REVIEW: Saint-Henri Micro-torréfacteur

IMG_2531Quebec city loves coffee, especially in the Saint-Roch neighbourhood. There, you’ll find at least five independent coffee houses, each located within steps of the world’s most recognized gaming industry headquarters. Fortuity? I think not.

Third Wave coffee

The Third Wave movement considers the coffee bean a refined product, giving it great attention in every step of its transformation; a coffee as prestigious as wine and chocolate. It’s a movement that advocates control over every step from plantation to roasting all the way to the temperature and measure of water/coffee poured in an espresso cup. In other words, the movement’s purpose is to develop aromas with control and/or involvement in every step of a coffee cup.

Saint-Henri micro-torréfacteur is among the first of the Third Wave to open for business in the province of Québec. In fact, many believe that its owner Jean-François Leduc, introduced the movement to the province. Originally established in 2011 in the now VERY trendy southwest district of Saint-Henri on the island of Montreal, the namesake café quickly became a popular gourmet destination.

Unfortunately, Leduc announced last summer that gentrification had its toll and suffocating rental costs pushed the Saint-Henri café out of its neighbourhood. His landlord raised the rent from $23,000 a year to $63,000 a year!!! As of July, the beans will have to be roasted, packaged and sent off to restaurants and other collaborating coffee houses in the province from a yet-to-be-determined location.

Saint-Henri café in Quebec City

IMG_3157The rumours that a Saint-Henri café was coming to Québec City started circulating in the fall of 2015. I used to visit Dose Coffee Bar on Charest quite regularly where owner/barista Dan Hill introduced me to the Third Wave coffee movement. He worked exclusively with Pilot Coffee Roasters from Toronto who, like Saint-Henri, are recognised Third Wave ambassadors. I visited their roasting plant last spring to get to know them better. Read and watch about it here. Unfortunately Dose Coffee Bar closed this winter. Independent, niche coffee businesses like Dose are hard to keep alive, especially when the everyday cup-of-joe consumer doesn’t care for quality and requests quantity.

But, Saint-Henri just might have what it takes to make the Wave proud and strong in Québec City. A coffee where slightly acidic, fruit-filled flavours remind my taste buds of warm summer vibes.

Natural light and wood

Located in an entirely new building on the extreme east end of Saint-Joseph Street in Saint-Roch –a neighbourhood with many similarities to Saint-Henri’s original location- the café’s setting is reminiscent of some of the world’s most beautiful coffee houses. Its Swedish-like design is linear, clean and refined with wood as a core essence. A coffee roaster sits at the south end of the café and has yet to be heated; it should be late May.

The setting is ideal for a daily fix of natural floor-to-ceiling light in harmony with the coffee’s soothing melodies; an environment that casts bright, positive, trendy industrial vibes. Montreal design house Rhoncus is responsible for the café’s environment, one that mainly attracts hipsters -who are mostly students, freelancers and travellers- who hoard the café tables and counters with their laptops for hours. A real pain when you’re looking to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. A recurring situation in all independant cafés in Québec City.

Artisanal Sumo donuts

Québec City’s only ”artisanal” donut offer is incorporated to the IMG_4917Saint-Henri café. Available fresh every day and in many decadent flavours (smores, lemon custard, blackberries, boston cream, etc.). Sumo makes a decent donut; a little too thick for my taste, but nothing near oily and dry. My very first job consisted of making donuts for Dunkin’ Donuts. I know a good donut when I taste it. Head donut master Geneviève Casaubon has my seal of approval especially for her vivid flavour combinations.

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