant, baguette, or tartine. Later in the day, you might find sweet treats like petit fours or éclairs. And if you order a café gourmand, you’ll be served espresso and a selection of pastries!

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All Things French Coffee: The Bottom Line

Now you know everything there is to know about French coffee! You can order a noisette or a café créme with confidence, or try dipping a sugar cube in your coffee like a Frenchman. And why not try a chocolatey café viennois or enjoy a croissant on the side? You’ll love your authentic French coffee experience. Bon appétit!

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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