The long, curving Rue de Grenelle is lined with sweet-smelling bakeries, high-end stationery shops, and tasteful clothing boutiques, all in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. As of February, the neighborhood is also home to Bleu Olive, one of the few cafes serving specialty coffee on the Left Bank.
Olivier Hanaut and his wife, Heloise, had known for years they wanted to open their own food business. But what kind? A restaurant would be too much work to keep the family life they value, and a fine food store without a restaurant seemed insufficient to make a living. Bleu Olive, painted and papered in shades of blue and yellow and designed to look and feel like a welcoming living room, strikes a healthy balance between the two.
“We’ve always had an interest in French products,” says Olivier. Bleu Olive’s honey-colored wood shelves are stocked with the couple’s gleanings from the Paris region and around France: jam, cookies, chocolate, olive oil, pâté, spices—and of course, coffee. “We wanted to create a friendly place for people to discover these products, so that’s why we decided to include the cafe,” explains Olivier. Here, a traditional baguette-and-coffee breakfast is made vastly more delicious with local jam, artisan butter, and coffee from Brûlerie Belleville. No matter the time of day, any cup of coffee is an invitation to add a slice of cake from neighborhood bakery Matthieu et Pauline, or chase a traditional jambon beurre sandwich.
Customers are as likely to discover a taste for quality coffee at Bleu Olive as they are for the high-quality meats and cheeses that go into the sandwiches. “When we first opened, people were surprised—they weren’t used to drinking coffee like this,” says Olivier, referring to Belleville’s espresso blends. And filter coffee, long reviled in France, is one of Bleu Olive’s most popular products. “We try to do classic things well, without going crazy,” says Olivier. Although not a professional barista, he followed training at Belleville, and a representative stops by regularly to drop off new blends and make sure that the Fiorenzato grinder and La Marzocco FB80 machine are tuned just right.
While there are many cafes in the neighborhood, none have Bleu Olive’s warmth and personality. “Most of the cafes around here are like factories,” says Heloise. “They don’t have that village feel. People from the neighborhood have become regulars, and even tourists come back every day during their stay. I’ve had people nearly forget to pay because they felt so at home!”
Although Bleu Olive is riding coffee’s Third Wave, the cafe is refreshingly French in its approach and products. “We felt like a lot of places looked the same,” says Olivier. “We wanted to do something different and to work with people who have stories to tell.”
Kate Robinson (@KateOnTheLoose) is a freelance journalist based in Paris. Read more Kate Robinson on Sprudge.