Category Archives: café

Café à la montréalaise

Montréal est en passe de (re)devenir une destination pour le café. Mieux encore, la «Renaissance du café à Montréal» risque d’avoir des conséquences bénéfiques pour l’ensemble du milieu culinaire de la métropole québécoise.

Cette thèse peut sembler personnelle et je n’entends pas la proposer de façon dogmatique. Mais en me mêlant au milieu du café à Montréal, j’ai accumulé un certain nombre d’impressions qu’il me ferait plaisir de partager. Il y a même de la «pensée magique» dans tout ça en ce sens qu’il me semble plus facile de rebâtir la scène montréalaise du café si nous avons une idée assez juste de ce qui constitue la spécificité montréalaise.

Continue reading Café à la montréalaise

More Notes on Myriade

Like all my recent posts, this post about my first coffee-tasting session at Myriade followed the RERO principle: not only was it a draft but I expect to come back to it. I could update the post itself but I think it’s useful to post a few more notes about Myriade’s first day, especially since I did go back to the café in the meantime.

via First Myriade Session « Disparate

So…

First factual point: all of Myriade’s espresso drinks are based on double-shots. It doesn’t surprise me given the fact that it’s pretty much the epitome of coffee’s so-called Third Wave and double-espresso is the very basis of West Coast-style Third Wave coffee. But I still assumed they would be pulling singles as well as doubles. A corrollary of this is that their extra shot makes for a triple.

Speaking of extras… Myriade’s menus are rather unique, IMHO. Not really because of specific items which aren’t found elsewhere or because of the price structure. The way the whole set of menus work together. It’s precisely the kind of thing a business-savvy person would notice and grok right away. I merely notice it. If I had had a camera (and the fine folks at Myriade had let me), I would have posted pictures of those menus (which happen to look pretty nice, and fit into the café’s overall design). There’s something there; I can’t put my finger on it; but it’s there.

I’m not sure what my friend Chris Capell’s official job title may be. He does seem to work there as a manager, but calling him the “manager” might have been stretching a bit. Not sure about that.

Though it should be obvious from the link I used for Scott Rao, I should have mentioned that Rao is the author of The Professional Barista’s Handbook. Fittingly, Scott’s book is available for sale at Myriade. I haven’t the book yet (I’m no barista, even though I played a barista judge before), but I’ve heard very good things about it. This specific book was discussed at length in episode 61 (27:30-31:34, MP3) of the CoffeeGeek Podcast (XML). Unfortunately, however, Mark Prince‘s review of that book has yet to appear online. Hopefully, that review will appear before the well-known CoffeeGeek editor comes to Montreal.

On my second trip to Myriade today, after writing that previous post, I got a chance to try a few different things. I did tweet about one:

Having Mei Shan oolong at Myriade. Getting seaweed, black currant, puffed rice, bit of grass. Perfect complement for the Taiwanese meal I just had. (Tweet)

The Taiwanese meal was the deep fried pork chops from Bao Dao Taiwan, at Faubourg Sainte-Catherine. That place happens to be one of my favourite food court places in town (along with that one Thai Express location at Carrefour Industrielle-Alliance). The seaweed I got in that tea really made for a great complement because that meal did have seaweed in it. This combination is one I want to repeat. Either I ask Myriade for the right to bring my Bao Dao meal to eat there or I get this Mei Shan to go, and bring it to Faubourg.

On that second trip to Myriade, I also had the occasion to take a couple of sips of the Miralvalle brewed through another method and what struck me that time was vanilla chocolate. Very different from the Eva Solo I’ve had of the Miralvalle, earlier. Given my passion for flavour diversity, this was a pleasant experience.

The last thing I’ve had at Myriade today was a mixture of honey, lemon, ginger, and water. It was described as a drink popular in New Zealand and it tasted pretty much like a high-quality version of what I know as a grog, without the rum. Knowing that Kiwis have a special relationship with alcohol, I’m assuming this same drink is frequently served with rum, over in Lambland.

As you can tell, I can’t stop talking about Myriade. One thing which is great for me is that I now have two good reasons to spend time on Concordia campus (the other one being that I teach at Concordia). I sincerely think that Myriade’s presence in the neighbourhood will help me do more at Concordia, in the coming months. In fact, I’ve written the previous blogpost from my office and I had a chance to chat with one of my office-mates who tends not to overlap that much with me. If, thanks to Myriade, I end up spending time on campus every day, I’m sure to have more opportunities to talk with more Concordia people. The neat thing about this is that I really like Concordia.

