Saturday, 23 October 2010

Café a porté

As we all know, France is the land of coffee; but not as we know it, exactly. For example, although I haven't yet tried, I suspect if I requested skim milk the cafes would shake their head in bemusement.

I've only had two coffees in Paris so far. The first was at the airport after my flight, before I embarked upon the 3-train adventure. I had to ask whether café créma was made with milk rather than cream (yes, thankfully), but I regretted asking for a large, since it just didn't taste the same and I struggled to drink the whole coffee.

The second was at a boulangerie/café near my hotel. I had just grabbed a filled baguette for dinner (too tired to seek other options) and decided a coffee would be necessary if I was to avoid waking with a headache this morning. I asked for a coffee and pointed out the door. "A porté?" said the cafe guy. "Oui, a porté," said I, delighted to learn how to ask for a takeaway coffee in French.

He picked up a tiny espresso take-away cup. I shook my head and said "au lait?" hopefully. He wasn't sure and had to ask someone else... "Cafe au lait a porté?" I said helpfully, feeling proud of my ability to say these things in the local language. It was not to be. They had take-away cups for espresso only. So be it, I thought, so I nodded and pointed.

I was expecting what we would call a short black at this point. Fine, at least it was coffee, and I don't actually mind a short black. But then the guy was frothing milk, and I was really confused. I'm still not actually sure what it was: short black with a little bit of milk? Whatever, it was yum and coffee, and I could take it away. I rather suspect this could be the way I drink coffee for a while...


  1. Hmmm. France - land of coffee? I would rather refer to Italy from where we have espresso, cappucino, cafe latte, macchiato, etc. etc.
    And lait, which is derived from lact - milk. Therefor lactose. Similarity with latte is obvious.
    Cafe au lait? I experienced confusion in Quebec in Canada. We asked for cafe latte. What is it? wondered our hosts. Coffee with milk. Aaaa - you mean cafe au lait? We meant cafe latte but we consented to cafe au lait. We got very weak coffee with lots of milk served in bowls - like cereal or porridge. Quite disappointing but a good lesson.