Café Léo – Perfect specialty coffee

Café Léo – Introduction

Café Léo was a wonderful find in the seaside town of Perpignan in Roussillon – it is a town that is quite close to the Spanish border. We had driven here to meet up with Laurent Roger and Melissa Ingrand whose incredible wine is produced under the Mataburro label. We had been importing their wine for a couple of years but our desire to walk through their vineyards had been interrupted by torrential rain on our only visit just before the Covid outbreak. This trip the weather was agreeable and we had a pleasant walk through their vineyards on the edge of the city and a congenial lunch at their home.

In the past, however, we have always had difficulty finding a place in this area for a morning coffee to our liking. We were staying in the centre of the city and so we went looking for somewhere that looked approachable.

Not too far from where we staying we saw a place called Café Léo where the interior looked very sparse with very clean lines and they were advertising V60 coffee as well as espresso. This along with words on the menu such as “specialite” and “artisanal” was enough to entice us inside. The V60 signals that they make filter coffee where the filter forms a 60 degree angle ensuring that the water drips through the coffee grounds at the correct speed.

You will notice from the menu above that the espresso sells for a paltry 2 euros. This is an historical issue where cheap beans from colonies in Africa and Vietnam had provided France with coffee at a very low price. The problem here is that much of the coffee sold in France is of the Robusta variety which has a higher caffeine content than other varieties and is also more bitter than other varieties. However, there is no Robusta at Café Léo!

Once we were seated inside we could appreciate that this was a place where the owner is very serious about his coffee.

As it was our first coffee of the day our normal order is for an espresso followed by a filter coffee of some type. Here the owner likes to use the V60 filter approach.

The espresso coffees arrived soon after ordering on a tray with a glass of water for each of us. It was accompanied by a spoon to taste the espresso and stir it, not to add sugar which is not provided.

The filter took longer as we expected. First we knew that they use the Chemex filter papers here from the indication on the menu. These filter papers are thicker than many that are used in the industry and therefore take longer for the water to penetrate.

It takes a little while to first of all fold the filter paper so that it fits exactly in the container, to wet the filter paper, to measure out the coffee so that the exact quantity of beans are identified, then the beans must be ground to the perfect size – not too small and not too coarse, and then the hot water (around 90 degrees Centigrade) poured slowly over the coffee grounds and then wait for it to slowly penetrate the filter. It normally takes about five minutes for the water to penetrate the beans and the paper.

The photo below shows the owner preparing our coffee.

We can thoroughly recommend this venue for the quality of the coffee and the care and attention of the owner. It is also a very relaxing place to sit and enjoy the coffee. We are looking forward to our next trip to France as a stop in Perpignan will be a high priority.

We should add a little about the coffee we were served. It was a naturally processed coffee made from the Catucai variety grown organically by the Minamihara family. They are descended from Japanese migrants who migrated to Brazil in the 1930s and now have a thriving coffee business.

We have included Café Léo in our survey of places to eat and drink in France outside Paris here.

You can access their Web site here but it currently only shows their address.

Additional information

Name: Café Léo

Street: 1 rue de la République

Town: Perpignan, 66000

Opening hours: Tue – Sat, 10am – 6pm

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