Student Life

Montreal wakes up and smells a new kind of coffee

Photo by Angela Mackenzie

During the first big snowfall of the year, the atmosphere inside a local cafe is warm and cozy. As people walk through the door, dusting snow from their coats, Jordan Crosthwaite smiles and greets them with a genuinely friendly hello. He seems to recognize nearly everyone who walks in the door, making small talk with ease. Crosthwaite is a barista at Odessa, one of Montreal’s newest specialty coffee shops.

Cafés like Odessa specialize in third wave coffee and have been popping up all over the city in recent years. They provide an experience that feels very different from what you would get in a Starbucks or Second Cup.

The decor in Odessa is modern and minimal but still feels homey. The bar, tables and stools are fashioned from dark wood with black trim. The white walls feature vintage photographs of ships and miniature models of boats. Soft music plays over the speakers as Crosthwaite gently wipes down the counter and begins to prepare a customer’s order.

If you’ve never thought of coffee as more than your morning caffeine fix to get through the day, then the concept of Third Wave might seem excessive. The term ‘third wave’ was coined more than a decade ago by food writers who needed to distinguish specialty coffee from the Starbucks craze, which focused on creating a European-inspired coffee culture. (The first wave, if you’re wondering, was the rise of mass coffee brands like Folgers and Maxwell House).

Third wave is recognized as being more about the coffee than the beverage. In other words, it’s more about the beans and the roast than whether it’s a latte or cappuccino. Popular American roasters and brewers such as Stumptown and Counter Culture have been credited with raising the profile of third wave coffee, with similar places taking off in Canada.

Crosthwaite’s passion for coffee is apparent. Leaning against the bar, he pauses for a moment when asked to summarize what this movement towards specialty coffee really means.

“Third wave coffee is about recognizing that coffee can taste really great,” he says. “It’s about bringing out all of the unique characteristics within different kinds of coffee, in ways that are respectful to all parts of the process: farming, roasting and brewing.”

Third wave cafés primarily focus on espresso, pour-over filter methods, and the siphon or vacuum pot method. Some dabble in cold brew — coffee brewed over ice or using a cold brew dripper, which is a fancy glass contraption that looks like something from a high-school chemistry lab. Myriade, one of the most well-known specialty cafés here in Montreal, invests a lot in their equipment which some say results in a better brew. Other cafés keep it simple; Falco in Montreal’s Mile-End, for example, uses only the siphon method.

Though third wave coffee places importance on growers and the relationship with those producers, Crosthwaite says the micro roasters are important too.

On the other side of town, Café Saint-Henri micro-torréfacteur (or micro-roaster) is the only third wave café in Montreal that roasts their beans in-house. The roasting machine is a big black contraption with a funnel at the top and a spinning cooling tray at the base. It is loud but even though the low hum reverberates throughout the cafe, none of the patrons seem to mind.

Simon St-Pierre is a roaster at the cafe. He explains that they work directly with the same small farmers from around the world, year after year.The farmers provide them with raw beans, which are essentially the seed from a cherry that has been dried out. In its raw form it is hard, acidic, bitter, and not usable. The roasting process dries moisture from the bean, causing chemical reactions that completely change the flavour. This way, farmers know they’re getting a good price. By getting their beans from small lots they also ensure that the coffee is as fresh as possible instead of sitting in a warehouse for many months. St. Pierre believes this is key for coffee to taste as good as it possibly can.

Back at Odessa, Crosthwaite makes a cup of coffee using the pour-over method. He sets a simple V60 cone over a mason jar and inserts a Japanese paper filter, wetting the filter first to avoid a paper taste in the coffee. He then picks up a round, silver canister filled with 22 grams of roasted Costa Rican coffee beans and grinds them to a fine sand.

Everything is done on a scale. Crosthwaite explains that he always works with the same ratio by weight — one part coffee to 16 parts water, which is gradually added in a specific amount to achieve an ideal extraction. He uses a goose-neck kettle and takes care to move in a circular motion to ensure an even and slow pour over the coffee bed. This kind of attention to detail is meant to ensure a better tasting brew.

But are quality and taste the real reason this trend in coffee culture is continuing to grow? David Szanto, a PhD candidate in gastronomy at Concordia, has been teaching a course called Encultured Eating since 2009. He thinks the appeal of third wave coffee might be more about self-branding and patterns of individual identity making, something that is happening across many consumer categories and through social media.

For some, it could be more about buying into the conversation around coffee than actually understanding what is happening in the mouth when they taste it.

“Some people pay attention to taste, some are paying attention to economics and social questions, some people are paying attention to the design or the built environment of the coffee places, but maybe it’s the overlap of all those things that allow something like third wave coffee to emerge,” he said.

Crosthwaite believes that what is happening with coffee is happening with just about everything we consume. People are paying more attention to where things come from and are having more conversations about why it is unique when it comes from a certain place.

