Continuing our journey of Parisian coffee explorations: this next stop has quickly become a favorite of mine. The coffee here is so good that I am nervous about finding any shop to top it. Caféothèque, located on the banks of the Seine in the 4th Arrondissement, was the first coffee shop to bring the art of specialty coffee to Paris. Its mission extends beyond simply serving coffee, to educate and train coffee-lovers in the craft.
The café was founded in 2005 by Gloria Montenegro, pioneer of “caféology” and a former ambassador of Guatemala. At the time of Caféothèque’s founding, Montenegro had already dedicated many years to the local acquisition of coffee beans and to sharing well-crafted brews with Parisians. In the same way that the distinct flavors of wine are appreciated and studied in France, Montenegro sought to spread the awareness of high-quality coffee and the flavorful possibilities coming from various regions.
The love and passion behind the coffee craft is palpable here. My own tasting experiences at Caféothèque have included exotic espressos, creamy lattés, a mochaccino (which was the truest blend of chocolat chaud and coffee I’ve found since moving to Paris), and a tasting menu of brews from different countries around the world. Each drink is perfectly crafted, unique, and natural in its flavors and execution. Caféothèque offers an authentic cultural experience of coffee, allowing customers to choose the origin of the beans as well as the form of preparation (espresso, allongé, cappuccino, iced coffee, or cocktail).
Contrary to the industrial blends commonly offered by many coffee shops, Caféothèque is committed to guarding the signature taste and character of each coffee’s cultural origin by offering only single estate brews. They are also one of the only coffee shops in Paris that roast their own beans, a process you can watch for yourself as you stand at the bar.
On the food side, there is a range of quiches, tarts, and pastries, along with prix fixe deals for food and drink combinations. The pastries are baked in house, so if you happen to be lucky in the timing of your ordering, your croissant will still be hot from the oven (this happened to me recently, and since then I have not been able to eat a croissant elsewhere).
With its unassuming exterior and small entrance room, the café gives the initial impression of being quite small – that is, until you find yourself wandering through a looping maze of art-covered, Latin-inspired salons. The boutique at the front of the store boasts the wall of coffee beans from different plantations, and the room behind it holds a piano and space for holding caféology courses and tasting sessions. An intermediary room hosts comfortable seating and a gallery space for coffee-related art on exhibition, followed by the main bar room where one may watch the coffee be prepared. The last room has a tropical feel, with floor length windows looking towards the river, a wood- planked floor and colorfully painted wooden furniture, and a border of stones and plants that encircles the seating area. There is a cohesive desire to share the craft of art, coffee, and Latin culture: this passion is reflected in the café’s aesthetics and atmosphere, and there is bound to be a drink and a room suited to any mood you may find yourself in.
In addition to the simple joy of being served a stunning cup of coffee, Caféothèque is also a mélange of school, art gallery, store, and tasting salon. Regular courses in coffee production and crafting technique are offered both to amateurs and industry professionals, from weekly two-hour sessions to an intensive 30-hour training program. The baristas are baristas in the traditional, often-forgotten sense: each of them is a coffee lover and connoisseur, highly trained and passionate, happy to share knowledge of different brews and crafting technique. In a world of bleary-eyed servers for whom serving coffee is nothing more than a hastily-completed job, one which has not adequately trained them and for which they lack a real passion, the experience to be had at Caféothèque is a revelation for any casual coffee-drinker. Here, coffee is not just an industry: it is art.
52 Rue l’Hôtel de Ville 75004 (4ème arrondissement) METRO: Pont-Marie (line 7); Saint-Paul (line 1)
Written by our Paris Network Developer, Krystal Kenney
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