Coffee, do you love it or hate it?  It’s been the classic pick-me-up for centuries.

Coffee is such a huge part of European culture. Not just for drinking quickly, it’s at the center of most social events. I’ve actually met very few Europeans who don’t drink and love coffee!

In Europe, you will most likely get invited over for coffee to someone’s home, either at 11:00 in the morning, or 8:00 at night. Every evening party in most of Europe begins with coffee and sweets, then moves on to champagne and drinks later.


Antique White & Blue Biggin


During our antique buying trip abroad last October, I was again reminded that in Europe, coffee time is a time for enjoyment as well as socialization. Our antique buying guide/translater told me she just couldn’t understand why Americans get a coffee “to go” – “what is the point of drinking coffee if you are walking around and can’t savor it?” she asked me.


{While there, she took the time to drink quite a few espresso shots a day from the tiniest – although paper – cups….but always while standing in the coffee bar and talking to us or others at the antique shows!}



As promised, I’ll explain how to make proper French coffee in an antique enamelware Biggin later on. It really does make delicious coffee, but can be quite strong! I’ve had coffee in France that you could stand a spoon straight up in! {not really, but oh my. There is a reason some French people drink the lait in their coffee!}

It’s why they use the French bol  or cafe au lait bowl, wide enough so that the delicious aroma of the coffee can be enjoyed, and large enough to add quite a good amount of milk in the mornings.


Antique Blue & White Maastricht Bol


The French and coffee have a long standing love affair. The very first public cafe in Paris was Café Procope, which opened in 1686, and it’s still there, you can find it on 13 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie. A café where fashionable gentlemen could drink coffee, the clientele was a mix of fine young gentlemen, savants {scholars}, gossip columnists and intellectuals. When the Comédie Française was established across the street in 1689 the Procope became known as the “theatrical” café.


Throughout the 18th century, Procope was the place anyone and everyone in the intellectual society {men only!} met and drank lots and lots of coffee. Some of the better known Procope visitors included Voltaire {who is reported have drunk 40 {!!} cups of coffee per day mixed with chocolate}, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Paul Jones.


Antique Hand Painted Limoges Demitasse Cup


Not to be left behind, the ladies of entertained “at home” and served coffee in delicate, hand painted cups.  Coffee was so much a part of the French culture, that the well known luxury porcelain producers such as Sevres and Limoges produced beautiful, hand made and extremely costly demitasse size cups.

Small cups like this showed the wealth of the ladies who served coffee to their guests, each hand painted cup was a true work of art in miniature form.


Antique French Hand Painted Demitasse Cups




Obviously, in the French country homes all over France, coffee making and coffee drinking was not as elegant, but no less delicious.  A simple enamelware coffee maker was used, called a biggin,  these have a filter inside to hold the coffee grounds. Today, most French Country aficionados use these for display only.


A biggin is usually a three or four part coffee pot, the filter sits on the top of the pot, under the lid. The white pot below has just three parts, a pot, a filter top, and a lid.


Antique White Enameled Biggin



This one has four parts. It has the usual pot, filter “cone” lid, but then also a second filter that fits into the cone filter.


Antique French Swirl Enamel Biggin



So, how do you make coffee in those three part enamelware coffee pots?  I’ve had some of you ask, either in blog posts, or emails or on Instagram, so here you go: it’s easy!  


Here are the steps to make coffee in a French enamelware Biggin:

1. Boil water.

2. Rinse out the coffee pot with hot water.

3. Put the filter on the top of the pot, and add ground coffee.




4. Pour just enough hot water on the coffee grounds in filter to get them wet.

This will saturate the coffee and bring out the best possible flavor.



5. Slowly pour in more hot water, it will drip into the coffee pot part.

Continue slowly pouring in all the hot water and let it drip all the way through the filter portion. When you are done {be sure to figure out how much your pot will hold!} take the filter part off, put the lid on pot, and enjoy the coffee!



There have been many ways to make coffee over the centuries, the simplest is still using an enamelware biggin, a two-part coffeepot with a built in filter.



à bientôt

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