He lights up when asked about the community growing around specialty coffee.

“I think we’ve got some fantastic baristas in Montreal who have invested in a local coffee scene here. There’s a pretty ingrained tradition of coffee culture in Montreal that is not third wave, but I think that’s changing now.”


Student Life

More than just school spirit

While most students might look to a part-time job to keep some cash in their pockets, John Molson School of Business student, Ali Khadjavi, started his own company.

In 2009, Khadjavi launched his company, Nettoyeurs Express, with his brother Reza, after beginning his studies at Concordia as an independent student. A natural go-getter, Khadjavi is currently working towards his Bachelor of Commerce.

Born in Tehran, Khadjavi moved to Canada when he was five-years-old. He and his brother, Reza, had an entrepreneurial spirit from an early age and came up with their business idea together.

Press photo.

“We were looking for a traditional business with a twist and discovered that dry cleaning was an easy business to start since many dry cleaners outsourced the work,” Khadjavi said. “So that means very little start up costs and good margins.”

The brothers target their business to busy students and young professionals who need laundry services and dry cleaning, but might not have time to make the trip to the cleaners or the laundromat themselves.

Nettoyeurs Express has done away with the traditional storefront in favour of a more modern web-based model. The sophisticated website enables their clients to select from a wide range of pickup and delivery hours.

Laundry and dry cleaning is picked up from clients’ homes, workplace or hotel and can be delivered within 48 hours or less, depending on the service option selected.

Always thinking ahead, the brothers turned to additional niche markets as well.

“We also service businesses such as clinics, spas, daycares, firms and other small companies,” Khadjavi said. “We are also very popular for our office weekly pickups for large companies such as Aldo Group, Ernst & Young and for our laundry services in the McGill Dormitories.”

Bursaries, mentorship programs and business coaching through Youth Employment Services were all helpful for Khadjavi to get Nettoyeurs Express off the ground. He notes that Québec is an excellent province for young entrepreneurs to start a new business.

During their interview on CJAD’s program, Today’s Entrepreneur, the brothers advised young people looking to start a business not to underestimate the importance of a strong web presence. It is no longer an aspect of business that can be ignored and it has certainly been essential in setting Khadjavi’s business apart from the competition.

Khadjavi is also quick to point out the campaign his company holds every September on their Facebook page, “Give $20 Get $20,” which he notes is very popular amongst the student population.
There will always be competitors in the laundry business, but Khadjavi and his brother are ready for it and even welcome it.


Student Life

Connect to Concordia

For Concordia’s official social media initiatives you can head over here to find links for the social sites you use the most: Graphic by Jenny Kwan

Connecting to Concordia is easier than you may think but with so many pages, websites and platforms, it’s hard to know where to start. Concordia has made a number of efforts in recent years to keep students connected through the web and social media. There are more ways than ever to easily access information about events, seminars, workshops, clubs and volunteer opportunities in and around the university.

Concordia journalism student Andy Fidel feels the web is one of the best ways for university groups to communicate with students.
“It’s so easy to just click ‘retweet’ or ‘share’ and it works,” she said. “Like at Queer Concordia, we made posters and advertised our events around both campuses but the best way to reach out was online. That’s why, this year, we will have a website.”
Fidel also notes that while Concordia’s official web and social media initiatives have been a great source of news for her, she has had less luck learning about events before they actually happen.
Here are some suggestions for how you can stay connected to the Concordia community online:
Concordia’s website[a] is really the first place you should start. Anything you need to know about the university can be found here. Most importantly, students should check on a regular basis. It’s here that you can access anything from your schedule, grades, student account balance to special messages and even locker rentals and renewals.
For Concordia’s official social media initiatives you can head over here to find links for the social sites you use the most: Choose any of the social media options and you will find information on university news and special events such as orientation activities.
If you’re looking to get in touch with volunteer opportunities in and around Concordia, the Concordia LIVE Centre has a webpage ( and Facebook page to keep you in the loop.
Some of the biggest student groups and faculty associations also have pages on Facebook such as the CSU, the Concordia Student Union; FASA, the Fine Arts Student Alliance; and ASFA, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations. Simply enter the name of the student group or association into the search bar. You can also find other clubs or student groups you may want to be involved in by searching them through Facebook. Queer Concordia, for example, is a great resource for Concordia’s LGBTQ community.
There are also some Concordia-related Facebook pages that are just for fun. Spotted At Concordia is inspired by Craigslist’s famous missed connections. It’s where students who spotted someone who piqued their interest on campus can leave anonymous messages.

Of course, Twitter can be a best friend for any student using a smartphone. If you follow @concordia, you’ll receive up-to-the-minute news on anything from sports tryouts, new research or special events for students.
For those who are hooked on Instagram, Concordia’s @concordiauniversity account will keep you on top of the people, spaces and events that make Concordia unique. It’s a great way to explore student life through pictures.

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