Montreal’s micro-roaster scene has exploded in recent years. Along with well-established brands, the city has witnessed the launches of many promising startups, with few projects more hotly anticipated than Jérôme Greniers–Desbiens and Mathieu Carrier’s Structure Coffee.
For years now, the longtime friends—and two of the most respected professionals in the local industry—were thinking of launching a coffee business. They had worked in Montreal and elsewhere, their professional paths never really crossing until Carrier’s return from the West Coast in 2017.
Greniers–Desbiens, a coffee “geek” with a background in chemistry, had been involved in numerous projects and was a co-founder of the East Coast Coffee Madness, an annual gathering of the city’s coffee community with renowned guest speakers from all over the world. Carrier worked as the general manager for 49th Parallel Kitsilano cafe in Vancouver and he has visited many coffee farms working with the Socodevi, a local nonprofit network of cooperatives.
This time the two were ready to launch their own brand, Structure Coffee, planning an ambitious cafe-roastery in downtown Montreal. Permits and other assorted problems stalled the cafe project, but the young company had already bought green coffee during a trip in Colombia and decided to go ahead with the roasting.
“We started by renting the roaster at Kaito Coffee, nearly a year ago,” explains Greniers–Desbiens, who is the green buyer and head roaster. “We have two basic espresso blends, Fondation and 1852 (both made with a mix of coffees from Brazil and Colombia), along with single origin micro-lot coffees. We travel to meet producers and try to trade with them directly, as we work for the long-term profitability and sustainability of all parties.”
Due to the high expectations, Structure's team knew they had to hit their stride quickly, and the response from the local community has shown that this goal has been reached. In a few months, the coffees were available in many well-known cafes in town like Cafe Myriade and Caffè In Gamba.
“As our needs were growing, we recently moved to the Montreal Roasting Society, a co-roasting facility created by Scott Rao and Andy Kyres,” explains Grenier-Desbiens. The space boasts two Probat Roasters, a 25kg and a 50kg, and many of the city’s newest micro-roasters use them.
With their roasting operations off and running, Carrier and Greniers–Desbiens returned to their cafe project. Getting the other side of the business on track proved a bit more complicated. In the process, a third member joined the team: Marco Dieckmann, a Berlin-born self-proclaimed “coffee aficionado” with a background in marketing and finance, who followed his circus passion all the way to Montreal’s Cirque du Soleil.
In spite of his creative background, the other two like to see him as the reasoned voice in the trio. Dieckmann agrees that he had to remind them that they really had to stay focused on their goals in order to get through all the obstacles. Finally, three locations and many long negotiations later, Structure opened its cafe on February 1st on busy McGill Street in Old Montreal.
Carrier manages the operations and aims to create a space where coffee lovers will be able to taste and appreciate their products. “This is something we’ve been waiting a long time for. I’ve learned from my time at 49th Parallel that it’s important to show respect to your customers, to acknowledge their needs, and to help them get the best of what they like.”
The vast space is bright with white furniture and there’s a central island which eases the flow of customers. The espresso machine is a three-group Sanremo Opera Revolution, and the staff has everything to meet the request of any coffee lover. There is a large selection of pastries and light bites baked by Automne Boulangerie and Dave Plant.
“Even with the large front bay windows, this is a semi-basement locale and we wanted to make it as ‘open' as possible,” explains Grenier-Desbiens. “There are shelves on all the walls where we can highlight our products and those of our partners.”
Among those, a rich coffee caramel, the result of a collaboration with local confectioners La Lichée. And there’s also a beer, Tejo, prepared by Dunham Brewery with Structure’s Jaime Gonzalez Colombian coffee. Carrier hopes that the new cafe will open even more opportunities for Structure. “There are so many things we can do in a space like this. Once we are settled, and I’m confident it will come rapidly, I’m sure we will move forward.”
All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.
An earlier version of this story mistakenly described Greniers–Desbiens as the creator of the ECCM. There are five creators of ECCM, and you can read more about them all here. We regret the error.