This past week my wife and I spent some time in two beautiful cities. The first city was full of art and history, the tragedy of being torn in two for decades, and the beauty of restoration between the less fortunate east, lead by a stifling government, and the blessed and free west. The second city is one full of romance, and has been one of the greatest cities of all time, leading the way in art and beauty for centuries. It’s also a city so obsessed with its culture, habits, and traditions that telling it that it should “think differently” is a hard task. Neither of these great cities has much to offer in the way of specialty coffee, but two shops that we had the chance to visit gave me a lot of hope for the progression of coffee as a science and culinary art.
Owners: Cory Andreen, Kerstin Winklebauer
Upon entering Café CK we were met by a well constructed bar that sat a beautiful white paddle group La Marzocco FB80 to the right, and shelves stocked with a wide array of Hario products and brew methods immediately to the left. It was a beautiful wood construction, and unlike every cafe I’ve visited in, say, New York, there was plenty of space to sit down with friends and enjoy several cups!
For our first round of drinks I ordered a cortado, which is often something I often order when I’m in the mood for something milky and my wife Julie got a latte since she likes to see peoples latte art skills (she’s quite remarkable at latte art herself, and taking great photos like these!). The espresso was extracted nicely through naked portafilters and was amazingly balanced with the milk, with notes of smooth dark chocolate, buttered toast, and steamed to a near perfect temperature. The cortado was served in a small rock glass, about 4 oz in size, which aesthetically was very pleasing, and made the drinking experience one to remember. I followed the cortado up with a V60 of a varietal from Ethiopia, Sidama region I think (I was awful at remembering farm names this time), which was extremely aromatic, with notes of lemon zest, lavender, and african tea like body/acidity.
Although they do not roast their own coffee, they get their coffee from a local roaster, backyard coffee, that is roasted lighter for their specific taste. I didn’t see a single dark oily bean in the cafe, which is atypical of the vast majority of European shops. They are also dedicated to 100% Arabica coffees, to which we think, “why the need to state that”? It’s just too common all over Europe to purchase copious amounts of coffee that is part Arabica – part Robusta, or just simply Robusta, roast it dark, and not pay any attention to cleanliness, extraction times, and just plain ol’ good habits.
We spent a little bit of time speaking with the owner Cory Andreen, a very knowledgeable and down to earth guy from Washington, DC. After talking for a bit we ended up purchasing a bag of Costa Rican coffee that was fresh enough to make it 11 days until we returned home, which we’ve made both with Clever Coffee Dripper and Chemex since and it is a superb coffee.
He left us with a few more shops to try, but we were too limited on time to visit them. His recommendations were The Barn and Godshot.
47, Rue de Babylone
Owner: Antoine (sorry, can’t remember or find the last name)
www.facebook.com/pages/Coutume or www.coutumecafe.com
Paris, even more so than Berlin, is suffering from a wide scale of really terrible coffee. This comes from the cultural norm to just sit down at one of the thousand cafés to sip a tasteless, dark espresso whilst smoking a cigarette, and from the economic variable that most shops just don’t want to spend money on Arabica coffees, since their coffee sells like crazy anyway and is cheaper. It’s not uncommon to see a semi automatic espresso machine in Paris, but it is also not uncommon to have baristas that don’t keep the machines clean (which owner Antione informed me was one of the biggest problems there with coffee), and that wouldn’t mind pulling 2 minute shots of espresso that blond after about the first 7 seconds. Coutume stands as an oasis of good coffee with only two other recommendable shops in this large city.
We first entered and were met by Kevin, a guy from Iowa, who had been very active in the Specialty Coffee scene here in America before transplanting into Paris, and Antoine, who had previously worked in a specialty coffee shop in Australia but was native to France. We were soon met by a third guy in the team, Tom, who came from Australia. These guys were really genuine, and even spent an hour talking to us about their operation, their goals, the coffee that is roasted on site, and even filled me in on how the café was constructed with purpose. They thought of everything that makes this coffee shop brilliant.
Antoine informed me that they source coffee as direct as possible from small farms, and he’s even traveled to a few them himself. They are so obsessed with quality coffee that they even used it to paint their walls! They built a community cupping table where they would hold cuppings of their coffee selections on a regular basis, that was ornate with a coffee plant from Camaroon. They were equipped with a Petroncini roaster, which would later be replaced by a larger roaster I was informed, a La Marzocco FB80, a Mazzer Robur E, several Hario Siphon pots and V60′s, a couple of Malkönig coffee grinders, and a really neat slow drip iced coffee maker. The place was set up nicely and had a unique feel.
They not only have a desire to specialize in great coffee, but they want to educate their customers in high quality tea, chocolate, food, and wine. They are dedicated to and have a passion for everything grown, processed, and prepared with thought, time, tradition, and skill.
Coutume had just opened a week before, therefore, the coffee was only 3 days off roast, and we ended up talking to Antoine for quite some time, so we only were able to taste their single origin espresso that was from Santa Ana, Brasil (maybe). Although I didn’t taste much, I know they will stand out in quality since they spent much time while I was there brewing, tasting, and altering their methods. Time spent on methodology and geekery is a quality worth noting in Paris.
Overall, this was an exceptional trip and not only was I relieved to get excellent coffee, but I was even inspired greatly by these places. Please do check out their sites, and if you’re ever in these cities (which should happen in your lifetime) and are yearning for some great coffee, you no longer have to feel as though you won’t find it.
P.S. Don’t wait too long to sign up for our Aeropress class this Sunday, 2-4 pm held at CREMA. Sign up at www.crema-coffee.com/blog/learn-coffee-classes before Friday!