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Coffee In Montreal

February 25, 2008

While I’ve been here in Montreal, I’ve been doing the classic coffee-nerd thing and going around to the various places that were recommended via the internet as Meccas of quality coffee in the area.

There were three, really, that were recommended: Caffe ArtJava, Veritas Cafe Sante, and one other, less notable contender, just down the block from Veritas.  I hit two in one day, and a third later one while wandering the city on my own.  (Read: getting lost.)  It was lovely to give in to that inner coffee-geek and just wander around drinking coffee for a day.  Rachel & I hit four or five cafes not getting reviewed here – out of desperation for shelter from the cold, really, not so much for their coffee, and just as well – there’s still a dominant perception that espresso should be strong and sharp enough to be undrinkable on it’s own, and that cappuccinos need to have glorious piles of thick, miserable foam on top.  Regardless, there were two dominant successes. 

I hit Caffe ArtJava with Jaertes on Tuesday morning, as we were out for breakfast and looking to run a few errands. It’s a gorgeous setup, running a phenominally presented place, but their espresso was somewhat wan.  The “latté art” section was flawless, but a pretty picture isn’t everything, as any true coffee fiend will tell you.  They were running a lovely “old” retro-style LaMarzoco 3 (?) group, and managed to pull an excellent looking shot.  Again, I needs must stress that looks aren’t everything.  I can only conclude that the failing was in the coffee itself, or possibly some obscura like freshness or temperature.  It wasn’t … special at all.  Not enough to accord them the reputation they’ve garnered as the best coffee in Montreal.  Excellent, don’t get me wrong, compared to much of everything else available, but just not up to the reputation they’ve garnered.

Veritas Cafe Sante, however, was outstanding.  I had to go once I heard that they were running a Synesso, my personal favourite machine of all time (Preference of espresso machine to a coffee geek is akin to preference of OS to a computer nerd; completely irrational fanboyism, rabidly hyping every superiority and willfully ignoring any possible failings.), and then the fact that they were using 49th Parallel espresso – +1 point, Vancouver – just sealed the deal.

Rachel & I wandered in after a long day getting hopelessly lost on Saint Denis looking for a certain Chocolate Shop that was not at all where Google Maps claimed it was.  We never did find it.  When we called Jaertes begging him to find us (& it), and we found out we’d have to metro to get there, we simply stayed on Metro to Place D’Armes and went for coffee.

The owner was sitting at the generous bar, doing some paperwork and training the new barback / cash girl, and was more than happy to chat coffee and make us a couple of drinks while he new hire made us a pair of sandwiches.  The coffee was outstanding.  I’ve had 49th Paralell espresso before, but I can only conclude that this is a different blend/roast in that it tasted totally unlike any I’ve had before.  In every way that a cedarsmoke taste could ever be good in coffee, this was it.  It was a much sharper, more backwoodsy and smokey, with a strong balance of flavours leaving nothing feeling overpowering – so far, a clear tie for best in show with the Espresso Vivace “Dolce/Vivace” espressos from “Caffeine.” The milk was flawless, and the art was clear and done effortlessly, without the more overstated presentation of ArtJava.  Our sandwiches were good, probably very healthy, but nothing special – they could have taken much more advantage of the flavours & ingredients they were using to attempt to cancel out the overpowering nature of the bread.

Overall, though, good efforts.  I’m very impressed, and would certainly go back to both.

The third, I was less impressed with.  I scoped out the cappuccino of an exiting patron, and the generous “cloud” on top pretty much turned me around at the door; I did go back later for an anemic macchiato, with too much liquid milk in it, and a morose little pile of hot bubbles on top.  Thus, just in case they were having a bad day, I’ve left their name out.  I don’t want to pan anyone without being sure of what I’m talking about.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Anthony permalink
    February 26, 2008 9:51 am

    Thanks for the kind words about our coffee, I hope you enjoyed Montreal.
    –Anthony @ Veritas

    It’s merely honesty, but… You’re welcome. And we certainly did, it was a great trip. I’d hoped to make it out for another cappuccino before I left, but missed on the timing.

  2. February 26, 2008 3:45 pm

    oh no! that’s too bad u didn’t find it! 😦

    We were both pretty bummed – but it’s likely we go back, so… We can always try again.

  3. February 26, 2008 6:15 pm



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