Skip the tourist-targets with over-priced and water-downed coffees, and head instead to the deliciously priced cafés I’ve listed below for an authentic Parisian repose.
Located on a quintessential European backstreet near the Pantheon, this unassuming café sells only homemade pâtisseries and offers over twenty flavors of hot and iced teas. For 2€ I got the biggest, chocolaty-est slice of cake I’ve ever received from a café or bakery. While the cappuccino wasn’t quite on the same level, I got a larger mug than most cafés in that area would’ve given and it came with a complimentary drop of meringue—all for 2€20. A carved wooden pillar divides the small room in two, potted plants liven each table and funky handmade jewelry is on sale near the cash register. A great stop for lunch break with a colleague, a slice of quiche on the go, or an afternoon gossip session with a friend.
Café Maure de la Mosquée de Paris
If the city’s chaos becomes too stressful, step through the stone archway to Café Maure, one of the most sensually pleasing and calming cafes I’ve ever visited. Two quaint courtyards, overflowing with evergreen foliage, accept costumers year-round. During winter months, a canvas ceiling blocks the wind and heaters keep vitality and warmth. Dark blues and greens branch out in a flowery motif along the tiled walls, sweet sheesha smoke perfumes the air, and tiny birds flutter around, searching for crumbs. Don’t miss the 2€ hot mint tea paired with a 2€ syrup-soaked pastry. A crowded boutique adjoins the café, packed with traditional North African products such as woven handbags, beaded jewelry and an array of colorful decorations.
Tucked behind the picturesque Place des Vosges, this softly lit salon pays homage to the natural relationship between books and tea. Neatly stacked multicolored notebooks, journals, photo albums, and notepads, all handmade with cotton paper, rest alongside shelves of over 5,000 books, artisanal pottery and whimsical furnishings. Translating to “Writer’s Tea,” the Thé des Écrivains brand captures the essence of a literary culture within a single steaming cup. Ask for a cup of le thé des philosophes chinois (Chinese philosopher’s tea) and savor its mix of green and black teas, lotus and jasmine infusions and sprinkle of poppy while contemplating life and confronting a blank page.
If not for the mass of attractive hipsters loitering outside with cigarettes, the plain pinewood storefront of Ten Belles would easily go unnoticed. Their culinary approach, however, is anything but simple. The menu originate from that special combination of Anglophone-inspired recipes with French-quality ingredients. Their cappuccinos, light and delicately balanced, with just enough froth and no need for sugar, arrive adorned with milk-flower swirls. Come here to take refuge with a good book and a hot cup during the seemingly endless cold days of a Parisian winter.
Established to preserve Iranian culture, the Centre Culturel Pouya offers courses in traditional dance, theatre and yoga. Stone slabs with embroidered cushions comprise half the seating, but couches and chairs are available as well. Large photographs displaying Persian music festivals hang next to ancient instruments and bookshelves full of Iranian literature. The teas, served liberally, come with their spices still soaking on the bottom. Candles and warm lamplight give the room an intimate atmosphere, making it perfect for an alternative first date.
The AntiCafé charges for time, not for usage. The first hour costs 4€ and every hour after that is 3€. Enter, get an usage card from the front desk to track the elapsed time, and commence free access to coffee, tea, snacks, Wi-Fi, printing, scanning and board games. Snack items include pastries, cakes, fruits, bread, Nutella, honey, chocolate powder, olive oil and vinegar. The environment is rather studious; when I went essentially everyone stayed bent over a Macbook, scribbling on graphed paper or reading a book. The only people having conversations were those who walked straight to the conference room (rentable to anyone who needs space for a business meeting, birthday party, etc.). Overall, a cost-effective and opportune escape from home, whether to work on a project in the company of strangers or avoid washing dishes.