As a Montrealer and a coffee geek, I can just tell that Myriade’s future is bright. No, it’s not wishful thinking. Even if it is, Myriade will still work. 😉 One sign of this is that some key members of Montreal’s coffee scene were at Myriade today and everybody seemed really enthusiastic. As I keep saying, this is Montreal’s Coffee Renaissance. I sincerely think that “all the chips are on the table” and that the time is ripe for this rebirth in coffee enthusiasm. As World Barista Champion Stephen Morrissey has said (or so I heard), during the Canadian Barista Championship in Montreal, coffee is the ideal drink for culinary enthusiasts of all kinds (foodies, chowhounds, etc.) during these tough financial times. Just about any food enthusiast in a post-industrial society (i.e. OECD members) can easily “splurge” on a very fine coffee without making that big a hole in their budget and some people in GDP-poor contexts can eventually get quality coffee, especially if culinary coffee ends up improving the deal for coffee growers.

Call me an idealist all you want, I think this rosy picture I’m drawing makes quite a bit of sense! 😎

First Myriade Session

Today’s main coffee event is the anxiously awaited Grand Opening of Café Myriade (1432 Mackay, Montreal, right by Concordia University’s Sir George William campus). I just did my first of certainly a good many coffee-savouring sessions, there.

As a disclaimer of sorts, I think of Anthony Benda as one of the main actors in Montreal’s coffee renaissance. Anthony’s the co-owner of Café Myriade. He also happens to be an espresso blogger. Chris Capell, Myriade’s manager and “espresso producer,” has become a good friend of mine, thanks in part to the Eastern Regional competition of the Canadian Barista Championship, back in June. Despite being friendly with some of the core members in the Myriade team, I still think I can judge Myriade drinks fairly and justly. I do want the café to succeed and there’s a slight bias involved, but I think my perspective on that café and its drinks is relatively unbiased.

So, a few notes on this first session at Myriade.

On Anthony’s recommendation, I started with the allongé.

The allongé was a thing of beauty. Myriade managed to craft a drink in continuity with the ristretto-to-double-espresso flavour axis. (Twitter)

What I mean is that this allongé (or “lungo“) was nothing like a watered down espresso. It wasn’t typical of Montréal’s allongés either. But that’s really not an issue. Those who would order an allongé at Brûlerie Saint-Denis, Aux Deux Marie, or even Café Dépôt (where I’ve been surprised to have flavourful allongés in the past) will enjoy Myriade’s allongé. At least, if they keep an open mind.

To my taste, Myriade’s allongé is pretty much what you would get if you “extrapolated” (in the mathematical sense) the curve from ristretto to a regular espresso (single or double). The difference in flavours and aromas between ristretto and regular espresso is not strictly linear. Some flavours are muted as some others become stronger. It also depends on a number of factors from the blend and the grind to the way it was pulled. The same could be said about this allongé from Myriade, compared to a regular espresso.

I then tried the sipping chocolate.

Myriade’s sipping chocolate is delicious as a dessert drink. Must work really well with pastry. (Tweet)

To be honest, it was on the sweet side, for me. Maybe my tastebuds weren’t ready for this but I’m used to bitter chocolate and this one was decidedly on the sweet side. In fact, I wouldn’t have called it bittersweet because the bitterness was really muted. My mention of this seemed to be surprising to Myriade’s other co-owner, Scott Rao. But I maintain that this was a sweet chocolate.

My favourite sipping chocolate in Montreal so far (and possibly my favourite chocolate drink ever) was from Juliette & Chocolat (1615 Saint-Denis). The last time I went to J&C was probably two years ago so they may have changed in the meantime. There are two types of chocolate drinks at J&C. IIRC, the “à l’ancienne” one is unsweetened and milkless. I distinctly remember having some very tasty sipping chocolate there and the taste I remember isn’t sweet, by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, I might be wrong. But I’m usually pretty accurate about these things. Myriade’s sipping chocolate wasn’t as sweet as mainstream hot chocolate, but it was definitely much sweeter than what I’ve had at Juliette & Chocolat.

I enjoyed Myriade’s sipping chocolate about as much as the one I’ve raved about, from Chocolats Privilège (7070 Henri-Julien). In Myriade’s case, it’s less about cost than about the diversity of experiences we can have at the same place.

