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In his fascinating memoir/travelogue called The Devil’s Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee, Stewart Lee Allen tells a very brief version of the history of Parisian cafes:

Auvergne is a mountainous region five hundred miles or so south of Paris. Today it’s popular for horseback riding. Back in the 1700s, it was a poverty-stricken backwater peopled by peasants who scratched out a living as coal miners. Auvergnats, as the people from the region are called, were and are famous for their stubborn independence and are supposed to be descended from the Ukrainians. According to Monsieur Balitrand, they appeared in Paris selling their villages’ coal as charbonniers (hence the nickname Charbougnats). They then started peddling water and lemonade, then hot water, which they boiled using the coal they also sold. When coffee came into vogue they brewed it to order on people’s doorsteps, a Parisian tradition that goes back to a crippled boy called Le Candiot who sold coffee door-to-door in the late 1600s.

Dragging all this stuff about the muddy streets of Paris became a nuisance. So one by one the Auvergnats picked a spot and set up shop. Walls grew around their carts. They stuck a chair or two outside. Occasionally someone even washed a dish. And so Deux Magot, Cafe Flore, Lipp, and a zillion other famous Parisian cafes came into being. By the late 1800s about half a million Auvergnats had moved to the city. To this day they remain a tribe apart, with special newspapers and soirees that reunite entire villages.