The new Melk Bar à Café on Monkland Avenue in NDG isn’t your run of the mill coffee shop. It’s not that they don’t serve coffee – they do. It’s just that every step of the process, from sourcing the beans to weighing the grinds, is performed with care and precision by the café’s passionate owners, Dominique Jacques and Myriam Asselin.
Before opening the café, Jacques was music manager for Quebec sensation Peter Peter and an employee at Laurier BBQ during the Gordon Ramsay debacle. He also helped to renovate and manage the hugely successful Arts Café in the Mile End. It’s here where he started to get more interested in making serious coffee. Next, he worked at Café Humble Lion. After perfecting his skills, he decided to branch out on his own. Along the way, he convinced his girlfriend, Asselin, to come on board.
Asselin, a true scholar who speaks five languages, was burned out from studying for a Masters in Art History and needed a change. Since she was a small child, she always liked to bake and the idea of baking in a café of her own seemed like the right idea. I tried the apricot and pecan scone, and it was soft and fresh with an almost custardy center. There are also muffins, crumbles and other rotating treats such as banana bread. Asselin will always have a gluten-free option on hand and, thinking of everyone, she even makes dog biscuits. Four days a week they carry doughnuts from artisanal doughnut maker Trou de Beigne, if you need a sweeter fix.
Jacques went with premium coffee roasters Forty Ninth Parallel out of Vancouver because he already had a strong relationship with them at Arts Café. “I love their coffee, they have a wide selection, they are Canadian and they are one of the top coffees in North America right now,” he explained. “They have someone on the road all year long that goes from farm to farm and they work with the farmers to improve their crops year after year. They really try to establish relationships.” The café also offer a wide selection of teas, and refrigerated drinks if you aren’t in the mood for coffee.
To educate themselves, the couple did a short course at the renowned Prufrock Coffee in London. However, both were careful to stress that the majority of their training was through the excellent baristas right here in Montreal. “The coffee community is still small, and everybody helps each other,” Jacques explained. “It’s a really fun community, and we truly believe that in a couple years coffee will be something that people will know more about.” They cited help from Keaton Ritchie and Anthony Benda at Café Myriade, Marie-Eve Laroche at Pikolo Espresso Bar, and the folks at many other great independent cafés in our city like Pourqoui Pas Espresso Bar, the aforementioned Café Humble Lion and Le Couteau. They also mentioned Spiro Karagianopoulos, the local distributor of Forty Ninth Parallel coffee. It was refreshing to hear about such comradery, and it speaks well for the future of the third wave coffee movement in Montreal. “One of the reasons I decided to go into coffee is because I felt welcome, and I felt like people were excited about the coffee industry. And because Myriam wanted to bake,” Jacques mentioned with a grin.
Their enthusiasm for both their coffee and their baked goods is infectious. I left with a better appreciation and taste for good coffee, and with a craving for their apricot and pecan scone. Jacques mentioned to me that the African crop of beans was coming into the café soon, and would only be available for a certain amount of time due to seasonality. Considering that I entered the café not even aware of the different coffee seasons, by the time I left I was enthusiastically looking forward to trying out that new crop.
Melk Bar à Café, 5612 Monkland Avenue, 514-508-5789, Facebook