Five things they don’t tell you about... coffee in France

Adding milk can be more than just a spur of the moment choice in a French café

The French take coffee very seriously, as these rules show
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It is well-known that what tea is to Brits, coffee is to the French: a tea-break is a 'pause café', 'do you want a cuppa?' is  'tu passes prendre le café?' and for most, the three cups a day are invariably the black stuff.

Less well-known is the exquisite pleasure many find in dipping cheese into this black stuff.

Indeed, French actor and director Danny Boon says that he has always dipped cheese into his morning coffee, confiding in le Figaro, "that's just how we do it in the north."

The popular cheese and coffee combinations are found on sites such as where amateurs can smack their lips at the concealed imaginings of a slice of Camembert and a cup of Arabica.

Here are five more things they don't tell you...

Le zinc

A petit noir is traditionally cheaper at the zinc (bar) than if you sit at a table; sitting at an inside table used to be cheaper than sitting outside. This has almost totally disappeared but check the prices on the large official display of tariffs by the door (not the menu) just in case. On ne sait jamais! 

Le clope

The café-clope – a quick fag and a small black coffee knocked back in one at the zinc – is fast being relegated to history because customers can no longer smoke at the bar of a café. They have to sit at a table outside on the terrace, where service is slower. Plus ça change...

Le resto

Adults only drink milky coffee at breakfast, or perhaps a grand-crème mid-morning. After dinner, a déca (decaffeinated espresso) or a noisette (espresso with a tiny splash of milk) might just about pass muster, but lattes, cappuccinos, or skinny whites, apart from being hideously calorific, are considered deeply unsophisticated. Oh là là!

Read more: ‘British drinking habits come as a shock now we live in France’

Le coffee shop

In big cities, international coffee shops sell the usual range of novelty coffees and sticky cakes. In the countryside you might get coffee in a café, and you might not, depending on whether the machine has just been cleaned. You are very unlikely to find any kind of cake. Évidemment!

 Read more:  Grand crème, café crème, au lait: what way to order coffee in France?

Le petit déj

At a leisurely weekend breakfast, it is cute to serve milky coffee in bowls, even to adults. But only as long as you are serving fresh croissants and baguettes to be dipped into the steaming contents. To be truly à la mode, ensure the butter and the jam are organic. Délicieux!

 Read more: Eating faux-pas: habits to avoid when dining in France