For some time, since living in Nice, I’ve been trying to figure out the attitude towards coffee in France. Arguably a country rightly proud of its attitude towards eating and drinking, generally a classless reverence for food and drink, considerable interest and attention to detail in recipes, the origins of the ingredients and the importance of le terroir.

However coffee seems to fall into a black hole of the French conscience.

My experience has been that coffee is available in the now universal espresso form and certainly good here (so close to the Italian border). But there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for speciality coffee or diversity in serving coffee and certainly networks for home roasters in France seem non existent.

I’ve searched on the internet for the similar bastions of coffee lovers and suppliers such as Hasbean, Mercanta, the London School of Coffee and have been surprised to find an empty sack. I’m convinced that until only a year or so ago there was no French Chapter in the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe . The national coordinator in France is Florence Rossillion .

I have tried to buy speciality coffee green beans and home coffee roasters only to find that I’m getting responses from Italy Spain Belgium Holland (of course the UK) but not France!

The history of Coffee in France….. “It was really out of curiosity that the people of France took to coffee….they wanted to know this Oriental beverage, so much vaunted, although its blackness at first sight was far from attractive.” All About Coffee by William H. Ukers.

And what is this thing about chicory?

In 1806 Napoleon declares France self-sufficient and promotes chicory over coffee. In his trade war against Britain he banned his wife Josephine from wearing English muslin, developed the crop of sugar beet as an alternative to sugar cane from the West Indies, promoted the use of chicory instead of coffee. Mind you it was Napoleon that said “I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless”.

And what is French Roast? French roast coffee does not, of course, come from France. The term simply describes the darkness of the roast. French roast is very dark, about as dark as you can go without completely losing the flavour of the coffee, and being left with a taste of burned charcoal.

And as for The French press, (also known as a press pot, coffee press, coffee plunger or сafetière à piston), it’s Italian! It is a simple coffee brewing device, probably invented in France in the 1850s, but first patented by Italian designer Attilio Calimani in 1929, who made subsequent design improvements over the years, and further refined by another Italian, Faliero Bondanini. (Wikipedia).

When I first moved here I bought a Salam.  I was advised that this was a traditional way of making coffee in France…”Created in 1930, the Salam coffee maker prepares coffee all by itself, using gravity. A French invention dating from 200 years ago”……hmmnn I prefer a simple paper filter……which come to think of it I shall do now …. Oh Là Là! The French!