Dancing Tomatoes

How and What to Order in a

French/Parisian Café

I bet you’ve had this experience. You arrive in Paris, get to where you are staying, set down your bags, maybe wash your hands, then head right out the door to the nearest cafe. Sitting in a café, preferably in the last little ray of sunshine, on the terrace, the ultimate Parisian experience, cannot wait. Yes, there may be a few cigarettes sending smoke into the air. Hey, maybe you pull out one of your own, just to “fit in” and be Parisian.

The wait person arrives, and you order a “café au lait”. He/she doesn’t move. Time freezes. You wait, expectantly. “Café au lait/coffee with milk,” you repeat.

“Eh,” you get in return. “Café crème, donc?” Which means “Coffee with milk, then?”

It’s a loaded situation because what you cannot know is that café au lait is what mom or grandma serves at home, in the morning, in a big bowl. Café crème is what you order in a café. It’s a morning drink but that’s not a huge issue; you’ll get one in the afternoon if as ordered, even if a little eye-rolling goes on when the wait person’s back is turned.

Use This List

You would think ordering coffee isn’t complicated and you’re correct. But you must know what to say and I’m here to help. If you refer to the list below, you’ll be safe, you may even be taken for a Parisian. So, memorize it, write it on your palm, print it out and slip it into your wallet. Whatever you do, try to remember these hot drinks so you get what you want!

  • Exprès – French espresso
  • Serré – short expres (ristretto in Italian)
  • Allongé – exprès with extra hot water
  • Double or double exprès – double espresso
  • Noisette – exprès with a hazelnut-sized dot of milk foam (macchiato in Italian)
  • Café Crème – coffee with milk, usually but not always frothed
  • Capppucino (French style) – coffee with milk, milk foam, powdered cocoa
  • Café filtrer – filtered coffee (rare)
  • Café Americain/Americano – allongée with extra hot water (also referred to as ‘jus de chausettes’, sock juice…)
  • Chocolat chaud – Hot chocolat
  • Chocolat Viennois – Hot Chocolate with whipped, sweetened cream
  • Thé – tea, usually Ceylon, English Breakfast, or The Vert – Green tea
  • Infusion – Herb tea

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