I feel it’s time to share a little bit more about myself and what brought me all the way to owning my own roasting company, Rabbit Hole Roasters.
I wasn’t always a coffee drinker, or even a fan of the beverage! I started to reluctantly drink coffee while working two jobs and going to school. I saw coffee as a way to survive, and would drink it with more milk and sugar then there was coffee in my cup.
I was always very sensitive to bitterness, so regular crappy coffee wasn’t my favorite to say the least. But it was either that or Red Bull.
Fast forward a couple of years. I’d drop out of University (twice) and was working in the restaurant industry. A friend of mine, Jérémie, was really into coffee. He had a manual machine and could steam decent milk. At that moment, my perception changed.
With him, we explored different origins, roast degree, and at some point, he even bought a popcorn machine so we could roast our own. Drinking coffee 15 minutes after roast was our new thing.
Waiter and alcohol drinker by night, coffee drinker by day. This is pretty much what I did for about 2 years...until one day, when Jérémie invited me to a specialty coffee shop that he called an espresso bar. I was confused, and I was also leaving the next day for a 6 months trip in Asia.
I still went with him, on the second day café Myriade opened in Montreal (not knowing that one of the owners, Scott Rao, would, about 10 years later, help me with my roast curves.)
I didn’t think much about it, except about the leave pattern that suddenly appeared in my cup.
That 6 months trip ended up lasting closer to 3 years. Working for only about 4 months during that time, I visited 3 continents, more then 25 countries. Ended up reading more books then I thought possible, learned 2 new languages, volunteered in Cambodia and Guatemala, got engaged and married.
While some things were going well, I was still trying to figure life out (something I am still doing at this very moment), the specialty coffee ecosystem was slowly developing in Montreal. I didn’t know that this was going to change my career path drastically.
Upon my return, being slightly depressed about life resuming and not having the courage to really search for a meaningful career, I went back to what I knew: restaurants. I actually did well for myself, managing two restaurants in Old Montreal. I was making great money for the un-educated traveller that I was, but something was definitely missing.
Having more headspace after a couple of weeks back, I went for coffee with Jérémie, again. I had a cortado to go (WTF was that I asked myself) and I took a sip on my way out the door and stopped walking so abruptly that the person behind me spilled a little bit of coffee from my sudden change of pace.
Without apologising, I went and asked the person making the coffee (apparently, they are called Barista), if he had mistakenly flavoured my coffee with blueberry and chocolate because it’s all I was tasting.
Turns out that it was simply the terroir of the Natural coffee from Yirgacheffe, in Ethiopia...wait...what?
I ended up spending a lot of time in cafés for the next 2 months, and I rapidly quit my job to work at Le Couteau (sadly closed now. I still feel it was the most consistently great café in the city, especially for filter coffee). How could I passed on the opportunity to work on a minimum wage while drinking unflavoured coffee that tasted like peach and cocoa nibs?
It’s one of the best decisions I ever took. 6 years later, I still feel like a complete beginner with more questions popping into my head then answers. I’ve work as a barista for 3 cafés, as an account manager and educator for 2 roasters. I even founded the Montreal Coffee Academy to help home barista and cafés owner receiving little support understand coffee better.
I am now neck deep into creating a roasting company that needs to be different. I’ve never done things ‘’the way it was done before’’. The term ‘’the good old days’’ means nothing to me; I am always seeking what’s next and how I can use my tasting and business skills to create something unique.