Martin Skar //
// 19.5.2019

Télescope, Paris: Interview with Nicolas Clerc

Coming to Télescope you feel like entering a Michelin star coffee shop. Everything is so nice and simple, yet of supreme quality. The service has attention to details, and everything they serve is clean and fresh tasting. The coffees are light and taste really juicy. I strongly recommend a visit, but don’t expect to rush in and out. Take your time, go with the flow and enjoy a moment of serenity in the middle of Paris.

At Télescope they serve coffee from several roasters brewed as hand brew and espresso-based accompanied with home-baked sourdough bread with butter and jam or maybe banana bread with butter. The location is very central in the Japanese quarter, in 2nd arrodissement.

Telescope banana bread

I met with Télescope's founder Nicolas Clerc and had a talk about how he got into coffee, what’s next, and how it all started.

I was a photographer for 12 years and wanted to work more with food and less with lipstick and so on. I was working for The New York Times, and one of my contacts there, Christine Mulky, and I were having a conversation. I told her I wanted to change my focus on food. She said that “fantastic, but there is no money in that”. She told me to meet her boyfriend, Oliver Strand, and that he could teach me more. Oliver was totally into coffee and introduced me to the coffee world as well. 

I went to NY a year later and met David Latourelle there. It all goes back him, right? David said coffee shop was a fantastic idea and just what Paris needs. “You will be broke, but you’ll have fun!” And he was right.

That happened in 2010. Later the same year I bumped into a real-estate agent that I knew. I told him that maybe one day I would look for a tiny place for a coffee shop. He replied that he only does apartments, so, unfortunately, it’s not his thing. But then he told that there was this old man selling his place if I were ever interested. So, I arrived here at this place and said, this is it. It was the perfect little location. I got the papers signed 2011 and opened up in March 2012. 

Martin Skar at Telescope
Blogger Martin Skar at Télescope.

We are talking in the basement of the coffee shop. It is made as a kitchen and bar. When did you get this part ready? 

It was always a part of the premises. We turned it into a kitchen in 2015 and have since tried out some events here. 2015 was the year of the sad events, the terrorist attacks, here in Paris and everything kind of hit the brakes at that point in many ways. Now we bake our own bread and other pastries down here. 

We can do pop-ups, events and restaurant at weekends. Many of my friends in the restaurant industry are seeing the potential here, so there is a lot of fun to come for sure. We have already started to cook our staff lunch with seasonal ingredients from the market. It is so nice to make lunch for each other; we are having so much fun! Maybe we could do limited lunch offers too. If we are making lunch for three, we can just as well make it for 10. I am more and more into vegan food, so I am experimenting a lot with it. Here, taste these mirabelle plums in syrup. From this year. So nice.

Yum! So, do you want to have all food plant based? 

No, not only. We can do everything. But I have been eating more greens lately and all of a sudden, I lost 5 kilos and got more energy.

There are many new ways to evolve and move on from this point then?

Definitely. We are constantly changing little things to get better. 

Agreed! That is how you get better.

Yes, and this is also a nice way to get some variations into a profession that has a lot of routines and repeated work. We need a bit of something new :)

You know I am into (natural) wine. This could lead you to alcoholism. But it also leads you to think differently and appreciate the little details and how they will impact your final product.

I guess wine is like coffee. If you really get your head into it, it is a humbling experience.

Yes. There are so many things with food and drinks that you appreciate more if you pay attention to the details. 

Telescope decorative detail
Detail of the interior design at Télescope.

You have been using many different suppliers for coffee, right?

Let me try to make it short. After I invested in this place (thanks to my ex-wife Daphnie, without her this place would not have existed!), I often went to a place called Labelle where a young barista called David Flynn was working. He wanted to work more with coffee and even wanted to invest in it. I gave him a good share, and we worked on the project together. He was very stoked, and he also wanted to roast. I asked him if he knew how to roast. Neither of us knew. So we went to Hasbean in London, they were very welcoming and gave us lessons on roasting and coffee and a lot of tips and supplied us with grinders, boilers and more. 

We opened in March, and in September David said that he wants to be bigger. At the time I was in a difficult situation since my wife had left me, so for the moment, we had to wait. So he left to open Belleville with the guys from Ten Bells. The same day David left, Steve from Hasbean called to ask if there was anything he could help with due to the complicated situation I was in. I asked him to send some coffee, and ever since he has been a regular supplier alongside with other roasters like Koppi, Tim Wendelboe, SRW, The Coffee Collective, Man vs. Machine and more. We also had a pilot with S&H for a while when David Latourelle was working there and selling to Europe. Every time I'm in Oslo visiting their shop, they do such a great job!

I also met a guy called Tom Koony. He really helped to get the shop to the next level. He started a couple of months after David left. With Tom in the team we started weighing all our shots, pre-dose our coffees and so on. And with this entered the real coffee game. Steve from Hasbean was supplying us with good prices and great quality. He also helped with taking care of our equipment and helped us a lot. I could have changed the supplier, but the coffee he is providing is fantastic. So, there is no way I will do it. My pallet is set for his coffees. Especially with the espresso. 

Telescope specialty coffees

Did you ever feel the need to get your logo on the bag of coffee to get your brand more “out there”? 

No, not really. I compare it with wine. You don´t get the wine store sticker on the bottle so neither do I do this. I only got like 300 stickers. One on my phone, one on my ex-girlfriend’s computer and a couple in my friend’s toilet, hehe. But for now, no co-branding. 

To conclude, where do you see yourself in five years. Making wine? ;)

Well, I almost sold the shop just after the terror attacks in Bataclan. I wanted to turn a page. I met a girl and was considering moving to another country with her. I ended up staying, and I am very happy here. I got great colleagues and they inspire me. I am very lucky to be able to work with a wonderful product as I do.

Are you going to start roasting then? 

No, but we are going to explore the possibilities here in the basement kitchen more. Both for having more in house made products for the shop and for events. There is a beauty in enjoying the everyday tasks and keep getting better, and not just quit after two years because you are restless.

Thanks, Nico, nice talking to you again. Let´s go and take a picture outside!

telescope nico