Café Visit: Café MyriadeCoffeestork
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Myriade half a dozen times over the last 2 years, and each time I leave I wish it was much closer to me as it is one of my favourite cafés in Canada. During my Christmas break, I had the treat of visiting Café Myriade. After spending an hour tasting some great coffees and chatting with Anthony, I told him that if I ever contemplated going into the coffee industry that I would come intern with him as a barista if he would have me. In my mind, there is no doubt this would be the first café that I would choose as the best place to learn about coffee.
Perhaps this attraction to intern at Myriade comes from the sense of comraderie that seems evident each time I speak to Anthony. When I asked him about George Giannakos who was a guest barists during the fall from Crema in Vancouver, I felt like asking someone how they felt when one of their best friends moved away.
But as a coffeehouse, why Café Myriade is a favourite? Five reasons: excellence, consistency and passion in coffee preparation, desire to improve and experiment, engagement with the customer, diversity in brew methods, and coffee selection.
Coffee Preparation and Improvement
Before getting into coffee preparation at Myriade, I think a little background on Café Myriade’s owners and how they met, will shed a telling light on the core philosophy at the café. Anthony Benda, originally from Vancouver, came to Montreal and quickly became one of the city’s top baristas at Veritas where he first introduced the West Coast style of coffee to the city. He had competed successfully in the Canadian Barista Championship. Scott Rao is a leading coffee consultant with experience in coffee preparation, barista training, and oasting. He has written two books which are considered seminal for many baristas. Scott walked into Veritas and ordered an espresso. After finishing the cup, Anthony asked him his thoughts. Scott replied that it was bad, but that it could be better. Anthony asked him how. Months later the two became business partners and Café Myriade was opened.
As in many of the places that I love, it starts with the love and drive to make great coffee that is clearly the first driver for this café. Whenever I’ve spoken with Anthony, there is no mistaking this focus, but it goes further than this. It is about a scientific approach to quality and consistency. Measurement and repeatability are key to the training and execution, but this does not exclude experimentation and drive for improvement. While baristas are expected to create drinks according to tight parameters, experimentation and learning are other corner stones for improvement along with encouragement to express opinions and discussion.
On my particular visit, I had a little glimpse into such experimentation and measurement as we looked at the 3 group Kees van der Westen Mirage and chatted. I was surprised to see grouphead thermometer like my home machine, which helped measure temperature during extraction to ensure brewing at desired temperature. We than got to chatting about dosing and baskets, and Anthony showed me with excitement some triple baskets which he had managed to source. These baskets had the holes machined with great precision in terms of size and placement including placement up as close to the perimeter of the basket to ensure that liquid would flow as directly as possible through the basket limiting uneven extraction.
This same relationship of engagement and discussion is also encouraged with the customer. Every time I’ve visited, I’ve seen many personal interactions and felt a great sense of inclusiveness and interaction, not only with myself, but also with the many picking up their drinks. For a coffee amateur like me, the ability to engage with professionals is a real pleasure. I’ve always felt these discussions to be very educational in a very engaging and non-intimidating way.
My first glimpse into this world outside espresso was actually 2 years ago, when I attended a brewing methods tasting at Café Myriade. This tasting was the first time I had tried a coffee expertly brewed through 4 different displaying the range of body and clarity that brew methods impart.
Brew method diversity has certainly gained in popularity over the last 2 years, but Café Myriade has been offering: French Press, Eva Solo, drip coffee, and siphon brewing on halogen burners since it opened.
This fundamental love of enjoying different phenomenal coffees is core to how Anthony enjoys his coffee regularly. I was surprised to find out that he usually prefers drip coffee for his daily cup, rather than espresso with its’ temperamental challenges.
During my visit, I was treated to a shot of a Kenyan Guama AA from 49th Parallel. This coffee was related to the Guama Peaberry from Ritual that I had enjoyed so much, but because of the bean difference, it was significantly different in taste. The shot began with some bright citrus that changed into that cherry and cacao taste finishing with excellent tropical sweetness aftertaste. The coffee had excellent clarity and some balancing body.
Like most shots at Myriade, the shot was pulled to aim for a brew yield of around 170%. In terms of selection, it followed the bias towards sweetness, fruitiness, clarity, and character. When we discussed this choice, Anthony knew that this was a choice that would challenge espresso drinkers, but that because he enjoyed it, he wanted to present it to others. I love the spirit to challenge and push forward. This was the choice on one of the Mazzer Roburs, while the other one was loaded with a custom blend from 49th Parallel that was not bright and challenging while working well in milk drinks. The third Mazzer Robur is usually loaded with a blend that is used for pulling allongés. What is an allongé? It is really long espresso that is served 3 to 4 ounces in a cup. It is something that is very popular in Québec. Something that I promise to go into a bit more detail on my next visit to Montreal.
For the other brew methods, selections of coffees were available from various roasters including Intelligentsia and Phil & Sebastian from Calgary. Although you’ll typically see great selections from 49th Parallel, you will always see great quality coffees being featured from other roasters based on what the baristas find outstanding. Some other roasters that I’ve seen featured include Ritual Roasters and Terroir. Since I’m a big sucker for variety, this is definitely a big attraction for me.
My biggest complaint about Café Myriade is that it isn’t in Toronto, but even with the distance, it has provided me with some of the most memorable coffee experiences. My other complaint is that my visits to Montreal are too short and that I rarely have enough time to visit some of the other great spots in the city including Caffe in Gamba and the newly opened St Henri Microtorrefacteur. Solution seems to convince my wife that we need a vacation in Montreal. Honey?