While your quintessential Parisian cafe may be described as chic, classic, or cultured, “cozy” probably wouldn’t make the list. After all, zinc bars and espresso don’t evoke the same feeling as an overstuffed armchair and a cappuccino. Nothing wrong with that; I do love my moments of writing existential thoughts in a notebook while sipping an espresso, but the spaces where you just want to curl up in the corner couch and read a magazine? Those are born of much more Anglo and Scandinavian tendencies.
But in the last few years as specialty coffee shops have begun to pop up in Paris, cozy atmospheres have begun to prevail, and Blackburn Coffee is one among them.
At first sight you might think that Blackburn had intended to go for a Scandinavian vibe, something that’s currently a bit of a trend in Paris, with many stores and cafes pulling Nordic inspiration, but here it’s quite par hasard as we say in French. For Blackburn, the interior design was born out of a desire to work with wood. Why wood? “Because it’s noble and not that expensive,” says Sofiane, Blackburn’s owner and barista, “Et ça fait cozy.” (“It makes it cozy”)
See, even the French call “cozy” “cozy,” proof that there’s not really a word in the French vocabulary to describe the feeling.
The back wall is covered in cross sections of a log, the counter is all wood, and the tables and chairs are wood as well. As such, the place does feel rather strongly Scandinavian, but Sofiane attributes that to the fact that there is simply a lot of natural wood in Scandinavian design, so his Parisian space invokes the same feeling.
But while Blackburn gives a nod to cafe culture from other countries—Sofiane tells me he was inspired to open Blackburn because it was his “rêve [dream] de New York”—there are certain elements that make it distinctly French: the oeuf cocotte on the menu, the savory quiches at lunch, and a homemade fondant au chocolat, the king of all classic French desserts. A mélange that definitely invokes a good feeling.
Sofiane worked with local roaster Café Lomi to create a special blend for his espresso, made up of beans from Brazil, Costa Rica, and Indonesia. For filter you’re offered a choice of beans, and in the future Sofiane hopes to pull in guest roasters from time to time from around Europe. In fact, the first time I ever visited Blackburn, I spotted a bag of Heart Coffee Roasters sitting on the back shelf, something that made my little Portland soul flutter.
While the coffee is carefully selected, here the focus is more all-around cafe as opposed to coffee bar; it’s the entirety of Blackburn that’s important, not just what they’re serving. There are fresh juices if you’re not in a coffee mood, all food and most of the pastries are made in house, and there’s even an inviting couch at the back – a vintage Scandinavian model of course.
For Sofiane the goal is to have a neighborhood joint where customers feel truly welcome. “It’s not our space, it’s their space,” he says. On weekdays, that means a lot of traffic from local PR and marketing agencies based in the neighborhood, and on the weekends, those who live in the general vicinity.
It’s not just a coffee shop, “it’s an apartment,” says Sofiane, one where everyone can cozy up and feel at home.