French Coffee Culture & What To Order in France

Learn how to order a coffee in France with these popular orders and coffee drinks, explained.

The world of coffee has evolved dramatically over the past 50 years. From the humble beginnings of the lawman’s drink to an everyday essential for people around the world, and French coffee provides plenty of tasty options.

Many coffee drinks and styles of making coffee are similar around the world, but every culture has their own unique twist.

If you want to sit at a cafe in Paris drinking coffee, learn about popular French coffee drinks!

French Coffee

Check out the eight different French coffees below to further your coffee knowledge!


When translated into English, café means coffee. If you go to a French shop and order a café, you will not get brewed coffee like at an American coffee shop. A French café is a shot of espresso.

Brew espresso from a coffee machine

Espresso is a concentrated form of coffee. It is made with a dark roast espresso coffee bean that grinds to a fine powder.

A pressurized espresso machine pushes hot water through the ground espresso beans into small, strong shots of concentrated coffee. 

Café Americain

A café Americain is the closest form of coffee you will find at a French coffee shop to a regular brewed cup of coffee in America.

hands holding cups of coffee

Ground coffee beans are brewed with hot water to produce a mild coffee beverage.

If you visit France, most French coffee shops offer a café Americain. Local people do not consume a café Americain, but many shops offer them because of the high tourist traffic through their country.

Café Americain is filtered coffee that is similar to coffee found in the United States.

Café Crème

If you are a cappuccino lover, you want to order a café creme at a French coffee shop.

cup of capuccino in hands

A café creme is an espresso shot topped with an abundance of silky, foamed milk. A café creme is considered a breakfast drink in France and is not consumed after 11 am. 

If you ask for a cappuccino in France, you will get funny looks. A cappuccino is an Italian espresso drink and the French will know that you are a tourist and most likely upcharge you.

Locals will never order a cappuccino, but order a café creme instead!

Café Noisette

A café noisette is an espresso shot topped with a tiny dollop of foamed milk or cream.

Glass of macchiato coffee close up

In French, noisette means hazelnut. A café noisette does not have hazelnut in it or taste like hazelnut, but the dash of milk or cream gives the espresso a hazelnut color.

A café noisette is a French equivalent of an Italian macchiato. Both regions of Europe have different names for many of the same beverages.

If you are in France and you order a macchiato, they will know you are not from the area. A café noisette is usually served in the afternoon after lunch. 

Café au Lait

A café au lait is espresso with milk. A café au lait is different from a white coffee because the milk in a café au lait is steamed.

Closeup image of hands pouring milk in coffee

It is different from a café creme because the milk is not foamed to the silkiness of a café creme.

A café au lait is the French equivalent of the Italian latte. Both drinks are espresso shots mixed with steamed milk.

Most French coffee beverages do not add flavors as they do in the United States. Most French coffees are also served hot, not iced.

Café Gourmand

If you go to a French coffee shop and order a café gourmand, be ready for more than a coffee!

café gourmand coffe and desserts

A café gourmand is an espresso served with an assortment of petits fours. Petits fours are small, bite-sized savory or confectionary appetizers. 

A café gourmand stems from the 20th century where French courses were served with a plate of cheese, a dessert, and a cup of coffee.

The tradition has grown to include a shot of espresso and multiple desserts. The sweet desserts offset the bitter espresso shot. 

Each French dessert is tiny, so a café gourmand allows the consumer to enjoy multiple desserts without the guilt of eating too many sweets.

Each French coffee shop offers different petits fours in its café gourmand, making it an adventure every time one is ordered!

Café Serré

As if French coffee is not strong enough, try a café serré! A café serré is the same thing as an espresso shot but has half the amount of water. This means a café serré is twice as strong as a café!

cafe serre

A café serré is darker than a café. A café serré is equivalent to an Italian ristretto. If you are wanting a quick pick-me-up, try a café serré! These doubly strong espresso shots are bitter in flavor and are not for the faint of heart. 

I ordered a café serré at a local French coffee shop and was surprised when I got one small espresso shot glass with only half a shot in it.

I thought they had messed up the shot, but when I asked, they said that was how it was supposed to be!

Café Viennois

A café Viennois is a perfect way to end a meal and dessert. A café Viennois is a shot of espresso topped with whipped milk.

coffee topped with whipped cream

It is different from a café noisette because the milk or cream is whipped on top.

A café Viennois is equivalent to an Italian espresso con panna. Both espresso drinks are a single or double shot of espresso topped with whipped cream.

In the United States, a café Viennois is topped with sweetened whipped cream. You do not find many sweet options in French coffee shops. 

French Coffee

  1. Café
  2. Café Americain
  3. Café Crème
  4. Café Noisette
  5. Café au Lait
  6. Café Gourmand
  7. Café Serré
  8. Café Viennois

Tell Us Your Favorite Coffee Order!

Try these classic French coffee drinks and order like a pro if you visit a French coffee shop!

Tell us your favorite way to order coffee in the comments, and don’t forget a French pastry to pair it with!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.