Nearly every street corner of Paris is occupied by a typically vibrant sidewalk cafe, packed with Parisians sipping cafe crèmes and espresso; the image is chic, beautiful, and simply, Parisian. Yet the coffee contained in the delicate china cups patrons sip from is an entirely different story; the coffee is, frankly, bad (Oliver Strand from the New York times wrote about coffee in Paris “sucking” a few years ago, which set off a firestorm of sorts). Even my fifteen-year-old Starbucks-drinking self, nearly eleven years ago, was not impressed by the coffee I was imbibing (though still consumed in copious amounts).
Parisians are often the first to admit, their beans are generally robusta, pre-ground and presented as an unidentified blend. Yet a new wave of specialty coffee is slowly taking hold in Paris, with an awareness of sourcing, roasting, and preparation. Of this handful of cafes, a favorite is Télescope Café.
Located on a Rue Villedon, a tiny side street near Le Palais Royal, owners Nicolas Clerc and David Flynn came together in hopes of revolutionizing the Paris coffee scene. Clerc, a photographer, fell into the coffee business when asked to photograph for an article about coffee in Paris. “At the time I didn’t know there was any interest in coffee,” Clerc explained. “When I understood what it was about, and how amazing it could taste, it quickly became an addiction, and a passion.” Clerc trained at the highly respected (and oldest of Parisian specialty coffee establishments) Caféotheque. While there, he met Flynn, who has honed his skills in the states, at coffeehouse standouts like Peregrine and Murky Coffee in DC.
“Paris was drastically missing a coffee shop the way we intended it,” and their intention is arguably modern, with a rustic flair. The space is tiny, minimalist, white and airy. The palate of sky blue and white creates an ethereal, peaceful energy — like a sunny Sunday afternoon. The menu is succinct, offering a few baked goods and afternoon snacks, as the focus is undoubtedly on the coffee.
Télescope roasts their own beans as well, and the barista prepared a cafe filtre, via the Kalita Wave (a kind of pour over with a flat bottom) of my current favorite, a Kenyan Nyeri. It was perfectly roasted: fruity, deep, and sweet.
As for the future of coffee in Paris, Clerc thinks something is percolating. “We have the feeling that something is happening, by doing things the way we want,” he says. “People are following up, you know, like when Forest Gump started running.”