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American-style coffee, en français Posted by on Apr 16, 2010 in Cooking

Merci, BfromWR, de votre question: thank you for your question! Le commentateur BfromWR asked a very useful question about the post on ordering coffee from le 5 avril (April 5):

“…How would one go about ordering the equivalent of your standard “North American style” coffee with cream and sugar? Commonly referred to as a “double double” in some places. My wife is looking forward to sampling some pastries but doesn’t drink coffee. How does one order English breakfast tea? Can these be accomplished without ridicule ?”

Je n’ai jamais entendu parler d’un “double double” (I’ve never heard of a double double), but selon (according to) Urban Dictionary, c’est canadien! Vive le Canada! Perhaps one of our lecteurs canadiens (Canadian readers) will be able to give a closer translation of “double double,” mais je ferai de mon mieux—but I’ll do my best.

Franchement (frankly), any établissement that serves American coffee will probably also have un serveur anglophone, an English-speaking server. Sinon (if not), I would ask for un café américain. Sometimes, especially in an area fréquenté par les touristes nord-américains, the local establishments may brew American coffee (also known as “de l’eau colorée” :)).

If “Un café américain, s’il vous plaît” gets you a blank look, you have a few options. Ma mère (my mother), une fanatique du café, had a good approach in Paris: she ordered un café crème (coffee with steamed milk, like a café au lait), and when the small cup was empty, she ordered another. Just like a big ol’ American coffee with milk, and it stays hot to the end!

Un café allongé is another possibility. What I’d call an americano, it’s un café avec de l’eau chaude: coffee with hot water. It’s not as strong as you might want, but it resembles American coffee (very similar to what’s served in college dining halls, if you’ve had the pleasure). For something plus fort (stronger), try un café double allongé, or un café double avec de l’eau chaude. There isn’t really an equivalent to American coffee in France, so it’s basically a chemistry experiment until you get what you want.

I polled quelques amis (some friends) about ordering American coffee en France, and one pointed out that le Starbucks brews American coffee. So if you’re desperate, allez-y (go there). Or make like a native and suffer through small, strong coffees until you love them and can’t go back.

As for BfromWR’s wife’s English Breakfast tea… aucune idée (no idea)! But I did a little research, and after le chaos of ordering an American coffee, j’ai des bonnes nouvelles: I have good news. According to classic tea purveyor Mariage Frères, “Maison de Thé à Paris depuis 1854” (House of Tea in Paris since 1854), le thé noir “English Breakfast” is called “English Breakfast.” See Mariage Frères for proof!

En résumé (To resume), to order North American-style coffee in France:

  1. Ask for an American coffee, please. If greeted with blank stare…
  2. Ask for “un café américain.”
  3. Or order “un café crème,” twice.
  4. Prefer without milk? Try “un café allongé.”
  5. Désespéré? If desperate, cherchez (look for) un Starbucks.

I want to say, Step 6, appreciate that you’re in a foreign country and try going native. But really, that kind of big step shouldn’t be taken without coffee.

N.B.: If you want it sweet, ask for your coffee “avec du sucre,” soit (be it) “avec un peu de sucre” or “avec beaucoup de sucre.”

Merci encore de votre question, BobfromWR! If anyone has more questions or d’autres suggestions, please share. Bonne dégustation!

P.S. Parce que je vous aimeCoffee and Cigarettes: No Problem et Airplane!

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  1. Bob-USA:

    Many years ago when I visited France, I was surprised to learn that you were expected to bring your own bag when you went grocery shopping.

    Nowadays, when I shop at the Whole Foods Market, they look at me a little funny when I don’t bring my own bag. So we have back to the earlier French custom here in the USA.

    Can you tell me the current practice in France?

  2. Mike Kelly:

    If you order a small espresso (what the French simply call “un cafe” or “un cafe noir”), you can still get a small bit of cream with it by asking “avec une noisette” – the “nut” is a small plastic container of cream like the ones you used to get at takeaway coffee shops in the U.S. A cafe creme, on the other hand, is going to be more like a latte in the U.S. – served in a larger cup, and more expensive. So if you’re standing at the bar, “un cafe avec une noisette” can be just the right amount.

  3. Cynthia:

    I am glad I like mine natural, black.
    Easier to order!

    Je voodrais un teh natoor.

    (Terrible spelling, I am not even going to check – some of it is phonetic, but that’s how to order a black tea!)

  4. Delana Nelsen:

    I prefer the coffee here in France but my friends here tell me step #7 would be…order jus de chaussette (juice of socks) and you will get American coffee!

  5. Mike:

    Tea, with mik, as drunk in most English households – une tasse de the, avec du lait, svp does the trick in my experience – without asking for the milk, you get a cup of black tea.
    Fruit tea is also widely available, and you don’t get the sideways looks you get in England – Un infusion svp or Une tasse de the fruit svp both seem to work.
    (Bags in French supermarkets – yes, bring your own bag, although good quality, cheap cloth bags are available at the tills. They rarely supply plastic bags nowadays).

  6. Krups:

    American style or French – it does not matter. Important thing is that the coffee was fresh and good quality.

  7. ow:

    That was like reading text-speak. Really really bad text-speak. Next time, either just reply in English, or put the English and the French separately

  8. walizki,:

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  9. Canadian:

    Yes, a ‘double double’ is indeed part of the Canadian dictionary. It means ‘two creams, two sugars’. A ‘regular’ is one cream, one sugar. By walking in to a Tim Hortons and ordering an ‘extra large double-double’ you’ll be accepted as a true Canadian, rest your soul.