Speaking of which, here’s my first tweet from Myriade, today:

Enjoying Myriade’s impressive array of high quality drinks: 1432 Mackay. (Tweet)

When I first heard about Anthony’s plans for a café, I was mostly thinking about espresso. Anthony Benda is a true espresso artist, and the fact that he was a finalist in the Canadian Barista Championship (for which I’ve been a judge) is a testament to Anthony’s passion for espresso.

But Myriade isn’t exclusively about espresso. In fact, it’s probably the place in town which has the widest variety of coffee options. IIRC, they do all the espresso drinks, from single shot to allongé, caffè latte to cappuccino. But they also do pour-over drip, French press, siphon, and Eva Solo Café Solo.

Speaking of the Eva Solo, it’s the one drink with which I’ve spent the longest time, today. It was the first time I had coffee brewed through this method. It’s similar to French press but still different. I’d have a hard time describing all the differences (having to do with the “bloom” as well as with the body and the size of solids floating in the cup) but I did enjoy this coffee very much.

My tweets about this cup. The coffee was made with single origin Cup of Excellence beans: Lot #24 from Miralvalle farm.

Miralvalle as Eva. Berries to lemon, bright and sweet, some cocoa, bit of raw almond, faint roasted hazelnut. (Tweet)

As it cools, this Eva Solo of Salvadorian Cup of Excellence Miralvalle tastes more like candied lemon zest. With some cocoa butter. (Tweet)

These descriptions are my own impressions, at this moment in time. I fully realize that they may not match other people’s experiences. I wasn’t carefully cupping this coffee nor was I trying to calibrate my descriptors with what would be expected. I was pulling a Gary V: I was simply saying what I got from the drink in front of me, with as few preset expectations as possible. It’s all part of my attitude toward hedonistic tasting (e.g. in my tasting notes about Cuvée Coffee Roasters’ Sumatra beans as Brikka).

Which wraps it up for my tweets about Myriade. Through Twitter’s search, I notice that James Golick also went to Myriade today. I don’t know Golick but I notice that he has also blogged his Myriade experience, along with Daniel Haran. Haven’t read their posts (actually, a single post forked on two blogs) but glancing at the text, it sounds like the three of us have a fair bit in common.

I should also say that Myriade has an impressive selection of high-quality teas and that I really enjoyed their Sencha when I’ve had the opportunity to try it (in a private tasting) a few days ago. I kept thinking about those very tasty baby clams that my then-wife had brought back from New Brunswick, a few years ago. The tea was still subtle and I’m assuming other people would not pick up this flavour nearly as strongly as I did (if at all). But I enjoyed those clams so much (and for such a long time) that my experience of that tea was enhanced through my prior sensory experiences.

Keeping with my RERO resolution, this is probably as long as I should make this post.

Fermetures Starbucks

Ce n’est pas vraiment un secret, de nombreux amateurs de café de qualité considèrent la chaîne Starbucks comme un problème. Même si c’est surtout des gros producteurs industriels comme Sara Lee et Nestlé que les partisans du café de qualité tentent de contrecarrer, Starbucks joue le rôle de l’ennemi du bon goût dans le mouvement vers le café de qualité.

C’est donc avec une certaine joie (Schadenfreude, dirions-nous) que l’on peut parler de la situation de Starbucks:

Starbucks va fermer 600 cafés aux états-Unis | LaPresseAffaires.com

Ma perception est peut-être erronnée mais j’ai l’impression que Starbucks n’a jamais vraiment percé au Québec et que même Second Cup n’a pas une situation si enviable sur le marché québécois.

Par contre, mon impression est assui que la scène du café à Montréal était bien plus intéressante avant que certains cafés locaux ne se soient transformés en chaînes. À Montréal, il y a aujourd’hui beaucoup de chaînes de cafés. D’après moi, la résurgence des cafés indépendants ne date que de quelques années, après une période de «franchisation». Le problème principal d’une chaîne, c’est qu’elle ne peut acheter que de grosses productions de café. Il est donc impossible d’aller chercher les cafés les plus intéressants, qui sont généralement produits en petites quantités. Évidemment, pas de possibilité d’entretenir un rapport direct entre producteur et café local.

Éloge de la patience

Tout simple. Pendant un petit coup de cafard. Essaie de sortir une corde d’un ourlet.

