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THE WAY TO DRINK COFFEE IN PARIS

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According to “The Legend of the Dancing Goats”, a goatsherd named Kaldi, who lived in the highlands of Ethiopia, had come to notice that his goats always seemed to be very high-spirited, frolicking, cavorting, dancing almost, and were very fond of a particular berry growing on nearby trees. The goatsherd, wondering what properties these berries might contain, ate some himself, and proceeded to dance amongst his flock.

Shortly thereafter, he brought the berries to the abbot of the local monastery, who used them to prepare a beverage. The abbot proceeded to share it with his monks, who all prayed with more fervor and for more prolonged periods of time, than they ever had before.

The growing of coffee spread through Northern Africa and the Arabian peninsula. The drink became popular with Muslims because the consumption of alcohol was banned and the drinking of coffee was a pleasurable substitute. Coffee reached Italy’s bustling port of Venice and in 1615 was creating controversy regarding its legality. The clergy wanted it banned. Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene, but determined that he must first taste the beverage. He must have liked it, for he baptized it legal, and the rest is history.

As word of the buzzy, unctuous drink spread through Europe, it became the cool party cocktail of the Parisian upper classes. Louis XIV tasted it in 1664, but did not find it to his liking. However, in 1669 an ambassador arrived from Turkey and lavish, decadent parties with Turkish themes became all the rage.

Coffee was the adopted “must serve” beverage and in 1686, when the first café in Paris opened its doors, called Le Procope, the drink of the day was definitely, coffee.

Fast forward a few hundred years and Parisians are devoted as ever to the consumption of coffee. The real deal is served steaming hot from sophisticated brewing machines, in a multitude of ways. And of course, certain coffees are meant to be drunk at certain times of the day.

Now, if you find yourself at the counter of a roadside diner anywhere in America, and you order a “cuppa cawfee” it will most likely be sloshed into a ceramic cup of dubious cleanliness, having condensed into an acidic gorp, after resting for a prolonged period of time at the bottom of a metal pot, kept perpetually tepid on its hotplate. Such an acid brew could easily be gotten “to go” and be used to clean the dirty carburetor of your car.

The French may be accused of many shortcomings, as all cultures might be, but the art of making a great cup of coffee is alive and well. The following guidelines will slide you into the culture of coffee-drinking, with great aplomb.

HOW TO DRINK COFFEE AND WHEN

Daily coffee rituals prevail and here’s how they work. Upon rising, the French love their café au lait, a hearty bowl of hot milk with a bit of coffee to perk one up, and by the way, the coffee is made from espresso beans so a little bit packs a good punch.
Later in the day, café noir, which is pure espresso, is frequently drunk, or, café crème, which is espresso with steamed milk.
For Americans, it is difficult to adapt to the restaurant etiquette of coffee service. Here, we are accustomed to drinking coffee with dessert at the end of the meal. In France, dessert is served on its own, and coffee comes after. It’s the leisurely farewell to an enjoyable meal. If you ask to have your coffee with dessert, well, prepare for attitude and the abrupt, disapproving motions of a server who has lost all respect for his or her patron. It will only perpetuate the stereotype of American tourist/barbarian-in-Paris.

FYI: If the menu offers “infusion”, this is an herbal tea alternative for non-coffee drinkers.



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