Wednesday, June 15, 2011

La Boite à Café

There comes a time in every expat's life when the question of coffee comes up. It does not matter what country you're in or what country you're from. In my first years abroad in Beijing, for example, I harbored a persistent daydream of my country's "bottomless cup". That waitress at Denny's Erie Boulevard Syracuse played a role, the one who was very tan all year round and had beached hair. When we went there to study for exams, she'd come over and purse her shriveled lips voluptuously, her halo of brittle split ends backlit by a sunken spotlight in the ceiling and say "more coffee, hon?" Her wrinkled cleavage always shifted plumply in her polyester uniform and there was that hot pouring sound.

What you think is good at 18 and what you think is good at 28 are completely different. My university days pre-dated any really good coffee in Central New York. But in my expat mind, the dream-coddled cup festered and grew. I remember coming home from one really long stint away, stopping in New York City for shopping on the way home and suddenly being hit at a Manhattan cafe with the reality that all the great service and bounty of unlimited fabulous coffee was indeed a distilled composite. It didn't really exist.

Since that time, however, good coffee actually materialized in the States, in the west. I went back for a couple of years and have very good memories of worshipping one particularly fabulous coffee shop in Santa Monica. They were so mean there! I was pleased as punch to submit to any amount of cult induced scorn to read the paper on a ratty old couch with the west coast sun steaming through abundant windows. Man, did I love that place. And when I became we, and we left the country again, I'd pay for the good coffee that had then made it's way east and drink it down, I'd pack so much of it into my suitcase to return to France that it looked like I was trying to smuggle something. I always distribute it to friends and freeze as much as possible. People ask what to bring and I always say "good coffee". I'll sit at one of the chain shops that have proliferated from time to time and pretend, but it really doesn't amount to anything but suspension of disbelief. Even Illy doesn't do it, although I do like the limited edition tins.

I have taken to walking stairs with a little spitfire of a Korean American who will not accept "my hip hurts" as an excuse not to get out early and go at full speed for an hour or two each day. I love her determined will and knowing ways, she's a very good coach. Some days we conquer stairs until there are none left to conquer, and some days we saunter through neighborhoods and stop in the cafes for a cup of whatever coffee they're serving. We figure if we try a different cafe every morning, in a few years we will have tried every one in the city of Lyon. This old dust pressed through dirty valves ranges from dimly acceptable to abominably bad. One fine morning just a few weeks ago, we happened, on one of our sauntering days, across a brand new cafe, and sat down.

Imagine my surprise to be transported by an initial sip that pierced like a steam engine straight to my longing soul. I am talking years. Maybe even a dream come true. "We are drinking real coffee here, Mimi", I remember saying. We then fell into a conversation with the man who roasts his own beans. He is one dedicated barista and they have their ways of strongly suggesting certain manners that fall in line with the culture of people who really care about coffee, but to my grand pleasure, the cult of scorn has been eliminated from the equation. Their summer menu lists weekly roasted coffees along with their provenance, altitude, estate at which the beans were grown, variety of bean, and any certification the coffee enjoys, as well as ideas about what to expect in the flavor of each kind. They serve their coffee filtered, French pressed, syphoned, brewed by Chemex, and of course regular expresso, with a variety of classic cafe standards on the chalkboard every day. They'll grind you a sack full of whatever is in season to your specifications and send you on your merry way leaving a swirling waft of heaven in your wake. Your neighbors will wonder at the aroma in the hallway when they arrive home hours after you've come home. This couple's work completes something in your life, and in the neighborhood.

Their coffee is so good, they don't need anything but that to keep a steady stream of customers all day long, every day. But they do have Free wifi and a terrace, which basically makes the place perfect.

La Boite à Café
3 rue Abbé Rozier
69001 Lyon, France
04 27 01 48 71

You can read more about this couple and their business on their website.


Anonymous David said...

Wow. Sounds like a fantastic find. I can almost smell the coffee in your post. I chuckled when I read "We're drinking real coffee here Mimi." I know that feeling. After several stays in Germany, I'm always excited to return home (DC) to a BIG cup of real coffee. :)

10:28 PM, June 15, 2011  
Blogger racheld said...

