Loustic



WHERE: 40 Rue Chapon 75003 (3ème arrondissement)
WHEN: Mon - Fri 8am-6pm; Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 10am-6pm
HOW MUCH: crème 4€
METRO: Arts et Métiers (lines 3, 11); Rambuteau (line 11)
BEANS: Caffè Nation
FOOD: Small selection of muffins, cookies and various pastries
CONTACT: Facebook; Web



Post and photos: Alex Fox

Loustic is an old French word, translating to “smart alec.”

When I was young, I was the little sibling amongst my extended family, but in my own mind I believed myself to be intellectually superior in every way. These sentiments revealed themselves when I would routinely attempt to demonstrate my cleverness by cheekily challenging everything my elders said. For the most part, such subversion would go unnoticed, and I was still the young one, with little influence to offer. However, on rare occasions, I would succeed in my attempts to mentally squash the others in conversation, and I could see defeat in their eyes as they said to me: “You’re a little smart alec aren’t you?” I loved it.




I was reminded of these times while interviewing the owner of Café Loustic , Channa Galhenage. Having finished a quality cup of his café crème, I was already impressed with the taste. It was a smooth, creamy beverage that, despite the summer heat, was very easy to drink. As Channa told me about his rich history with coffee, he spoke in a way that reflected a supreme addiction to the drink. He referred to himself as a “legal drug dealer,” then later added that he still “followed the rules” when making coffee, to ensure the best and most consistent flavour for his customers. He uses beans that come from a Belgian roaster called Caffè Nation and crafts them into a master beverage on a classic Florentine Marzocco machine.





Inside the sizeable shop, you are met with an interior décor that sits comfortably between classical and modern Parisian design. Patterned couches and wicker chairs contrast nicely with octagonal wooden tables, and the chain-linked wallpaper in the back room is warmly lit by a variety of interesting lamps. Those sitting on the long couch in the front room have moveable tables that allow for easy access, and additionally they are treated to a view of the food resting on the counter and their coffees being prepared. The bricks on the wall behind the bar are exposed, revealing the original framework of this 300-year-old building, while on the opposite wall, is an homage to the Orient Express, the train line that ran from Paris to Istanbul for more than 100 years. Clearly, the focus of this shop is directed entirely towards the city in which it was located.


I arrived at the shop before Channa and was happily greeted by two lovely ladies (including Sandra of Café Lomi) behind the counter, who said that he would arrive at around 2pm. He walked in shortly after, and immediately presented an example of the atmosphere he sought to develop in his café. It appeared as though he knew each customer well, and he greeted him or her with a European double kiss. When he merely smiled and nodded at me, it was confirmed that he actually did know the majority of his customers. I asked him later about that familiarity and he said that his first goal with this café was to find a consistent group of both Parisians and expats, who could call Loustic their local hang out. Fortunately for him, the shop is located in one of the coolest areas of the Marais. Immediately nearby you can find the offices of Radio Marais, a classic Hungarian deli and one of the few authentic Chinese handmade noodle restaurants in Paris. He says the location helped him not only to garner an eclectic and dynamic group of regulars, but also consistently to attract the attention of passers-by, strolling down the pretty little Rue Chapon.


The customers around me conversed in a relaxed and open manner. I saw English and French people interspersed throughout the café, talking in both languages while they drank their café crèmes and espressos. There was only one customer sitting alone, although he turned out to be a good friend of one of the baristas, who would regularly pause her work duties to take up animated discussion about the summer holidays and plans for the upcoming year. Funnily enough, after the first few minutes of conversation with Channa in French, we both realised that English was our mother tongue and so recommenced our introductions. Finding out that he was from London was the most surprising part of this interview, as so much of this café was Parisian. Following this revelation, he recounted the many reasons why it was so easy for him to settle into this city and its inherent lifestyle. He described it as the style and gastronomy capital of the world, indicating that it wasn’t good enough for both of those factors to be overlooked by the café owners of Paris.

As I write this, the Loustic spirit begins to form. Combining good coffee, a regular local clientele, a dream location and a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere, this café challenges the preconceptions of Paris as having an underdeveloped coffee culture. With a cheeky grin on his face, Channa makes a prediction that in five years, Paris will be the number one city in the world for specialty coffee. The audacity of that statement goes unnoticed, as I look around and see the makings of a Parisian café that could well match those found in trendy parts of America or Australia.



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