Indie Coffee Passport Coming to Montreal
Concept is 18 coffee shops, 22$, 7 months
Passports are good from April 1st - October 31st. Each shop offers a list of 5 drinks to choose from. You're only able to go to each coffee shop once, but at 22$ it still sounds like a pretty good deal even if you only manage to go visit half of them.
I was wondering if people who bought the pass would care to share their thoughts on which coffees/teas/whatev they liked and which they disliked.
I've bought one of the passes, but I've only been to 4 places so far, so I'd be interested to know what to expect from other joints.
(In fact, I don't drink coffee, so I'm more interested in the tea options, but it's good to know what people thought in general, especially since I tend to hang out with coffee snobs ;)
Short version: Fixe.
Longer: there are several reasons to go to a given café. Coffee taste matters a lot, but food, ambiance, and convenience also matter. Fixe has, to my mind, the best combination. Sarah Musgrave did a review of their food. My best meal so far this year was dinner at Fixe. I also like the ambiance and I find it very convenient. Not to mention that their coffee is up to par.
These days, coffee snobs tend to favour those cafés which belong to the Third Wave of the coffee craft (more of an experimental attitude to coffee than an actual flavour profile, but there's a tendency toward espresso made with lighter roasts of single origin beans, etc.). Several Third Wave cafés in town are absent from the passport: Myriade, Pikolo, Sardine…
Still, some cafés on the passport do qualify as Third Wave and I think most coffee snobs would enjoy trying them out (though they might spend more time complaining about the shots than enjoying the place).
* Lapin pressé
* Pourquoi pas
Haven't tried 1880,yet, but I'd be surprised if it were part of the Third Wave.
1880 is more like one of those cafés which takes advantage of the fact that they're across the street from a university, so they have guaranteed clientele. That said, no one I know really likes their coffee. As far as tea is concerned, they only have teabags and most of their "tea" options are actually infusions (tisanes) and not really tea. Not a fan at all.
Pourquoi Pas is definitely my favourite spot in town. Tea is good (it's Camellia Sinensis). Everyone who works there is super nice and it's got a nice vibe.
The Knife is another place I like a lot. I hear a lot of good things about their coffee and they're also really serious about their tea. Most of it is Camellia Sinensis, but they also have two of their own imports.
Plume is alright. Their tea is Kusmi, which is not my favourite, but it's way better than teabags. The staff seemed nice, too - but I've only been there once, so can't really say much.
@Whygee: Tunnel looks really nice (and the guy - the owner? - seemed super friendly). Too bad they didn't have any tea when I went there (they said they were working on it), so I'll have to go back some time to check it out.
Thanks for the report!
‘Figures, about 1880. I’d say several spots on the passport have more ambiance than taste, at least in terms of coffee. Though I can play along with coffee snobs (after all, I judged some barista championships), I’ve enjoyed some of the spots with non-snobworthy coffee. Wouldn’t have gone to these places if it hadn’t been for the passport, and it’s usually a fun experience. I’m an ethnographer, so I do care about this kind of thing.
Haven’t commented on tea, even though I like it too. Making some Nilgiri Parkside right now. Among my favourite CS teas, along with Tan Huong wulong and Sun Moon Lake. I miss Cha Guan, on Monkland. It was my favourite tea spot.
As you’ve noticed, CS is served at several of the Third Wave cafés on this passport. Tunnel is a notable exception. While I was there, someone who works nearby (and seems to know the owners) came to get tea to impress a lady (the guy might have been Congolese) and a discussion unfolded about this. It seems that they had a few tea samples, at some point. The guy mused that he might have to go to David’s Tea, with appropriate gasps and dental clicks.
Chris, at The Knife, does care a lot about tea. He did work with Scott Rao who enjoys tea on a more regular basis than coffee (despite having opened several cafés and written two books on coffee). That’s why Myriade has its own tea selection, sometimes including some amazing things. The tea experience which greatly increased my appreciation for tea (after going to CS for years) is some “Buddha’s Eyebrow” fresh off the plane from China. I’ve had some really fresh tea at CS, but this one made me realize something about what tea can be. I think Scott might have been present at the time. Though Myriade staff is well-trained, there can be an added something when Scott is around. Maybe it’s just the Hawthorne Effect (they’re even more careful when they’re observed).
