Montreal from A to Z: Cafe culture, Concordia and co-ops
03 Wednesday Apr 2013
Written by Laura Roberts in Montreal from A to Z
C is a very important letter for Montreal. For one thing, there’s the café culture, which I so happily embraced during my years in the city. You can’t go a block without finding a café, and even though Starbucks has its hold on Montreal just like everywhere else, there’s also healthy competition from the other chains like Second Cup, Tim Hortons, Van Houtte, Presse Café, Java U, Café Dépot and more.
And let’s not forget all the neighborhood cafés, each with their own unique style and regular clientele. (If you want a super comprehensive list of cafés in Montreal, check out the Adbeus coffee project and see if you aren’t foaming at the mouth for a properly prepared latté.)
Some of my favorite cafés were comfortably close to Concordia University, my alma mater, and were typically packed with students studying, chatting, or hogging the free wifi. Though Concordia students were largely anti-corporate, and didn’t like the idea of having brands like Pepsi and Coke invading their campus, they were decidedly welcoming to coffee businesses, with several permanently ensconsed in the downtown campus buildings. Grab a latté before class! Get a bagel or a donut! Concordians love their coffee and crullers.
The cafés I frequented varied, depending on my mood. Want to stay social and hang out with friends while you sip your caffeinated beverages and listen to Arcade Fire? Hit up Kafeïn, and stay all day, transitioning from café to lounge as the sun goes down. Need a good place to hold a job interview or meeting for your startup? Try Nocochi, with its stark white interior and miniature Middle Eastern cookies. Need a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am coffee between classes? Have your money out and unfolded for the line-up at Java U. Smokers always liked Café Dépot, until the city went smoke-free. Second Cup’s music was always too loud, but the pizza place downstairs was good for a quick bite. Tim Hortons was only good for donut runs during all-night editing sessions at The Link. Café Myriade didn’t appear until after I’d graduated, but was worth the trip back to campus for its great, artisan coffee. Starbucks was uniformly to be avoided, unless a friend was working there and could pass you a freebie. I even did time on the bar myself, before I got sick of the crazy customers and even crazier manager, who couldn’t seem to understand the concept of a 20-hour work-week for a full-time student on a visa specifiying that school was her priority, not slinging java.
Even close to home I had favored cafés. Some were for lingering in, while others were much more utilitarian: get in, get coffee, get out. Some were pretty, but overpriced. Some were affordable and quirky, but a little too far afield. Some were favorite hangouts for all of my friends, to be avoided when I was actually working. Others were perfectly quiet all day long, leading me to wonder how they managed to stay in business.
When the weather warmed up, the terrasse was the place to be, sipping coffee and reading a book.
Which brings me to the Co-op, aka the Concordia Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore. Anyone who loves books will eventually explore the used bookstores of Montreal (another post for another letter of the alphabet!), and the Co-op Bookstore is one that I came to adore. Though it wasn’t the place for bestsellers or browsing, the Co-op captured my attention as a more personal alternative to the on-campus bookstore, as well as a haven for those who love zines and handmade local goods like buttons, t-shirts, magnets, and assorted items. My best friend in the city, Larissa, manages the store with an artistic, indie flair. She refers to herself as the Lit Pimp, and sends out awesome emails to members, overseeing the annual textbook consignment sales and curating kick-ass readings by local writers. I got to read at some of the yearly Anti-Valentine’s events, trying to keep my pieces humorous with an emphasis on the most bizarre one-night stands I’d had.
I would say more about the Co-op Bookstore, except this post is already late and I’ve got a ton of work to do, so if you’re curious, you should go to their website and read on!
Question of the day: What’s your favorite type of coffee (or other non-alcoholic beverage)?
Want to learn more about Montréal’s Underground City? My book, Naked Montréal is now available at Amazon! Click here to download your copy now. (NOTE: This title is 18+.)