Their names are Café Tranquille, Recto Verso Café, Café Margo, Dimanche, Typica and Bonjour Jacob Coffee. They belong to the new generation of Parisian cafés, far removed from the aseptic Starbucks and the zinc countertops that made the French capital’s fame.
Their intimate space and well-groomed appearance are designed to attract Instagrammers. These neo-cafés, or coffee shops, are first and foremost a promise of coolness. Baristas are your new friends, and everybody knows that a latte is not a café au lait. Chairs are vintage and the atmosphere is rugged – wood, concrete and ceramics, sometimes enhanced by a carefully chosen design object. A small menu of “specialty coffees” is on offer, along with a selection of pastries that inevitably include cheese cake and banana cake. Foreign lifestyle magazines mixing fashion, decoration and travel give an added arty touch. No need to look for local newspapers such as Le Parisien or Paris Turf.
These micro-cafés embody the new urban spaces that have been transplanted (rather than set up) in every metropolis, with no regard for local cultural realities. They are as much designed to appeal to a global clientele who will easily find their landmarks there, as to a local clientele in search of new distinctive rituals. Paris, Berlin, Brooklyn, and now even Lisbon, have become mere stage settings. Specialty coffee is one of the pillars of this art of living, where a suitcase with wheels and a laptop are always close at hand.
Specialty coffee differs from classic coffee by the special attention paid to bean selection. Sourcing and traceability is akin to that of winegrowers. Here, blends overpower; Brazil meets Colombia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and each proposal aims to become a signature drink. This approach is in line with the expertise sought by consumers. Paul recently announced the transformation of its bakeries into Paul Le Café, proof that the specialty coffee market is attracting interest. However, we must be careful not to disappoint expectations, as drinking a specialty coffee is much more than just drinking a coffee.