Curls of steam from a cup and my tongue curling in anticipation of that perfectly-coffee essence that's Goblin Market to all of us who have tasted it even once.

And my heart has curled round and round your enchanting words, which conjure, conjure, delivering more delectably enticing descriptions of the brew than any advertising ever could.

Girl, you DO beat all.


PS---your Denny's lady has a twin, right down to the swish of nylon and crepey cleavage---this one has a Southern Accent and pours a welcome cup at the E-Light Caffay.

10:38 PM, June 15, 2011  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Rachel Dear, I think there's one in every town.

10:39 PM, June 15, 2011  
Blogger L Vanel said...

David, quite kind of you to stop by, thanks!

10:41 PM, June 15, 2011  
Anonymous David said...

I'm on my way!.... ...

11:29 PM, June 15, 2011  
Blogger L Vanel said...

See you when you get here!

12:39 AM, June 16, 2011  
Blogger Kitt said...

What a happy find!

7:06 AM, June 16, 2011  
Blogger cocopuff1212 said...

Finally a place that serves piston brewed coffee, and it's just a hop, step, and jump from where I live! Thank you for your report.

Do you think they'll be offended if I ask for decaf, though?

11:15 AM, June 16, 2011  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Lets go together! I'll be there this afternoon. I think they do have a decaf bean.

11:55 AM, June 16, 2011  
Anonymous Francine said...

Oh we need to make a date so I can check this out soon! It sounds like heaven!

12:32 PM, June 16, 2011  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Oh yes, we must!

1:00 PM, June 16, 2011  
Anonymous Coffee Beans said...

What a great find! Next time I am on that side of the world I will make a visit. Alternative brewing methods are a great source of great coffee! Thanks for sharing!

2:02 PM, June 16, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...

I had a great cup of coffee last week at a place on University Avenue in Madison, WI. It was a rich and layered drink: Spice that reminded me of deep Africa, cinnamon that recalled a cup I once savored in Paris and a lingering chocolate taste. It was like a complex wine and just as intoxicating.

-Another Mimi checking in

2:07 AM, June 17, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

luce, don't forget Paul deLima in Syracuse. That's real coffee.

1:20 AM, June 18, 2011  
Blogger Katie Zeller said...

What a find! I hope it's close enough for frequent visits. I always loved the coffee in Spain.... I have no idea what it is that makes it taste so good.

8:56 PM, June 18, 2011  
Anonymous Christine Cappio said...

I live in Hong Kong but I am from Lyon . I'll visit this place
next time I go to visit my parents. Thanks for sharing.
True, difficult to find good cafe here too, although things have changed so much since 1986!

9:03 AM, June 19, 2011  
Anonymous Kalindi said...

Thank you for the tip! I gave it a try and it really was delicious! I'll be back there soon.

12:18 AM, June 20, 2011  
Anonymous Florent said...

I buy my coffe at this place once a week, and it is the best i ever drink.
I finally bought a grinder from them to enjoy fresh coffe at home.
This is simply the best place to find marvellous coffe in Lyon.
And for my greatest pleasure they are just 100 meters from my home

9:16 AM, July 03, 2011  
Anonymous Lynn said...

Thanks to your recommendation, we visited this café both days this weekend! Ethiopian in the Chemex on Saturday (wow, it was like a cross between coffee and earl gray tea), and on Sunday we had Guatemalen in the Sypho (a more unctuous drink that coats the sides of the cup; loved the scientific aspect of the Sypho). And last but not least -- the couple who own the shop have to be the most adorable people ever! We loved talking to them about the process of opening the shop, and their passion for coffee was simply contagious.

10:40 PM, July 03, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What has happened to the coffee in France? The French have always been know for great coffee. Oh my, apparently times have changed. That said, I share your passion for a great cup of coffee and will go to any length to get one. Being an expat living in the Czech Republic, my husband and I travel to Italy to fill our suitcases with what we think is great coffee.

7:59 AM, July 09, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I discovered your beautiful blog searching for vin d'orange.

7:35 PM, July 13, 2011  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Such great comments, glad to hear about your discoveries.

8:15 PM, July 13, 2011  

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