How to Drink Coffee Like a French Woman

French cafés are a way of life in France.  Down any of the many cobblestone streets of Paris, cafés have their doors wide open in spring and the aroma of fresh coffee perfumes the air.  Here are my insider tips on How to Drink Coffee Like a French Woman. To enjoy your French café time the most possible – in France, Paris or the countryside, and at home.

Chic daughter at Parisian Cafe


The History Of Coffee In France

The first true Parisian coffeehouse was established in 1686. Before that, coffee was sold from little street pushcarts, rather than in a place where you could actually meet friends and sit down to a leisurely cafe au lait. Coffeehouses were the favored place to meet for artists, intellectuals, friends and neighbors. Coffee was expensive, so it remained a drink for the mainly upper classes to enjoy, but coffeehouses, or cafés, fueled many cultural and political changes during the Enlightenment and revolution.

Experience France's Coffee Culture

As coffee became more affordable, it became a more commonplace part of French culture for all French people. Local cafe’s became the place to socialize with friends and neighbors and get the latest gossip. Lately,  French café culture has gone through changes, the no smoking laws changed how many patrons came to have a daily coffee inside a café and really changed how the little cafés do business. Luckily, the popularity of “artisanal coffees” has renewed interest in the petit cafés and young entrepreneurs are opening more and more of the small local cafés.

Experience France's Coffee Culture

How To Drink Coffee Like a French Woman


What Is French Coffee?

French coffee is more about a way to prepare and enjoy coffee rather than a particular type of coffee. It’s a rich cultural tradition that is about actually enjoying drinking coffee, paying attention to the whole coffee experience.  In France, actually all over Europe, people actually SIT and drink their coffee, no walking around with a paper cup for them. The idea is to sit down in the café, or outside on a pretty day, and enjoy the ambience of the café, the street, and the people around you, as well as the ritual of drinking coffee. Even flea-market vendors in France rope off their stalls to begin their day standing at a coffee bar to drink coffee…shoppers must wait until they’ve had their cup, and visited and talked to other vendors.

As my European girlfriends say “What’s the point of drinking coffee while you are walking around? How can you really inhale its scent and savor every bit of flavor?”

Experience France's Coffee Culture


Which Café to Choose

Whether you are in the middle of Paris or in a rural village of Provence, finding a café shouldn’t be difficult. Try to find a café with lots of French customers in it. You want to immerse yourself with French culture, so sitting between “real” French men and women gives you just that feeling of being in France that you want!  Even the smallest village will have some sort of local café, some with just a few chairs or even just one outside.

Where Should You Sit

Obviously if it’s a gorgeous sunny day, sitting outside on the terrace is fabulous! Just know that often menu items are more expensive on the terrace than inside the café – but it’s totally worth it! You can watch people go by, and get a real sense of what French daily life is like. Even on cold days, many cafés have overhead heaters and sitting outside is quite pleasant.

How to Drink Coffee Like a French Woman

antique french enamelware

Antique French Pink Enamelware Coffee Biggin


How to Order French Coffee

Most of the French coffee shops won’t have a huge menu board on the wall with the kinds of coffees they offer, Most French people drink French drink espresso, straight, or with varying amounts of water, foam, and milk.  So that you know what you are asking for, here are some of the best French coffees to order.

Café Noir. Café noir is an espresso. Café noir, sometimes called a café express, or just café, is that strong, dark espresso served in tiny cups that you drink like a shot. This is the most popular coffee to order in France, a small shot of super dark and very potent coffee.You’ll want specifically ask for additions like water, cream, milk, or sugar if you can’t drink dark straight coffee. {It’s really strong – so not for the faint at heart!}

Café Allongé  Basically an espresso diluted with hot water. Just like Café Americain but more acceptable to order than an americano.

Noisette  A noisette is a shot of espresso with a dash of hot milk. Even though noisette means hazelnut, it refers to the color of the coffee, not a flavor.

Café au lait  One of my favorites, a café au lait is coffee with. Café au lait is really only served for breakfast or very early afternoon. The French don’t drink any coffee with milk after lunch!

Café Crème  Café crème is fancier version of café au lait. Café crème is a standard espresso shot topped with lots of foamed milk. It’s like a better version of a cappuccino but better, and is served in a bowl or wide cup.

