On How to Make an Espresso Last Two Hours.

This post is Part II in Foodie Abroad’s articles on the role and place of coffee in France.  Also check out her other articles on fair trade, decaf an ethics of the bean.

Coffee is very social activity in France. It plays a fundamental role in social relations as well as in the workplace. Networking and office gossip revolves around the coffee machine, so much so that there is a popular daily TV comedy programme (Caméra Café) that is based on just that idea. Unfortunately, despite two years of living in France, the humour is lost on me. Apparently, the programme resonates well with other viewers because it has been adapted and remade in almost 20 countries. You can read more about it here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cam%C3%A9ra_Caf%C3%A9.

When questioned about coffee culture in France, my friends all had similar stories. One French journalist friend explained:

 ”I started drinking coffee at university. Not because I liked it, but because everything else was more expensive when we were all going to the”bistro”. Instead of going to classes we would rather go to the café, order one espresso each with a glass of water, and stay there as long as we could. We just needed a place to stay and since you had to order something, we just ordered coffee.”

Another French friend who works in the financial sector illuminated:

 ”We hate to drink coffee and walk at the same time. A coffee shot (the only acceptable version of the drink) is the beginning of a long discussion! That’s the misunderstanding of Starbucks in France :-)

It’s true, when you walk by a Starbucks in France (and even here in Spain), you can’t help but get the sense that it is populated predominantly by foreigners seeking out a little taste of the familiar.

So, we have covered how to order coffee (click here) and we have established that coffee plays an important social role in French society. Next week, I will spill the beans about my new favourite coffee bar/tasting room in Paris.

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