It used to be that finding good coffee in Paris cafés was like hitting the jackpot: when you found one, you’d want to hug the stranger next to you and run into the street, shouting out for all within earshot that here, here was decent coffee to be found! You might even have come to lower your standards and accept the baffling phenomenon of bad coffee in Paris as a fait accompli. It’s as if Paris cafés are places to see and be seen, dawdle over your paper, catch up with your girlfriend—but you mustn’t pay attention to what’s actually in your cup.
Luckily a mostly New York– and Australian-influnced wave has shaken up the scene, such that these days one can actually find good coffee in Paris. After the food truck, cafés seem to be the latest Anglo-Saxon import. These range from places with decent coffee supplied mostly by Coutume, one of the pioneers of the coffee scene, to indie cafés where coffee rules. At the latter, the origins and roasting of the beans, the different brewing and extraction methods, and barista skills are primordial and, happily, do not take a backseat to the food or decor. These cafés are still a very small minority, but there is a cluster of them in the canal Saint-Martin area.
Crossing the canal brings you to Ten Belles, on the rue Belles des Granges. It’s hard to miss, with cute folding wooden chairs outside, the cool bobo crowd spilling out and the pretty blue signage. It’s a tight, narrow space, all height and hardly any width, but the place is luminous, with a nice mix of natural woods and modern simplicity. More important, this is a serious coffee place. Packs of coffee beans, grinders, Chemex coffee makers and a Marzocco take center stage. The baristas will happily discuss your coffee with you and share tips with enthusiastic regulars who swing by as if the café was their neighborhood hangout. It is this casual, easy manner and the clear passion of the baristas—not so much that English seems to be the lingua franca here—that make me feel like I’ve found my much-missed cafés here in Paris.
My cappuccino, made by Thomas Lehoux, cofounder of Ten Belles and well-known champion barista in Paris, was perfect. Full-bodied, full-flavored, at just the right temperature, and with a foam that hardly budged, it was the best coffee I’ve had in a long while—definitely edging out Coutume’s and perhaps even Télescope’s.
I was too late for lunch, but if the lingering smells wafting from the tiny kitchen are anything to go by, the fresh food does not seem to be an afterthought to the coffee. And it is no wonder given the partnership between Ten Belles and le Bal Café. My apple crumble was spot-on with its generous incorporation of oats, where most crumbles just stick to a flour-and-butter mix, and its accompanying dollop of sour cream. But never mind the eats—go, go, go for the coffee already.
Price check: 2 euros for an espresso; 4 euros for a latte or a cappuccino; 5–5.50 euros for soups and sandwiches; and 3.50–4.50 euros for cakes and pastries.
If Ten Belles sounds good, you might like Kooka Boora and Coutume. There’s also Craft Café, around the corner from Ten Belles.
10, rue de la Grange aux Belles, in the 10th Arrondissement.
01 42 40 90 78.
Mon–Fri, 8 a.m.–6 pm; Sat–Sun, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
24, rue des Vinaigriers, in the 10th Arrondissement. 01 40 35 90 77.
Mon–Sat, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sun, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
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