To be a barista in Montreal’s independent coffee shops, without a doubt, is no longer merely for students: it is a serious profession demanding specific knowledge and training. As this city has become an Eldorado of delicious addresses to taste authentic and creamy espresso, the independent coffee shop’s third-wave has taken hold. Third-wave? Yes, we are already there in North American’s coffee history. The first wave was characterised by distribution of filter coffee and the second one, by a massive popularization of espresso machines (Starbucks, Second Cup). Third wave, concerning independent coffee shops, has let place to way higher quality standards, placing “barista” status at a very professional level, including yearly national championships. It is all about quality and precise techniques of coffee making, regarding the fair trade, organic, and origin of every single bean resulting your espresso “allongé” with heavenly crema on top. Here’s five outstanding independent coffee shops of Montreal that will charm you at first sight… and at first sip!
Beautiful and original, the Japanese coffee shop “Falco” is an extremely well designed place, where you can sip your latte with a delicious onigiri (those popular little triangle rice balls in Japan surrounded by nori seaweed filled with salty ingredients) instead of a traditional croissant. Located in a secret industrial area of Mile-End’s neighborhood, Falco is a must-go, first of all because of the amazing coffee brewed in Japanese fashion, which is to make coffee in a special syphon of two glass globes. It is seriously impressive to see these baristas working behind their counter, the delicious Japanese menu, and thirdly, the luminous and spacious uncluttered space. Coffee is from “Kickapoo”, an excellent micro-roaster based in Wisconsin that won Roast of the Year in 2010. Yuko, the owner, has decorated Falco with her husband and it is probably why the space has such a personal and atypical atmosphere.
5605, rue de Gaspé, Mile-End, Montreal, Quebec
2. Caffè Italia
Espresso lovers, Caffè Italia, opened since 1956, will definitely please you with its authentic Italian atmosphere and low prices! The unpretentious place, an institution within the Italian community, is located in Montreal’s Little Italy. Walls are decorated with souvenirs of the past decades and in early mornings, old Italian men are often discussing serious things around a cup of coffee. People say that it is the first coffee shop in Montreal to offer the Italian classic espresso. Crema, which is the hazelnut color cream on top of espresso, has become an increasingly important quality factor regarding its color and texture. At Caffè Italia, you won’t be disappointed by yours, heavenly executed by those experienced Italian baristas. A short but tasteful selection of sandwiches are available, with capicollo, proscuito and marinated artichokes. Fun fact: Caffè Italia was featured in a movie, “Caffè Italia Montreal”, in 1985, about the Italian community’s integration in the city.
6840 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montréal, Quebec
In downtown Montreal’s “Quartier des spectacles”, Pikolo is an inspirational “rendez-vous” for students, walking lovers or just for those who enjoy reading their novel with a delicious coffee. The owner, Marie-Eve Laroche, acquired her knowledge of coffee on a plantation in Australia, and has made her dream come true when she opened Pikolo Espresso Bar, in honor of Australia’s very popular “piccolo latte”, which is a tiny latte served in glass. This independent coffee shop is cozy and adorable. Tables and chairs are high, the industrial lamps, stylish. There’s also a cozy counter in front of a big window, where you can comfortably observe Montreal’s lively atmosphere. Beans are from two specific roaster houses: Heart Roasters, from Portland, and Phil & Sebastian, from Calgary. Also good to know, their pastries are homemade and the staff, super friendly. Pikolo has won the number 1 place in “Journal Metro” in 2014 over 33 jurists from the independent coffee shop scene.
3418B Parc Avenue, Montreal, Quebec
When you get into Saint-Henri Microtorréfacteur’s coffee shop, you realise coffee isn’t just a tasteful drink for a difficult morning or foam art on top of a latte. It also has a touch of science. Located in Montreal’s beautiful and post-industrial Saint-Henry’s neighborhood, this “coffee laboratory” is known and proud of offering one of the best coffees in town. Burundi, Rwanda or Nicaragua: certified taster for “Cooperative Coffees” owner Jean-François has travelled a lot to choose his favorite coffee beans, and roasts his coffee with the spectacular “Marzocco Strada” machine, one of the top in the market. The space is full of light, very warm and cozy, with church benches as seats. Also good to know, Saint-Henri Microtorréfacteur also offers coffee classes and coffee tasting.
3632, rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montreal, Quebec
Myriade, owned by “Canadian National Barista Championship” finalist Anthony Benda and his business partner Scott Rao, is one of the first independent coffee shops of Montreal. It is definitely an excellent spot to grab a delicious espresso on the road or to take time to sit down and relax. The space is small, full of light with its giant window, and cozy wood furniture surrounded by brick walls. Baristas are offering coffee of the 49th Parallel roaster house from Vancouver and are using the splendid and reputable coffee machine «Spirit», from Kees Van der Westen. Whole milk used is from “Société Orignal”, completely pure, nothing else in it except milk, with 3.8% of fat. Greasy, but oh so tasty! Pastries are from the excellent bakery “Première Moisson”. Good to know: If your are curious to get advice on how to make your coffee, Scott Rao has published two books on the subject, “The Professional Barista’s Handbook” and “Everything But Espresso”.
1432 Rue Mackay, Montreal, Quebec
About Valérie Trudel
Valerie Trudel is a writer from Montreal that combines two passions: by day she explores different levels of Montreal’s restaurant scene and by night, she writes about it. She is the creator and editor of Montreal’s culinary blog “ La Poule ou l’Oeuf”.