Proud of our Quebec beers and American coffees

Dany Marquis

Let's talk about roasting. There is a growing popularity of light roasts among our customers and in coffee discussions. As a roaster, I can only be delighted. It is easy to defend your point for light roasting since we spend a lot of time selecting quality beans and heavy roasting destroys the bean by carbonizing the caramels (extreme Maillard reaction), ruining the selection work, not to mention the work of the producer (it's a job to grow coffee!).

Recently, Starbucks launched its “blonde roast”. I found it funny since they have just put their big foot into the market of micro-roasters who boast about themselves by saying that they only do light roasts. And bang! This is the elephant that enters the china shop.

In Quebec, Starbucks doesn't have many fans, Tim Hortons reigns supreme here. But the Quebec coffee market is divided into two camps:

- Light roast (1st crack) (filter drinker and manual preparation)

- Advanced roasting (2nd crack +) (owner of residential espresso coffee maker)

Looking around at some Quebec roasting friends, the ratio seems the same, around 50% of our sales are black coffee. And the blacker it is, the happier the customers are. The comment that often comes up is this: “wow! A beautiful oily grain, very black! » