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Sunday, January 27, 2013

The French have cracked the secret of boringly perfect coffee

Today we went to Lille on the Eurostar to celebrate a friend's birthday. We arrived at the station in time to have a cup of coffee before lunch.

The French seem to have avoided the plague of speciality coffees. Instead it seems that every bar, cafe and restaurant, when faced with the words "un café s'il vous plait", seems to offer exactly the same boringly perfect cup of coffee.

It's never too strong. It's never too weak. It tastes of coffee but it won't keep you up for days. Each cup is exactly like the one you had the day before in a completely different establishment hundreds of miles away. It doesn't come from some self-important machine that sits behind the counter like the Albert Hall organ.

It takes seconds to appear. I love every cup. How do they do that?


  1. Presumably you are not including in this the utterly vile "coffee" which Parisian hotels dish up at breakfast; served in a pot, and tasting largely of chicory, it is as far removed as it is possible to get from, as it were, café café.

  2. I think there are two possibilities here:

    1. One-touch espresso machines. Essentially the same as the Albert Hall organs, but doesn't require a "barista" pretending to be some sort of artist.

    2. Filter coffee on hand at all times. Brew the next one when the current one's running low. If you serve enough of it, it'll always be good. If you don't serve enough of it, be prepared to throw stewed coffee away. American diners work like this: your coffee will be poured from a waiting jug, and it'll be great.