A contagious form of “coffee madness” hit Montreal on October 17th with a full day of workshops, demonstrations, and tastings, highlighted by five guest speakers. It was the second edition of East Coast Coffee Madness, an event that was created last year by Jérôme Grenier-Desbiens and an all-star team from the East Canada coffee community.
“The Montreal coffee scene is growing rapidly and I think we need events like this ‘East Coast Coffee Madness’ to keep our drive and make sure we don’t stand still,” explains Grenier-Desbiens, “Jeremy [Challender, of London’s Prufrock Coffee] was telling me earlier that we have more quality cafes per person than in London. It’s easy when there is a new cafe opening every month or even every week to sit on our success. People like Jeremy or Pete [Licata, 2013 World Baristas Champion] are here to remind us that we can always get better at what we do.”
Bianca Lavoie, a local and very active coffee blogger who was part of the founding group of ECCM a year ago, adds, “Our motto is ‘Meet + Learn + Grow’ and the event offers to all the members of the coffee community a chance to come together, discover new products and trends, learn, and develop business connections during our workshops.”
For their second edition, the ECCM moved to the Société des Arts Technologiques in the busy “Quartier des Spectacles.” As you might expect, the crowd was mostly coffee professionals, with many of Montreal’s best known micro roasters, cafe owners, and baristas in attendance.
Christopher Hendon, the co-author of Water for Coffee, started up the morning sessions with a surprisingly lively presentation on the many quantitative data and instruments used in the preparation of coffee, challenging many “certainties” that often interfere with a true qualitative approach. Then Montreal’s Karine Chrétien-Guillemette, aka Miss Choco, spoke about the many parallels between coffee and chocolate, insisting on the bean-to-bar chocolate movement that is changing her business. She also addressed the social and ethical questions related to the trade of chocolate. The morning finished with a presentation from Challender, who is also the 2016 UK Brewers Cup Champion, who presented on calibration, batch brewing, and the many ways to run a coffee business more efficiently.
The afternoon session started with Colleen Anunu, a coffee market specialist with Fair Trade USA and a member of the SCAA's Board of Directors. Critical of the emotional recuperation of so-called fair and sustainable coffee sourcing by many micro roasters on their websites and social media, Anunu explains, “We have to decide what is really important. Coffee isn’t about quality—it’s there—and coffee isn’t even about economics, coffee is all about people. You have to really know who you are working with, sourcing and buying from.”
Anunu also insisted on the need to develop “fairer” trade practices on not only an economic level but also a social level, with attention to issues like gender equity. She concluded her very well received presentation by offering three goals to all those who work in the coffee trade business:,”Action transparency, shared accountability, and honest emotional equity.” Serious matters to consider, to say the least.
The last speaker, Pete Licata, addresses the question of leadership. “Coffee is very competitive at all levels and you have to show and share leadership qualities,” Licata told the audience. “I see my role more as a mentor than
“I see my role more as a mentor than a leader. I sometimes see people looking up at me or at other well-known baristas, when in fact, we’re all basically doing the same things, being only at different point in our careers,” explains Licata. “In a sense, it's a matter of shared humility. I think it’s important that more and more people in leadership positions truly share their knowledge. And it’s equally important that the people starting up in the business accept that they have a lot to learn.”
As the world champion noted, events like the East Coast Coffee Madness perfectly serve that need to share knowledge and information. The team is already making plans for 2017 and beyond.