About tea at Fixe. They limit their selection to make sure they have teas they like and that they cover ground which isn't covered by other places. Dunno if they change their tea menu much but, right now, they have Oong Shan (green), Darjeeling Seeyok (black), Dragonpearl (Jasmin), organic black Earl Grey, and Transsiberian Chai. If I understand correctly, they also have two infusions (flavoured rooibos, and chamomile with lemongrass and rose). Would ask, but they're a bit busy, now (lunch crowd came in all at the same time).
regarding Fixe, I was there on the weekend for brunch and when I asked for a decaf coffee, they said that they don't serve decaf. I found that a little strange, especially as they had a couple of different soy milks and alternatives for people who can't drink cow's milk. I understand that decaf coffee would not be their focus (it is no one's focus!) but I think it would be polite to offer it for those who can't have caffeine.
On the plus side, they did keep my water glass topped up all morning!
Decaf coffee is its own can of worms… I know what you mean and I fully respect your perspective. But it might be useful to get insight from the other side of the equation.
(I’m a coffee enthusiast, not a coffee snob or coffee professional.)
Café owners would love to find a good decaf coffee that they could serve. In fact, many coffee snobs would be ecstatic if they could have as much coffee as they wanted without worrying about caffeine. In coffee circles, a good decaf is something of a mythical beast. There’s a few people who claim to have encountered it but, strangely enough, it has this habit of disappearing when others try to approach it. So, people tend to move away from the decaf coffee chimera.
Until a good decaf coffee is created, the best option is probably to have something which isn’t coffee.
I’ve seen some cafés where they preground some decaf in the morning, even though all other coffees are ground just before use. The resulting coffee was undrinkable, but people probably drown it in milk, anyway. The effect would be very similar if you were to use coffee extract in milk. Some places do flavoured milk “steamers”. One might argue this is most of what is sold at Starbucks. I have nothing against it, personally, but it’s to quality coffee as a wine cooler is to a quality wine. It may have a generic “coffee-like” taste, but the Third Wave is about a very complex beverage which, sometimes, doesn’t even taste like one might think of as “coffee”.
For instance, I’m having coffee made with beans grown by Claudio Salazar in Costa Rica, and roasted by Anchored in Nova Scotia. Exquisite experience. My whole day will be improved from this coffee, I have a whole new outlook on life because of it. But someone might think it tastes more like tea or like some other drink than like what people think of as “coffee”. In fact, the Nilgiri Parkside tea from CS might be bolder than this Salazar coffee.
You might think of this as the uttermost form of snobbery. But you can also think of it as a wonderful experience.
These coffees aren’t on the commodity market. The same thing happens in craft beer and we could have a whole discussion about alcohol- or gluten-free beer (though those can be very good, unlike decaf coffee). If you want “just a beer”, you might be disappointed at many brewpubs in town. If you “just want coffee”, a Third Wave café isn’t the best place to get it.
Which doesn’t mean that you can’t have something else.
Fixe has smoothies and, as far as I can remember, some other drinks which don’t have caffeine. Well, they do have quality wine. That’s caffeine-free! But, as you might guess, it’s not alcohol-free.
I definitely take your point and that was my understanding of why they were not serving decaf coffee too. But... if those are their reasons, why not also refuse to serve vanilla flavoured soy milk in their coffee? I don't think that would add much value to the complexity of their blend! :)
Soy milk doesn't require an extra grinder and the process doesn't require that large a waste of water.
I'm at Fixe now, having a fabulous meal. The Brazilian coffee I had as drip was appropriately soothing. Also had some Rise Kombucha, which I also enjoy. They're out of Chaga but it sounds like another interesting caffeine-free alternative.
Besides, there might be a critical mass issue. If there's only a few people asking for decaf in a day, they couldn't keep it fresh.
The main reaction I’ve noticed was that they’re pleasantly surprised by how effective the program is. Those who don’t know me also perceive my passport as a sign of something, though it’s a bit unclear what that may be.
I think it’s useful to think about such programs beyond raw numbers. It’s not just that it brings in more people, during that time. It’s also that the people it brings in are precisely those who are outside of the normal crowd. With all the talk about the association between Third Wave cafés and hipsterdom, getting a diverse crowd can be even more of a benefit.
And I don’t know if others do the same but I often end up spending more at cafés I visit through the passport than if I’m just passing by for coffee. Cafés aren’t losing any money on the “free” coffee they give me.
I do agree that Névé, Flocon, Pikolo, Sardine, Saint-Henri, Gamba, Humble Lion, Myriade, ArtJava, Distributrice, and Odessa are notably absent. But it’s not just a question of having an established clientèle or not. Even Myriade could have benefitted from this.