Oct 17th, 2015, 02:52 PM

Starbucks: Coffee Globalization Comes to Paris

By Cristina Castello
Image: BaristaHQ
While traditional café culture remains a deep part of Parisian life, the market for more variety is here to stay.

Hazelnut or French vanilla? Iced or hot? Medium or dark roast?
These have always been some of my go-to options when grabbing coffee back home in the United States—on my way to work, during a lunch break, as a Saturday morning pick-me-up. As an avid coffee drinker for years, when I moved to Paris I didn’t think twice about missing these small pleasures. After all, café culture is synonymous with Parisian lifestyle, right?
Not exactly. To my surprise, while café culture is deeply and historically engrained in Parisian lifestyle, the quality of coffee has arguably been average at best—something that many coming to Paris may not realize. The variety is often limited, too -- it's either café, café au lait, or café long.

To-Go Coffee is very American

Another clear misconception upon arriving in Paris is around how coffee is consumed. You rarely see Parisians taking coffee to go on their way to work or between destinations. This is clearly a very American habit that speaks to the faster-paced lifestyle in America. Parisians drink coffee as a pastime, most often relaxing and people-watching at cafés.

Riding on the Métro with a portable coffee mug in the morning on my way to class, I’ve attracted more than a few odd looks—clearly branding myself as yet another American in Paris. This, combined with the lack of variety, has opened up a market in recent years for craft coffee shops in the city and, of course, the big American coffee chain Starbucks to open more and more outlets.

Starbucks Expands in France

While Starbucks has been in France since 2004, its recent efforts to expand the franchise throughout the country -- notably via the French retail chain Monoprix -- has caused criticism among locals. According to their Facebook page, Starbucks France has 76 coffee lounges -- 51 of them are in Paris. This number is growing, however, as Starbucks strategically adopt the American notion of coffee stands within department stores or grocery stores already popular across the United States in shops like Target and Shaws.

Are the French embracing this coffee globalization? Most are not -- at least not yet. That said, like many other American chains that have quickly gained momentum in Paris, Starbucks could win Parisians over as complementary to the café experience, providing greater variety in the coffee itself and how it is consumed. In other European countries where Starbucks is making moves, such as Italy, this strategy won’t likely be embraced.

Café culture will never leave Paris or France, with historic roots in the lifestyle. Still, the growth of indie coffee shops and the American franchise Starbucks have created a shift in how coffee is consumed and the variety that is available in recent years. The notion of to-go coffee will always remain very American, but the variety offered appeals to a larger market including Parisians.

[Images: PureLyftOest France; ImageBasket]