Belleville Brûlerie

WHERE: 10 rue Pradier, 75019 (19ème arrondissement) – right next to Buttes-Chaumout, Paris' funkiest park
WHEN: Open Saturdays only, 11:30am-5:30pm
HOW MUCH: cupping session 20€ (bag of beans included); espresso/filter/pour-over 4-5€
METRO: Belleville (lines 2, 11); Pyrénées (line 11)
BEANS: Belleville Brûlerie, roasted on premises
CONTACT: Web; Facebook; Tel: +33 09 83 75 60 80

This is an interesting and symbolic place that deserves something of a special mention.

First, we'll be clear on one thing: Belleville Brûlerie is not really a café. It is a micro-roaster (brûlerie is an old French word for 'roaster'), open to the public on Saturdays, that provides beans to a number of specialty coffee joints in Paris. If you're after a Williamsburg latte or a Melbourne macchiatto then you're out of luck: all you'll find here is espresso and brewed coffee. They don't even stock milk.

Thomas Lehoux, David Flynn and Anselme Blayney (of Ten Belles, Télescope and Le Bal, respectively) opened up shop in September 2013 following an apparent desire to move further into the bean sourcing and roasting realms of the specialty coffee world.

At 11:30 on Saturday mornings they run "initiation to coffee" cupping sessions for up to 8 people (bookings essential). These will set you back 20€, but come with a complementary bag of Belleville beans. Attendees are advised not to eat or drink beforehand, as this supposedly ensures the highest degree of sensitivity to the subtleties of each coffee variety being sampled. For the rest of the day, espresso and brewed coffee (filter, Chemex and other pour-over styles) are available for around 4-5€.

In this sense, Belleville Brûlerie isn't the kind of place you can quickly pop by for a caffeine hit before carrying on with your day. Instead, you go there to appreciate the unique flavour and complexity of the myriad different coffee beans on offer, and to share the experience with other enthusiasts, who range from the humbly curious to the intimidatingly well-informed.

So besides the intimate and inspiring coffee experience you can have there, what is so important about this place?

Everything about Belleville Brûlerie epitomises a significant aspect of specialty coffee not only in Paris, but around the world.

Firstly, its location in an ever-gentrifying, former working class district of the French capital reflects the role that coffee plays in transforming the urban landscape of large cities. It's always amazing to see how quickly trendy espresso bars appear once a working-class neighbourhood is injected with a dose of young, creative middle-class urbanites.

Secondly, the owners' diverse backgrounds attest to the global-ness of the movement. People might bicker over the origins of the so-called 'third wave', but at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter where it started. What matters is where it is now.

These days, the essence of specialty coffee is basically removed from physical geography. It exists in its own little hybrid world: a beautiful blend of online social networks and trendy pockets of urban centres, uniting passionate coffee fiends from all over the globe.

The all-encompassing, holistic term of 'specialty coffee' manifests on many levels. There are the innovations in roasting, extraction and brewing methods, as coffee geeks rediscover the old and pioneer the new. There is the promotion of fairer trade arrangements and closer contact with growers, which is coupled with a greater interest in the geographical origin of the contents of one's coffee cup. There is even a sort of aesthetic standard for cafés that deal in specialty coffee. Whether it's the rustic, minimalistic wooden or bare-brick interiors; the stylish ephemera and quirky bric-a-brac; the felt letter boards; the clipboard menus; the tattooed, bewhiskered baristas;  juice served in jars; the elegant simplicity of the logo, or maybe the plain black façade, there's always something that links your local espresso joint to another one on the other side of the world.

The very inception of Belleville Brûlerie is indicative of the momentum that third-wave coffee has gathered in Paris. A trip there will teach you about more than just the coffee you're drinking: it will tell you something about the past, present and future of specialty coffee in Paris.


  1. Nice! -just stumbled on your blog while sipping on a coffee at Cream. The coffee scene that's sprung up here over the past few years is very exciting indeed!