Breaking today on Sprudge.com and across social media, allows us to introduce you to Monogram Coffee, a new Canadian coffee company founded in Calgary by Jeremy Ho, Benjamin Put, and Justin Eyford. Sprudge readers may already be familiar with Mssrs. Ho and Put through our annual coverage of the World Barista Championship; together they are the last two consecutive Canadian Barista Champions, and represented Canada at the 2012 WBC in Melbourne and 2013 WBC in Rimini, Italy.
Eyford, Ho, and Put are all veterans of Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, an influential Calgary specialty coffee company founded in 2007 by Sebastian Sztabzyb and Phil Robertson. In the company's 7 years in business, Phil & Sebastian has grown into one of Canada's most admired specialty coffee companies, a reputation that includes multiple Canadian Barista Championship wins, multiple popular cafes in Calgary, appearances at multi-roaster cafes across North America, and a featured role at some of the coffee world's most prestigious events, including the annual coffee service at TED and this year's MAD Symposium. That reputation grows today with the launch of Monogram–there is no greater compliment in business or life than inspiring and abetting the continued success of others.
In advance of today's launch, Sprudge.com had the opportunity to interview the founders of Monogram Coffee. On the eve of launching their new venture, Monogram spoke with Sprudge from Calgary.
Kindly introduce yourselves to our readers in Kuala Lumpur (or wherever) who may not know you already. What are your backgrounds and experience in coffee?
We are Monogram Coffee, a new coffee company from Calgary, Canada. Monogram is comprised of a team of three: Jeremy Ho, Ben Put and Justin Eyford. We have a combined 20+ years of experience in the coffee industry in Canada working for some of the best coffee companies in the country, most notably at Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters. We’ve held many roles in the industry, cutting our teeth as dishwashers, Fetco-brewers, baristas, managers, roasters and green buyers. Through these experiences, we carved out specific niches within the industry that we have fallen in love with.
Jeremy’s industry experience comes exclusively at Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, where he was responsible for developing coffee culture, café experience, training staff and wholesale customers, and leading customer tastings. Jeremy was blessed to have won the 2012 Canadian Barista Championship and placed 9th at the World Barista Championship that year. He also loves engaging with people about coffee, having been a part of Coffee Common and coffee services at TED.
Ben has worked at both Transcend Coffee and Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters. Most recently at P&S, Ben was the Director of Quality, managing new brewing innovations, training, and quality assurance. He was also responsible for espresso roast profiling and brewing parameters. Ben won the 2013 Canadian Barista Championship and placed 11th at the World Barista Championship earlier this year.
Justin’s industry experience also came exclusively at Phil & Sebastian. Justin managed two cafes before transitioning into wholesale management. He worked with Phil on roast evaluation and cupping and then took a few months off to complete his Masters’ degree on the prospects and pitfalls of Direct Trade in specialty coffee. In 2012, he got his Q grader license and started to travel to origin to purchase green coffee and work closely with the farmers that he bought from in Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras.
We all came together with the belief that coffee should inspire wonder and warmth in everyone. Our goal is to spark someone’s imagination about coffee, even for just a second, in a creative, personal and friendly way. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel, but take small, fun steps to push the industry in all aspects of the supply chain to get more people enjoying better coffee.
As three people getting ready to start your own company, who are your big inspirations in the wider world of coffee right now? Which companies around the world do you draw inspiration from?
Monogram is built on three things: quality, experiences, and people. As a result we have a ton of respect and are continually inspired by those in the industry that are innovating and leading by example in these areas. Just as these people have been for us, we want to be a resource of knowledge in the industry.
We have learnt a lot from Phil and Sebastian and have been deeply influenced by our time there. We look up to Tim Wendelboe for the work that he does at origin and the beautiful coffees he is able to roast. We admire The Coffee Collective for the way that they have collaborated in the industry. Market Lane in Australia has shown us what a proper build-out and attention to detail can do for ambience. We have always admired G&B Coffee for the way they prioritize service. Revolver has shown us the power of curating coffee and presenting it well to the customer, and we admire Café Myriade’s constant brewing innovations. Last but not least, we are continually inspired by the fantastic Canadian coffee community that is dynamic and growing rapidly!
With two Canadian national champs on the masthead, it's only natural to ask about upcoming competition plans for your company. Fill us in–will you continue competing yourselves? Will you be training up staff to compete?
We are believers in barista competitions because we have seen how they can build community, push the industry and inspire and develop baristas. Through competition Jeremy and Ben have been able to connect with baristas around the world and have made deep friendships. The competition will always be a core focus of Monogram. Just a couple weeks ago, Ben won the Prairie Regional Barista Championship for the 6th time in a row and is preparing for the National Championships at the end of the month. This will be Monogram’s first official barista competition and we’re excited for all the crazy things Ben has up his sleeve. We will always be involved in the competitions in some capacity, whether it be directly competing, judging or fully supporting our employees as they challenge themselves to compete.
Explain the meaning and resonance behind your chosen brand name.
A monogram describes the coming together of letters to create a recognizable symbol. This symbol is more visually appealing than its constituent parts and is unique. It can create a personal feel and often produces an impression of refinement and creativity.
We are three partners that want to create a company that is more than its constituent parts. We want to meet each customer where they are at and present a product that is personal, refined and imaginative. “Monogram Coffee” resonates with us because it sounds warm and inviting. It represents our vision of we want to achieve in service, our café space and the industry.
So today you've launched the brand–what comes next? Do you have a timeline for a physical cafe space? Will you be hosting events before then?
We have a lot of exciting plans that we will announce over the course of the next few months; including coffee services, tasting events, and exclusive products. In the immediate future, we are looking to collaborate with like-minded businesses to give Calgary a sneak peak of what we want Monogram Coffee to be.
As for our physical café space, we hope to be open in the next 9 months!
Who are you working with in the wider Calgary community for design & branding?
We’ve partnered with Versett, an independent digital agency that designs connected experiences, brands, products, and platforms for some of the world’s most innovative companies. Versett was named to Alberta Venture’s Top 25 Most Innovative Organizations and listed as one of Canada's top 100 Creative Agencies, both in 2014. The agency has worked with clients including McDonalds, WIKA, Shaw Media, Synergy and the Dubai Transit Authority. The agency’s approach to content organization, design, and user experience has won numerous awards and is consistently profiled in technology and design publications. Versett has offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Dubai.
“The mark was developed to mirror the simple beauty of quality coffee, something the Monogram team lives and breathes. We also wanted to create something approachable, timeless, and extremely versatile. The simplicity of the brand will allow it to adapt with Ben, Jeremy, and Justin as they expand their business.
In a more literal sense the mark itself is a monogram that references the high altitude landscapes where Monogram sources their beans, and also pays homage to the Canadian landscape that Monogram calls home.”
Tell us something cool about Calgary that most people don't know.
There is a very famous dish that you can get from every Chinese restaurant in Calgary called ”Ginger Beef”. It has a beloved, cult-like status in Calgary that has spread across the country, and eating it once is considered a quintessential Calgary experience for tourists and visitors. Ginger beef is crunchy, battered strips of beef tossed in a sweet, tangy sauce of soy and ginger. What people may not know is that Jeremy’s dad and grandfather actually introduced the dish to Calgary (and Canada) and coined its name at his grandfather’s restaurant many years ago.