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French Coffee Drinks - How to Order Coffee in a France or Paris Cafe

The Language of Cafe au Lait, Espresso, Cafe Americain, Cafe Deca and More


A young couple outside a Paris cafe
Vincent Besnault/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

French cafés serve some of the world's best coffee, but each of us has our own preferences and a language barrier could prevent you from ordering the right coffee on the menu. If you can't have caffeine, this could be even more crucial.

Find out how to order coffee in France, be it a café au lait or espresso. Here is a rundown of the basic coffee styles in France, as well as commonly-used coffee terms.

The French coffee drinks

  • Café (kuh-fay) is plain coffee with nothing added, but is strong as it is brewed like espresso.
  • Café au lait (kuh-fay oh-lay) is a popular French coffee style that has been popularized in America, as it's served in tres francais New Orleans at Café du Monde. In France, this is simply coffee with steamed milk, and it's almost always wonderful. You will sometimes get the coffee served in one pot or in the cup, and then a pitcher of steamed milk to pour in as you please.
  • Café crème (kuh-fay khremm) is, as it sounds, coffee served in a large cup with hot cream.
  • Café Décafféiné (kuh-fay day-kah-fay-uhn-ay) is decaffeinated coffee. You will still need to tell them you want milk (lait) or cream (crème) with your coffee.
  • Café Noisette (kuh-fay nwah-zett) is espresso with a dash of cream in it. It is called "noisette," French for hazelnut, because of the rich, dark color of the coffee.
  • Café Americain (kuh-fay uh-meyhr-uh-kan) is filtered coffee, similar to traditional American coffee.
  • Café Léger (kuh-fay lay-zjay) is espresso with double the water.

Other French coffee terms

Here are other terms that will come in useful when ordering coffee or visiting a French café:

  • Sucre - (soo-khruh) - sugar (You can request this, although cafés typically bring a cup with two cubed sugars on the dish. Since French coffee is strong, you may want to request more, or ask, "Plus de sucre, s'il vous plait," ploo duh soo-khruh, see voo play.)
  • Edulcorant - (ay-doohl-co-hrahn) - sweetener
  • Chocolat chaud - (shah-ko-lah show - hot chocolate
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