Barlove Special Edition: In Search of Lost Coffee- Cuillier Abbesses

The odyssey began on Sunday, and I, the characteristically clueless heroine of this story, had no idea what lay in wait. Then again, I have a slight suspicion that no odyssey ever went according to plan, or it would be called a Japanese train schedule.

It was on Sunday morning therefore that I said no to a cuppa of coffee and had wine instead, because it was Sunday morning and I could do whatever the hell I liked. Later, stuck in the limbo of Ferihegy aiport, I had a double espresso at Costa, sipping the suspicious brown liquid with the face of a martyr (particularly as my fingers were getting scalded by the tiny paper receptacle)- little did I know that it would be exponentially the best cup of coffee I’d have for an entire week. Later, cruising over Europe aboard an Air France aircraft I yet again considered another coffee, but ultimately decided against it, since onboard hot drinks stand very little chance of being gourmet specialties.

Fast forward to Monday- and the direness of my situation suddenly came to full light. There are many, many amazing things about France, but coffee is not one of them. Regular French coffee is a liquid of indeterminate colour and taste, which might or might not be the end product obtained by brewing beans of Coffea arabica and/or robusta- in our situation, it really doesn’t matter anymore. I had harboured a faint hope of being able to make it to a specialty coffee shop- surely Paris must have some.

And it does, but compared to coffee heavens such as London, Berlin or yes, our dusty but beloved Budapest, they are few and far in between, and invariably open earliest at 8AM- but more than often at 10. It’s probably assumed that the French, after spending a long, wine fueled evening on the banks of the Seine, will have no wish whatsoever to leave their beds at ungodly hours, and when they do, will spend a good amount of time deciding which designer shoe to wear and will thus need to be caffeinated only later during the day.

This scenario is however brutally contradicted by the crowds rushing to the early morning commuter trains at St Lazaire station- among them, me, uncaffeinated, with bad hair and of bad disposition as a result, getting worse with each day that passed. The natural consequence of this dramatic situation was that I ventured into the unthinkable and drank coffee from the office machine- and here I basically ran out of all invectives I could use to describe the hemlock which was my daily sustenance for the better part of a week.

So, on Saturday morning, hugging my phone and its Google maps recommendations for comfort, I set out to the Montmartre location which was supposed to be the home of a third wave coffee shop. Upon arrival, I felt a whole world crumble inside me when there was no sign of Cuillier on Yvonne Le Tac street. Luckily, it was just the lack of caffeine getting the better of me- there is some scaffolding obscuring its doors, but the place is there alright, and welcomes you with the divine and unmistakable smell of good coffee.

I retroactively apologize to the barista who was confronted with the exalted grin of a total lunatic asking for a flat white with a shaky voice and one of those dodgy Eastern European accents which unfortunately still haunts my French. And they had it, and it was excellent, and I felt every drop of it envelop me in perfect and undisturbed happiness, so much so that I hardly noticed that my almond cake was also sublime. Most of the crowd was decidedly foreign- besides one girl conscientiously taking notes about an Aragon novel, everyone else sounded either American or British, plus the occasional indeterminate tourist lot. I must therefore conclude that the reason why there are very few such coffee shops in Paris is that there is no real need from the locals to have them- I thus assume, with horror, that they enjoy their transparent liquid of doom. Which should come as no surprise in a country where Heineken seems to be the most popular commercial beer. (Really, guys, even Kronenbourg is better than that, and you get a chance to be patriotic too.)

Should you however feel that you want more out of life, Cuillier is a good place to start- there are several outposts around the city, and this one in Montmartre is very close to the Abbesses metro station. Besides the coffee, they also serve pastries- as already mentioned, of the excellent variety, on my second visit, tempted as I was by  a repeat of the almond cake, I went for the very fragrant madeleines and a cheese and ham croissant which kept me well-nourished for the entire morning and also put a satisfied and well caffeinated smile on my face for the rest of the day. And my hair felt much better too.

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