French Coffee……..and the search for Starbucks

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Ok, I’m dreaming about Starbucks. I know I know…… I should never say such a thing like that when I’m in France surrounded by the highly sophisticated coffee drinking society of Aix.

It starts early with a small black (ordered as un cafe, mainly served in a cup but sometimes in a glass) and croissant (no butter or jam) or if you are English then it’s probably ‘a grand creme’ which is as close as you get to an americano although it’s not the same.  The coffee drinking goes on all day and is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.  Coffee here seems to be combined with smoking too (you see a lot more of that here).  Another huge advantage to the coffee drinking is to sit on the terrace bathed in warm sunlight or in the colder months, a terrace heater – somehow it all feels better – alfresco…

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My favourite so far on the main boulevard of the Cours Mirabeau is the Cafe Grillion.  You have that ‘I’m in the best cafe in Paris feel’ and that ‘I’ve arrived’ feeling and its wonderful for becoming part of Aix cafe society and for watching life go by.  It is also a generally very friendly place.  Gorgeous!

Take a sneeky peak around the back streets of Aix and there are an abundance of options to choose from.  My top pick for an authentic french coffee experience has to be Brulerie, an exquisite small place selling fresh roasted coffee.  It has an elegant small bar where your can order your favourite coffee of the day.  Delightful and charming, I chose a petit creme…….. and then another as it was a little too petit for a long white coffee drinker.

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Fast forward to The Provence Shop, international cafe with delicious menu and a store selling goodies from around the world (plus English chocolate – yes!)   Run by a couple from our school,  they run a cafe in Holland and now in Aix.  They serve the best americano and now I know why it tastes better than elsewhere.  It’s because elsewhere white coffees are made with UHT milk and it’s fresh milk all the way at The Provence Shop.  The best in Aix so far and a heady fix of caffeine and chocolate all in one go….. well I couldn’t turn down the chocolate – could I!!!!

Anyway, back to Starbucks.  Why do I miss it so much?  Finally a trip to Marseilles airport to pick up good friends and there it was, all shiny and new.  I was thrilled!  MY Starbucks.  The kids looked bemused.  But what was I getting emotional about? Is the coffee better or is it a memory of home and what I know and trust?  An interesting thought.   ‘Un americano avec lait  s’il vous plait!’ I asked.  ‘Tall, medium or grande’ he said,  ‘regular or soya milk’.   Ah, the international language of Starbucks coffee – even in France.  I know there are a number of their cafes in Paris but I think that France is starting to like Starbucks…… It was packed…. with French.   I hear there are plans for more!

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