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Montreal’s Café Fest Honors Independent Barista Culture

by OnverZe
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Le Café Fest, which runs from May 5 to 11, is a celebration of independent coffee shop culture in Montreal, Quebec, and now Halifax.

Alex Sereno had an idea that he believed was brilliant.
“I’m a micro-roaster,” Sereno explained, referring to the firm he co-founded with boyhood friend Enrico Serena, which sells coffee to restaurants, cafés, and stores.

In a phone conversation from his office in Ahuntsic on Thursday, Sereno added, “We were looking at all these incidents.” “It’s Poutine Week!” Burger Week is back. ‘How come there isn’t a coffee week?’ we wondered. The independent coffee industry, we reasoned, is a thriving industry out there. We have customers. It’s becoming bigger. So we decided to put on a little independent festival and see what happens. And it turned out to be a huge hit. There were almost 100 participating coffee shops. Then we said, “Perhaps we’ve got something!”

That was the beginning of Le Café Fest, which is now in its fourth edition. It will take place from Sunday to Saturday, May 11th, and will feature about 100 cafés from across Quebec, as well as, for the first time, coffee shops from Halifax.

One of the most interesting aspects is a fantastic deal for coffee lovers on the last day, May 11, when the majority of participating cafés will offer customers a specialty coffee for a buck (without milk) or two (with milk). Le Depanneur Café on Bernard St., Café Lézard on Masson St., Aloha Espresso Bar on de la Commune in Old Montreal, Café L’Étincelle on Beaubien St., and Café Orr on Papineau Ave. are among the more than 60 cafés participating in the festival.

There will also be an event that combines two of Montrealers’ favourite pastimes: high-end coffee and biking. It all begins with a coffee-making class and a visit of the Barista headquarters, located at 9150 Meilleur St., Suite 105. People will then pedal from Ahuntsic to Le Picnic Vélo Café, on Rachel St., right off Parc Lafontaine, on bicycles provided by Fitz & Follwell Co. On Monday, there are two sessions: 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Call Fitz & Follwell at 514-521-8356, ext. 311 if you’re interested in participating in this free activity.

On Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., there will be a Barista Challenge at the Café L’Étincelle, with local baristas competing in a friendly competition.

Sereno explained, “We want to bring everyone together to promote what we do, which is indie coffee.” “We aim to make it easier for customers to grasp what we do.” We’re in the third wave of coffee, and we want people to know about it.”

“The first wave was our parents in the 1950s and 1960s, when you would drink coffee to wake up. It wasn’t a drink you’d choose because you liked it. You’d need a shot of espresso. Then, at the conclusion of the 1980s and the start of the 1990s, a few major retailers shifted that thinking. ‘Hey folks, you know you can drink wonderful coffee, and there are great methods to find that,’ they told the public. Starbucks is to blame for the second wave. People were introduced to fine coffee as a result of the Starbucks phenomenon, which spawned a completely new industry, third-wave coffee. Smaller businesses like mine get coffee in tiny batches, roast it artisanally, and know how to serve it. We’re also baristas. My industry is very similar to that of a microbrewery.”

Sereno’s company, Barista, has been around for 15 years, and their motto is, “Every week, we’re going to make you taste Italy here, fresh.” Italian-style espresso coffee is their specialty.

And he hears about new independent cafés starting up every week, which is why he thought Le Café Fest would be ideal for the province.

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