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Each time that I arrive in Paris, before doing anything else, I head right to my local bistro and order a coffee, and not just any coffee but my favourite one — un café crème.

Now —  Paris is famous for its café culture but until recently it was not known for its coffee. Compared to Italian coffee, which I admit is sublime and not to be compared,  Paris was, for a long time,  sorely lacking in this department.

Fortunately things have improved.

Like most places in the world, coffee has become the pride of many of Parisian and French cafés, because patrons are becoming more demanding.*

And if you are new to Paris as I once was, a restaurant is likely the first place you will attempt to use your French by asking with as much confidence as possible for “un café s’il vous plaît”.  Easy right? But then like me,  you might be surprised to see a shot of “expresso” in a tiny cup arrive at your table.  Oops not what I wanted!



This is known as “un express” and is the standard French coffee.  In the morning before work, you will often see people knocking back a quick “express” at the local bar, as well as to finish over a meal after lunch and dinner.


On my second attempt at ordering what I hoped would be a rich frothy brew, I asked for  “un café au lait” once again only to be surprised to get an enormous bowl of coffee with lots of hot or steamed milk.

I soon learned that the French usually consume café au lait only at breakfast and mostly at home.  I wondered why I noticed only tourists ordering it in cafés.

With further research,  I discovered “le café crème”  and how to order it — “un crème s’il vous plaît” 



That is coffee (expresso) with a dash of hot or cold cream.  And  a really good one can be smooth as silk.


So go ahead — show that you know what you’re doing:

“S’il vous plaît, un grand crème! ”

(And don’t forget the croissant)

“Ah oui avec un croissant s’il vous plaît. Merci.”

*Sadly Starbucks is making inroads in Paris but I can’t tell you about anything about that because I refuse to go into one!

*There is a lovely restaurant called Café Crème in Paris on a very pretty street in the north end of Le Marais  at

4 Rue Dupetit-Thouars, 75003 but I am not tried their coffee. Let me know if you do! 


  1. Chrissy Hutsell on February 23, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    Oui! Oui!! In one cafe we were asked, American cafe. Non, un espress,s’il vous plait.. I feel the same way in Paris..I love to walk and absorb it all…I pine for Paris!!

  2. Chrissy Hutsell on February 23, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    J’adore Madame Camm
    I am interested!! ??

    • Diana Bishop on February 26, 2019 at 10:28 am

      Chrissy, Thank you for your comment and your name has been entered to win the Free French Lessons.

  3. Peggy Sinclair on March 3, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    Your posting on Cafe Creme was timely, because I just came back from a week in Martinique, which is of course, an overseas department of France. Our tour group was all American with the exception of my friend and me. We stayed in a lovely hotel, but the group was quite confused by the coffee machines, one of which was all in French and the other which had some English. They offered 8 different choices! How to know? There was Cafe court, cafe long, cafe au lait, Flat white, Cappuccino, Cafe creme. etc. Most of us did the trial and error routine.

    • Diana Bishop on March 3, 2019 at 6:37 pm

      Peggy — how interesting. I have always wanted to go to Martinique. A little bit of France in North America.
      I think coffee names are getting a little ridiculous and it is hard to know what to order! Thank you for sharing this with us! Diana

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