Tâche ni facile, ni difficile. Un de ces trucs pratiques que chacun doit savoir faire. Le «truc» c’est, selon ce que ma mémoire m’intimait de faire, d’utiliser une aiguille pour tirer la corde le long de l’ourlet.

Pas d’aiguille sous la main.

Tire avec les doigts, en maintenant le bout de la corde et en glissant l’ourlet le long de la corde. Ça fonctionne, mais c’est long. Surtout pour passer à travers une couture. Ça vient, tranquillement.

Jusqu’à l’ouverture de l’ourlet par laquelle la corde doit passer. C’est ici que le bât blesse. Plusieurs minutes à m’acharner sur ce petit bout de corde.

Arrêter si près du but? Pas question.

Tout essayé.

Décide de poser l’ouvrage, un instant.

Le reprends, sans grande conviction. Tâtonne un peu… Ça y est! La corde est sortie!

Et le bien que cette petite réussite m’a fait valait la peine. Me sens mieux.

Surtout que je suis sur la terrasse du café Flipnotics, près de chez moi. Ambiance sympathique. Connexion sans-fil gratuite. Café passable à moyen. Espresso semi-correct. Décor amusant. Oiseaux qui se promènent sur la terrasse.

Je serai probablement ici de temps à autres. Histoire de m’acclimater.

Confessions d'un amateur de café

Topo de Janie Gosselin sur le café à Montréal.
Janie Gosselin : J’aime ta couleur café | Actuel | Cyberpresse
Elle parle de Caffè in Gamba, Veritas, «Toi, moi & café»… et de votre humble serviteur.

En fait, ça me surprend un peu qu’elle puisse me mettre autant en évidence. Mais si ça peut donner la puce à l’oreille de plus de gens, qu’il se passe quelque-chose du côté café à Montréal, c’est peut-être pas plus mal. Surtout qu’on a encore peu parlé de la scène du café à Montréal, à part lors d’un épisode de L’épicerie.

Ah oui, pour préciser. L’«équivalent d’une quinzaine d’espressos par jour», c’est parce que je bois deux fois du café de ma cafétière moka de six tasses et plusieurs autres cafés durant la journée, y compris des espressos et du café de ma cafétière Brikka. C’est une façon de parler, mais on dirait que ça marque… 😉

J’imagine que je vais devoir faire plus de billet sur le café, y compris en français. La plupart de mes billets sur le café sont en anglais.

Montreal Coffee Renaissance?

Just posted a message about my Caffè in Gamba, a new café in Montreal.

CoffeeGeek – Regional: Eastern Canada, Caffè in Gamba (Montreal Intelligentsia)

Because this café’s website isn’t online yet, I would need to repeat the info. The café is located in a new building at 5263 Park Ave., between Fairmount and Bernard. It’s first claim for fame is that it’s the first place in Montreal to have Intelligentsia coffee on its regular coffee menu. But I think it’ll become much more than this.

Owner J.F. Leduc is surprisingly soft-spoken for a passionate coffee lover. But I think he prefers it if the coffee “can speak for itself” instead of him having to hype coffee enjoyment out of existence. In fact, he has a bit of the same humble attitude you would notice in an actual barista in Northern Italy. They know what they like but they remember that they’re in the service industry! 🙂

I think Leduc can become a key player in the broader movement to make Montreal a real coffee destination.

Granted, I tend to be overly enthusiastic about such things. And I’ve been disappointed in the past. But I have a good vibe, especially after I got a chance to chat it up with Leduc.

I also notice something bigger, happening in town. There’s a number of Montrealers who really care about coffee. And Montreal’s ready for a new phase in its coffee history.

Veritas, in Old Montreal, is home to Anthony Benda, whom I consider the best barista in Montreal. They sell the Epic blend from Vancouver roaster 49th Parallel. My hope is that Veritas can help people understand the beauty that is West Coast style espresso in a culinary context.

Gamba has a different role, in my opinion. It may become a local hangout and certainly has the potential to educate people about the pleasures of espresso drinking. But my feeling is that it may spread other aspects of café culture and/or be part of something more specific to Montreal.

I’ll certainly go back to Caffè in Gamba in the near future and, as soon as they have their site up, I’ll link to it from this blog as well as other online venues.

In the meantime, maybe somebody can help J.F. set up his wireless router? 😉