Paquebot Cafe burst rather suddenly onto Montreal’s coffee scene in July 2015, notable at the time for being the first in the city to offer nitro cold brew. Since then, the Paquebot team, led by owners Samuel Perreault, Simon-Louis Brosseau, and Jimmy Ledoux, has steadily built up a repertoire of the fizzy, chilled, and caffeinated.
The commitment to cold resonates well with Paquebot’s nautical, deserted-island vibe. The name itself translates to “ocean liner” in English and the cafe space is replete with subtle flourishes like captain’s hats, coconuts, and a vintage record player that’s spinning some vintage luau music as I walk in. Meanwhile, the menu lists items like Thug Boat (combined order of an espresso shot and a latte) and Titonic (cold brew with tonic water).
Relative newcomers to the coffee scene, but claiming decades of combined experience in the restaurant industry, Perreault, Brosseau, and Ledoux first began thinking of opening a cafe in 2014.
“We always loved coffee,” says Perreault, “but never worked in it. Even Simon, who is our head of coffee, he’d worked with lots of coffee over time but never as a job.”
Perreault and Ledoux—already co-owners of Les Folies restaurant—used the need for a new production kitchen as an opportunity to find a space that could accommodate a cafe. The hunt for the new location landed them a spot on Belanger Street, in the city’s Rosemont borough.
Once they’d completed the six-months work of overhauling the space themselves, they started developing their coffee program in earnest. A trip to Stumptown Coffee Roasters in New York got them thinking about nitro cold brew, but it was after swapping ideas with Toronto’s Pilot Coffee Roasters that they really decided to pursue the concept.
“[Pilot] were starting to try to do their own nitro cold brew, but it looked really complicated to do,” says Perreault. “We looked at their setup, they explained it a bit to me. We came back here on Monday and by Wednesday, it was good to go.”
By the end of the week, Perreault was sending photos of his creamy-headed cold brew to Pilot.
A freshly poured, icy glass lands in front of me, this batch made from Pilot’s Ethiopia Ana Sora. It’s thick and creamy all right and sparkles with a bright, almost strawberry tanginess. Through rounds and rounds of tests, using a range of varieties and origins, they’ve found washed Ethiopian coffees best hit that refreshing note they want.
But Perreault and Brosseau weren’t satisfied to stop there—one tap last summer has grown to four now, featuring other drinks like carbon-injected Coffee Lemonade and a Green Tea Fizz alongside their second most successful creation, the draft latte—which they believe lays claim to being the first of its kind in Canada.
Though they’d seen La Colombe Torrefaction’s canned draft lattes, their own version emerged from a cold-brew cocktail called The Empress of Belanger. Using Pilot’s Heritage blend as a cold-brew base, they add only simple syrup, Quebec milk, and a dash of chocolate bitters to keep it as natural as possible.
The au naturel approach seems to pay off—cold brew may be all the rage in the coffee world, but at Paquebot, it’s the draft latte that’s flying through the lines. “We’re seeing now that it’s more popular than the cold brew, we sell two times as much of that now,” says Perreault.
Earlier in the heat of Montreal summer, Paquebot took to the streets, striking out aboard a newly christened cold-brew bike. Fitted with two taps and enough space for two kegs, the bike cruises Rosemont or casts anchor at private events, dishing out nitro cold brew and draft lattes. It seems like a lot of activity for a cafe fresh off its first anniversary, but there’s a list as long as my arm of still-to-come concoctions.
“We’re always experimenting,” says Perreault with a smile. “If not, I get bored.”
Brendan Adams is a freelance journalist writing for Vice Canada, Metatron, Hazlitt and more. This is Brendan Adams’ first feature on Sprudge.