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Myriade Café: Forerunner of third wave cafes in Montreal

“Did you interview Anthony from Myriade?” “Did you meet the guy from Myriade?” “You have to meet Anthony from Myriade… he’s the one who brought ‘third wave coffee’ to Montreal.” Right. Following the recent renovations of the Myriade cafe II, I finally did an interview with THE Anthony of Myriade.

“Can you come to the Myriade downtown?” I can always get around. I asked myself, where is this downtown Myriade? And people would tell me it was next to Concordia. I studied at Concordia and yet I didn’t know where the Myriade cafe was downtown. Until I got to the downtown Myriade, and realized that I had studied there for hundreds of hours during my studies and didn’t know that it was THE Myriade cafe. Anthony would later tell me “I love that you didn’t know this place was Myriade… I like being in the background, not in the spotlight… I prefer that.”

“And, just so you know, I haven’t given any interviews in over a year and a half because I don’t always like the press… but I like what you do and I have a lot of respect for Tastet.” Thank you. We love you already, Anthony from Myriade.

So first of all, what exactly is “third wave coffee”? “I hate that term so much.” O.K. (Laughs, he must not be the one who started it…) “I don’t want to be associated with that. To me, this movement is about snobby baristas, people who think they are a little bit different. That’s not what we do. I really don’t want to be associated with that. Yes I want to provide products based on freshness, seasonality and I try to be as local as possible – even though I know coffee can’t really be local… (Laughs) – but that doesn’t mean third wave.”

And how did Myriade get started?

“I was finishing up at Concordia and I saw that this place was for sale. It was so ugly… (Laughs) I was working at Arts Java at the time, one of the first non-Starbucks cafes in Montreal. I think it was in the fall of 2008. The owner gave me a six-month lease only because he thought I was going to go bankrupt. (Laughs) When he saw how well it was doing we had to renegotiate. I think it took me five years to figure out how the business worked. I lost money in those years I think… I was only good at making coffee… I was not a businessman. I learned.”

Anthony worked at a cafe in Vancouver, which must have been in 2003, he says. He gained a lot of experience, but didn’t like the coffee. “I was trained and became good at what I did. The people there trained me to be a good barista, but I didn’t like coffee and I didn’t like drinking it. I just always wondered if the steps to create a good coffee had been followed. Making a coffee involves many steps… measuring, assessing… and it takes a lot of discipline. I want for a customer to come in the morning or evening and to always have the same coffee.”

In January 2013, he opened Myriade II on St. Viateur Street (which does not exist). He wanted a similar clientele, and he definitely didn’t want to make another cafe by starting over. He wanted a small version of Myriade and Savoie Fils, and to the people in the neighbourhood, it all seemed like a good plan. “It’s a really nice space, a really nice store… and they approached us.”

They – he and his partner Richard… (last name?)… just write Richard. Okay. So Anthony and Richard do business with several local bakers. They started working with Pikolo recently and couldn’t be happier. “What they do is exactly what we’re looking for.” They also offer donuts, from a small company called Saint Donuts.

He hopes to open another cafe. “If I open another one it will be the last Myriade.*” And he wants to create something that surprises people, something no one expects. “I’d like people to say, ‘What’s this?’ Let them be intrigued, let them be interested. I’d like something fresh, not the same concept at all. I never want someone to say, ‘Of course he did that… it was so predictable.’ I find it refreshing, appealing to novelty.”

THE Myriade machine

This machine, what a beauty! What is it exactly? “It’s a ‘Spirit’ from Kees Van der Westen. It’s his new model, it’s supposed to be more efficient, faster. Oh yes, you must know that I hate waiting. (Laughs) I don’t like waiting in line. And I don’t want my customers waiting. I want to do everything I can to try to keep them from waiting in line. Myriade was the first establishment to have this machine in Canada. Impressive. Then there was an explosion in Montreal,” says Anthony. But they all have ‘Myriade’ on them? “No. (Laughs) They’re handmade. You can pick your colour, what you want on them. Montreal must have the most machines of this type for the number of cafes.”

The cafe and THE milk

He then tells me that what makes a good coffee comes directly from the products used. “The rest is bullshit.” It’s like a dish in a restaurant; the products used at the base are what’s most important. Myriade currently does business with 49th Parallel Coffee. He used to do business with many others, but this is his favourite, and 10 years of good relationships with the people at this company make business relationships easier and more importantly, more enjoyable. “I used to stress because I wanted to be the best barista, the best cafe. I’ve come to realize that there’s no such thing. There’s no such thing as the best. I choose a cafe because I like it. You may not like it, it’s a personal taste. My job is to make sure it still tastes the same to the people who like it.”

At the Myriade downtown, they serve between 1,200 and 1,500 coffees a day!

And Anthony, how does he drink HIS coffee?

“I drink black filter coffee. Yuck. (Laughs.) I don’t really enjoy coffee… (?!) I don’t really enjoy drinking coffee. I drink it because I don’t sleep much, because I have a cafe. (Laughs) Coffee for me is really a job, which I love, but a job. From the beginning of this interview, I’ve just been thinking about what you have to drink. “Cappuccino?” “Latte?” And I just hope it has the right balance of milk and coffee, that the beans have been properly ground, etc.” (Laughs).

My coffee was very good, I assured him. Again, this is just my personal taste. I can’t tell you if the grind and the balance were perfect, but I liked it and I really liked the Myriade cafe downtown, like the one in Mile End, and I really liked Anthony from Myriade. And when I like it, I try to tell you about it.

*Update: there are now 2 Myriade cafés on the Plateau, one in Westmount and one in the basement of the Club Monaco boutique in the Dominion Square building on Ste-Catherine.






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