When I lived in Paris I grew accustomed to the typical Parisian brew: strong, bitter and acidic.
While I loved my morning ritual of standing at the counter with a string of older men for my one euro espresso, I often chased it down with a cube of sugar before darting out to start my day.
These days, Paris is changing. While not everyone likes it, I am happy to finally be able to get a great cup of coffee.
Last Saturday, after a late night of wining and dining, I needed one. I stopped into Holybelly Cafe near the Canal St.Martin where Nico Alary, one of the owners, was kind enough to whip me up the first cup of the day while I rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
I loved Nico’s response to the NY times article on ‘How Hipsters Ruined Paris‘:
The cup was the opposite of the what I used to drink in Paris. Nico explained that most places use a mix of low grade beans which are roasted really dark in big batches, then prepare the coffee in machines that are never cleaned. They all end up tasting the same – a little bit like charcoal. At Holybelly they use locally roasted beans from Belleville Brûlerie and he cleans his machine daily. The result is a dreamy, creamy cup of coffee.
Nico opened the cafe with his partner in crime Sarah Mouchot in October. His coffee obsession started in Australia where the pair lived for three years and Nico worked as a barista and Sarah worked as a chef. It’s also where he got his croissant tattoo, a tribute to his favorite French pastry that he longed for during his stay.
The two bring their skills together brilliantly at Holybelly – Nico runs the front of house and Sarah runs the kitchen in the back. The duo are passionate about what they do and even documented their whole journey to open the café here.
Nico and I spoke about how Paris is changing. While some moan about hipsters taking over, it’s become a blurry label. Can anyone clearly define what hipsters are anymore? What I see clearly is a movement of young people who care about their craft. In a city like this it’s easy to bank on what was: you can serve tourists crappy espressos and overpriced food simply because it’s Paris. While a really great cup of coffee made by a smiling tattooed barista might not fit the typical Parisian daydream, the reality is there’s a lot more to love. The old brasseries have their own charm but I have had enough rude service and bitter espressos to last me a lifetime.
You can see that the local clientele agrees. While sitting with Nico regulars dropped in one after the other, up bright and early on a Saturday morning for their epic looking brunch (I spotted some incredible looking bacon and pancakes) and caffeine fix.
Places like this that make me feel like I could move back to Paris. While I’ll always be drawn here for the romance, it never lasts. A good cup of coffee, that’s another thing.
19 rue Lucien Sampaix, 75010
+33 9 73 60 13 64
Metro: Jacques Bonsergen