How do you enjoy your morning coffee?
Cradling your coffee from a porcelain French coffee bowl during breakfast is a unique aspect of French dining etiquettes and traditions. This tradition, however, leaves most Americans perplexed, confused, and possibly even irritated. So, if you’re eating breakfast at a traditional bistro, café, or eating establishment in France, and looking for a coffee mug or coffee cup, odds are you’ll have to keep looking!
Drinking coffee (sometimes hot chocolate, but seldom hot tea) from a bowl the size of what we here in the US would typically call a cereal bowl is a French morning ritual where you cradle the
bowl with both hands, being fully aware of the moment, savoring the taste of each sip. You can call it the French Art de Vivre (the art of living). It should be noted, the coffee or café au lait bowls are only used during the morning breakfast ritual.
Why a Coffee Bowl ?
While a custom generally foreign to Americans, people around the world have used these bowls for hundreds of years. Europeans were first introduced to coffee largely by the Turks, and along with the coffee, came the custom of sipping them from handle-less cups. In France, the origins of café au lait bowls can be traced to 1644, when Pierre de la Roque, a physician, returned to Marseilles from a trip to Constantinople with coffee beans and several vessels for preparing them. Seventeenth-century engravings suggest that such a set would likely have included an ibrik, or Turkish pot—and small bowls. Drinking hot beverages from such bowls continued in Europe until about 1760, when handles (presumably added to prevent burns) began appearing on cups. But for café au lait—coffee and milk in equal parts—the use of bowls persisted. And practically speaking, there are some advantages to a bowl –which is generally wider --when looking to dip your croissant or donut into your hot coffee.
Pillivuyt Classic Café au Lait Coffee Bowl
While several vintage café au lait coffee bowls are available, the best coffee bowl made today is by Pillivuyt France. The Pillivuyt coffee bowl is an embodiment of the traditional European coffee bowls and are available in porcelain white, or decorated with the script “Café au Lait.” (simply, coffee with milk). These slightly footed bowls average about 5.5" in diameter and holds about 13 ounces. (and yes, they are multifunctional in that they can also be used for soup, cereal, and desserts, to name a few!).
The advantage to a Pillivuyt coffee bowl is the fact they are porcelain and not faience or ceramics. Pillivuyt’s French porcelain bowls are expertly crafted in France with care and fired at 2550
degrees Fahrenheit to ensure premium quality. The coffee bowls are then covered in a hard glaze that is resistant to cracking, chipping, scratching, and crazing. The bowls are microwaveable, dishwasher-safe, and can be used safely in the oven or freezer. You can easily stack several on a shelf.
Quality serveware is the pinnacle of fine dining, and Pillivuyt’s French coffee bowls are the perfect combination of utility, tradition, and elegance. So, next time you sit down to drink your morning coffee, bring a little bit of Paris and France to your table with a French croissant and porcelain coffee bowl. Who knows, it may start a whole new tradition for you.