How to Order Your Coffee Fail-safe in Paris?


Last Updated: November 18, 2021

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Can I get a blended coffee caramel with extra whipped cream?

Non.. That is what you will always get for an answer if you ask this question in a Paris cafe. Unless you are in your oh-so-reliable Starbucks, you might want to know the ways on how to order your coffee (and how to pronounce them).

Paris, after all treats its coffee lovers to an all new world. Go on. Drag that mouse down.  

French Coffee Culture

1. Un café

french coffee

For starters, we have un café. Order this if you are more in the league of those who want theirs strong. Très facile, easy-peasy  enough to order it: just one word pronounced as kuh-fay

This is the type of coffee that is plain and has nothing added to it. It is so strong, as most coffee beans in Paris are robusta (grounded black and most often than not burnt in their not-so-new coffee machines) and brewed like espresso.

2. Un Café au lait

cafe au lait

Now, if you're the type who wants more milk than coffee, then you might want to opt for  Café au lait (kuh-fay oh-lay).

This coffee is a very popular French coffee order, and is available in almost all parts of the globe. This is your version of coffee with steamed milk. In Paris, it's more often than not a wonderful experience with a pot or a cup of coffee served with a PITCHER--yes you read it right--a PITCHER of steamed milk, so you can indulge in your favourite milky coffee.

3. Un café crème

café crème

Third in line would be the Café crème (kuh-fay khremm), and you don't need a lot of imagination for this, it's just how it sounds: Coffee served in a large cup with your hot cream. Great if you like it Creamy 🙂

4. Café Décafféiné


Next up  would be Café Décafféiné (kuh-fay day-kah-fay-uhn-ay). If you just want your coffee while looking at your favourite Paris view and still be able to sleep afterwards, this is what you’ll have to order. This is Paris’ version of decaffeinated coffee. But you’d have to make sure that you mention milk (lait) or cream (crème) to come with your coffee, otherwise, you'll get just a plain decaf.

5. Café Noisette

Café Noisette

The next coffee option is not a slang for noisy, but it definitely gives you that French twang as it’s called Café Noisette (kuh-fay nwah-zett).  Okay, pronounce it a little more in front of the mirror to give you that extra French-feel. Now if you’re ready to know more about it, Café Noisette is basically an espresso with a dash of cream (crème) in it. The word noisette is French for hazelnut, and this coffee is called that because of its rich dark color.

6. Café Americain

Café Americain

This time, if you are not yet ready for the culture shock that the Paris Coffee Culture is presenting you, you may go with this next coffee choice which is le Café Americain (kuh-fay uh-meyhr-uh-kan).  This is filtered coffee, very similar to your traditional American coffee, but make sure to try the other selections once your traditional choice is served, that’s what you call culture immersion anyway.

7. Chocolat Chaud

Chocolat Chaud

The next one would be for your kids or if you’re a kid-at-heart. Although it’s not essentially coffee, occasions could arise that you’d want your Chocolat Chaud (shah-ko-lah show) or hot chocolate in English. 

8. Café Léger

Café Léger

Finally, if you’re ready to try out the widespread coffee culture but a bit hesitant to the kick that it would give you, order the Café Léger (kuh-fay lay-zjay).  This one is an espresso double the water. Say it with me: kuh-fay lay-zjay and remember to make that zj sound. Very Frenchy isn’t it? This is still espresso, but is diluted with more water to give you the right amount of buzz that a busy day ahead in Paris requires.

Great! Now you’re ready to get that coffee in Paris.

Oopps, before we forget, there are also other terms that would come in handy when ordering your coffee.

To request for sugar to come with your coffee, you may say sucre (soo-khruh). Usually cafés bring a cup with two cubed sugars on a dish, but if you want to request more you may say “Plus de sucre, s’il vous plait"  (ploo duh soo-khruh, see voo play). Or "edulcorant" (ay-doohl-co-hrahn) if sugar is too much for you.
Always remember, Coffee is a culture in Paris that is really interesting to immense yourself in; don’t rush it. Take in the drama that unfolds in the city as you sip that perfect coffee, after all you are entitled to that table until you leave so long as you order one in the café.

Did you have any trouble to order coffee in France before? Share your experience!

P.S. You would be doing me a HUGE FAVOR by sharing it via Twitter or Facebook.

About the author 

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Instagram

  • Thanks Frederic. This is useful. I haven’t been able to get a decent “Cafe Au Lait”, yet in the U.S. Not like the ones I had in France. They are much to weak. Just don’t make it.

    Elizabeth Yacoubian

  • merci beaucoup!
    I am learning french from a few years but I haven’t yet been to france. your blog is soo awesome and thankyou so much for introducing me to the french culture 🙂

  • Merci Fredric
    This is very helpful. When I was in Paris 2 years ago I even managed to mess up ordering coffee in the “reliable Starbucks”. I wanted a cappuccino but my pronunciation was so bad I ended up with a latte. It was my fault not theirs. Perhaps I should have written it down. The latte was still nice though. Next time I will practice before I go

  • Useful stuff thanks. But here in the Centre region a black coffee with hot water, what in the UK would be an Americano is called a café allongé. And café creme is made not with cream, but will less milk than a café au lait. Maybe just regional differences?

    • Perhaps a regional difference yes. Like “pain au chocolat” and “chocolatine” in the south.
      But actually there is some differences between an Americano and Café Allongé, same for café crème and café au lait like you said.
      Americano and café allongé taste more or less for me. I just like expresso.
      I am not an expert for coffees for sure 🙂

  • Hi Frederic,

    How about un cappuccino or un café viennois. In the south, it depends which restaurant you are in. Many places bring un viennois which they also call cappuccino, other places bring un crème when you order cappuccino. Then, one day, much further north, I ordered un viennois and they brought a pastry. It’s definitely regional and just one of the many many reasons that I love France so much.

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