Thursday, 3 April 2014

C is for Café

Another French institution - le café.

So great is its influence, that it has given its name to millions of small (and sometimes large) establishments across the globe, where one can take a break, have a bite to eat, but above all, drink some coffee.

To a French person, the taking of coffee is not about quenching thirst or getting a caffeine hit. It is the ritual that is important.

Take a tiny, dolly's teacup, pour in a thimble full of hot, strong coffee, add a mountain of sugar (lumps not powder) leaving just enough room for a meditative stirring with a spoon. Then ruminate over it for at least an hour, maybe with friends, or alone with a newspaper.


The French have remained steadfast in their resistance to the worldwide colonisation of the Italian way of coffee. Everywhere in Asia I have been, it has been possible to buy an acceptable, sometimes really good, latte or cappuccino. In Colombo, every new eatery that opens is a coffee shop selling ever more radical combinations of choco-caramel-mocha-menthe-guacamole-lattes. 

I am sure in the really big cities in France, the coffee shops have been anointed with Starbucksdust too. But, as the French will tell you, France is a big country and there are many, many hectares of coffee drinking land that remain obstinately oblivious to the real purpose of a Gaggia steam pipe.

My husband and I have been on a year long quest for a perfect latte and remain unsatisfied. We have taken to asking for an express (the tiny black coffee illustrated above) and a mug of very hot milk in an effort to achieve the right balance of steamed milk with espresso hit. But it is very hit and miss and costs a fortune. 

For a while I tried the cappuccino route but threw up my hands in horror when presented with an express topped off with chantilly cream. So, so wrong.

So now we drink coffee at home where my ancient espresso machine still gets up enough steam for a perfect latte. And we order hot chocolate in the cafés so we can still sit outside on lambskin covered chairs, watching the world go by and enjoying life as only the French know how.


Incidentally, the word 'Bistro' comes from the Russian word 'быстро' (Pronounced bweestro) which means 'quickly'. Apparently Russian soldiers grew impatient with Parisian café staff, demanding snappy service and quick food. Thus the Bistro was born leaving the Café undisturbed in its leisurely pace of life. 

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. You can find more blogs writing on anything and everything from A to Z at the website:


  1. love that piece of info about 'bistro'. I had to introduce 'mocha' to the French owner of the most stylish tea- room here in our little village that fills up with visitors in the summer


  2. Fabulous post! I'm hoping to get to Paris in the Fall. We go to Rome quite often and drink our hot chocolate at Taza D'oro, near Pantheon.

  3. I love going somewhere to linger over a coffee especially with a friend but I have to say having an espresso machine at home is awfully nice when I am in a snappy Russian kind of mood. haha