Understand Fast Spoken French: How to order coffee like a local


When the sun is shining in Paris, it’s incredibly common to see people enjoying a delicious coffee on a terrace. It’s something that locals enjoy just as much as the tourists do! But when it comes to ordering their coffee, I often see — or rather, hear — tourists making some simple and avoidable mistakes.

In today’s lesson, which will be entirely in French, I’ll explain the most common mistakes that non-native French speakers make when ordering their coffee, and I’ll teach you how to confidently order your perfect cup like a local. C’est parti.

1) Lesson in French: transcript and translation

En France, on adore le café.
In France, we love coffee.

Plus des deux tiers des Français en boivent tous les jours !
More than two-thirds of French people drink it every day!

La plupart du temps, on le boit à la maison.
Most of the time, we drink it at home.

Mais on en prend aussi au travail, à la machine à café,
But we also have it at work, from the coffee machine,

et on en commande souvent aussi au restaurant,
and we often order it at restaurants,

ou pour se détendre sur la terrasse d’un… café !
or to relax on the terrace of a… café!

Si tu veux commander un café en France, il suffit de demander :
If you want to order a coffee in France, just ask:

“Un café, s’il vous plaît.”
“One coffee, please.”

Tu auras un expresso noir, fort et réconfortant.
You’ll get a black, strong, and comforting espresso.

Évidemment, n’oublie pas d’être polie avec le serveur !
Of course, don’t forget to be polite to the waiter!

Le plus important, ce sont ces quatre mots magiques :
The most important things are these four magic words:

“Bonjour,” “Au revoir,” “S’il vous plaît” et “Merci.”
“Hello,” “Goodbye” “Please” and “Thank you.”

Si tu veux commander un café avec un peu de lait,
If you want to order a coffee with a little milk,

demande “un café noisette” ou “un noisette.”
ask for “un hazelnut coffee” (“un café noisette / un noisette”.)

Ou pour un peu plus de lait : “un café crème,” “un crème.”
Or for a bit more milk: “a cream coffee” (“un café crème / un crème”)

On dit aussi “le café au lait”, mais uniquement pour le petit-déjeuner à la maison, avec le bol et les tartines.
We also say “café au lait,” but only for breakfast at home, in a bowl with slices of bread.

Dans les cafés français, tu pourras aussi te laisser tenter par “un café gourmand,” un petit café accompagné de petites pâtisseries délicieuses.
In French cafés, you can also be tempted by “un café gourmand,” a small coffee accompanied by delicious mini pastries.

Et bien sûr, tu n’es pas obligée de prendre du café : tu peux aussi apprécier un thé, une tisane ou un chocolat chaud.
And of course, you don’t have to have coffee: you can also enjoy a tea, a herbal tea, or a hot chocolate.

Pour résumer, voilà quatre phrases pour commander dans un café. Répète après moi !
To sum up, here are four phrases to order in a café. Repeat after me!

Un café, s’il vous plaît !  One coffee, please!

Bonjour, un café noisette s’il vous plaît ! Hello, a coffee with a dash of milk, please!

Je vais prendre un thé vert à la menthe s’il vous plaît. Merci !I’ll have a mint green tea, please. Thank you!

Bonjour, je voudrais un chocolat chaud, s’il vous plaît. Merci ! Hello, I would like a hot chocolate, please. Thank you!

Et maintenant, tu es prête à commander un café en France !
And now, you’re ready to order a coffee in France!

2) Vocabulary

Un café = a (cup of) coffee, or “a café” (the physical place where you can buy coffee)

Extra resource: Coffee consumption in France (statistics)

Boire du café = drinking coffee (an irregular verb)

Conjugation of “boire” in the present:
Je bois      Nous buvons
Tu bois      Vous buvez
Elle boit    Elles boivent

Je bois un café sur la terrasse d’un café. = I’m having a coffee on the terrace of a café.
La terrasse = the outdoor area of a restaurant, café or bar

Several types of coffee and related drinks :

  • Un café noisette (or un noisette) = a coffee with a dash of milk, like a macchiato.
  • Un café crème (or un crème) = a coffee with a bit more milk or liquid cream, like a latte of a “flat white.”
  • Le café gourmand = a small coffee with small pastries.
  • Un café décaféiné (or un déca) = a decaf
  • Le thé = tea, la tisane = herbal tea, le chocolat chaud = hot chocolate

Not the difference between these types of coffee, and:

  • Une noisette = a hazelnut
  • Une crème = a cream
  • Un gourmand (person) = someone who loves food, maybe a bit too much, especially rich food. A gourmand doesn’t need to have a particularly sophisticated palate.

Gourmand also means “rich food, hearty and savory.” Un gourmet is a lover of fine food.

** Le truc en plus : **
Trois Cafés Gourmands is a French band created in 2013, that became famous in 2018 with their hit “À nos souvenirs” and later “On t’emmène.” They’re known for their optimistic point of view and anthem to life.

Ready-to-use sentences to order coffee (or anything else!) in France:

  • Je vais prendre un déca = I’ll have a decaf.
  • Je vais vous prendre un thé vert à la menthe. = I’ll have a green mint tea.
  • Je voudrais un chocolat chaud. = I’d like a hot chocolate.

Je vais prendre [X] / Je vais vous prendre [X] / Je voudrais [X]” are very common structure that French people use to order almost anything at the French restaurant, at the boulangerie or elsewhere.

Extra resources (blog only) : French songs about coffees and cafés

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I’ll see you in the next video!

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Join the conversation!

  • Merci pour le leçon. I have a question I hope someone can answer. When at a boulangerie or cafe where one has to wait in line to order a drink or food, what would be the appropriate phrase to use to tell people who come in after me to “please go ahead of me/us”? I often find that I need a few minutes to decide on my order, and the people at the counter are fine with me saying, «Bonjour mesdames, on a besoin de quelques minutes s.v.p.» But others who come in after me know what they want and don’t want to be held up. Yet they stand behind me until I gesture them forward. So I would appreciate knowing what would be the appropriate thing to say to them in that situation. Merci

    • Bonjour Cindy,

      You can say “Allez-y Monsieur/Madame, je ne sais pas encore ce que je vais prendre.”

      I hope this helps.

      Belle journée,

      Comme Une Française Team

  • A Antibes nous avons le café crème, l’espresso, ou le café American. Je préfère le cafe allongé mais c’est pas normal ici. Le seul cafe qui a le café allongé et très international (je crois ils sont Québécois) et on démande “a long black”

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