Un Deca  Decaffeinated coffee.

Café Gourmand  You’re on vacation! Treat yourself to this one. You’ll be served a great cup of coffee, but also a plate of delicious little desserts or fancy cookies to go with it.


How to Drink Coffee Like a French Woman

How to Drink Coffee Like a French Woman

Antique French Enamel Coffee Pot with Violets


Coffee Manners

As anywhere else in the world, a smile and a friendly greeting go a long way. I’ve never found the French to be rude, ever, when we’ve been friendly and polite. Greet the waiter {they’re usually male} with a friendly “Bonjour Monsieur” – he’ll appreciate that you greet him in French. Then, if you don’t parle français, just smile and say “I’m sorry, this is as much as I can say!”  {Snapping your fingers, calling out loudly “Garçon!” – we all know that’s not the way to get good – or any!-  service, non?}

How to Drink Coffee Like a French Woman

French White and Gold Cafe au Lait Bowl


In France, you have to ask for the check. Call your waiter over after making eye contact and say “L’addition, s’il vous plaît.” Even though tipping is included in all the prices in France, if the service was especially friendly and good, an additional 5% or so in cash is always appreciated.

antique coffee bowl FrenchAntique French Cafe au Lait Bowl with Pink Rose


Favorite Parisian Cafés

I’ve talked about these iconic cafés before, there is also La Palette on the Rue de Seine. Not just a divine place to people watch when seated outside, the inside is quite gorgeous and old world Parisian. They serve a great brunch, as well as lunch and dinner,  all their food is delicious.

How to Drink Coffee Like a French Woman


Maybe you’re going to visit France soon, or you are looking to bring a bit of Parisian flair to your home. The way to enjoy coffee like my French girlfriends do is to sit, sip, and savor it. Have it at home and talk together, or go to a cafe and watch the people walk by while talking and laughing together! This is how my French girlfriends drink coffee, and they enjoy it because they enjoy every minute of their day.

I hope these insider tips help you to enjoy your French café time to the fullest. Experience France’s Coffee Culture like a local, I hope when you are in France you make plans to try quite a few of the many cafés there.


How to Drink Coffee Like a French Woman





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12 thoughts on “How to Drink Coffee Like a French Woman”

  1. Mary Anna

    Thank you Lidy! This lovely post really gave me a lift. I’ve been “down” recently …. husband with health problems, wondering what will happen, worried.

    Drinking my mug of breakfast coffee, I smiled remembering coffees in France, hoping to return someday …. and your beautiful photos lightened my mood.

    I so appreciate the joy “French Garden House brings to me!

    1. Mary Anna, I’m so happy this blessed you this morning! I’m sorry you are having so many worries, and am grateful to be able to add a little spot of joy to your day! xo

  2. Ann Bradley

    Love the article about coffee. I have a French drip coffee pot. I got it when I was first married almost 60 years ago. It is in pristine condition. Don’t use it anymore and almost forgot how to use it. Not much information on line about it. They usually think it is a French pressed coffee pot, It is not that. It was the way coffee was made all those years ago.

    When my k cup coffee machine broke, I discovered I could just open the k cup and put the grounds in a coffee filter and pour the boiling water in that. I set it over the cup. Perfect use of the k cups until I got a new machine.

    Love all your articles and blog posts. I am a regular follower of yours. Love everything French. The how-to’s are great, as time goes by many are not familiar with the way things were used.

  3. Ann, we have a press pot too, for once in a while. : ) It makes a great cup of coffee, doesn’t it? I’m glad you enjoyed the post today.

  4. Alice Genzlinger

    Enjoyed this post (as usual). The tutorial was fun. My favorite cup is French press BUT my heart doesn’t want that so I have decaf?. I watched Emily In Paris where I learned about people watching from the girls sitting outside. Fun!

    1. Thank you Alice! Decaf is still coffee, it has all the warmth, aroma and goodness of coffee. I watched Emily in Paris too- wasn’t it fun?

    1. Thanks for the visit Denise! Hope you are having a beautiful day today!

  5. Awakening Wonders

    I appreciated the images throughout the post and now I know the ins and outs of French coffee enjoyment! Very nice.

    1. Thank YOU dear Sunday! Hope you are enjoying this month in your beautiful corner of the world! xo

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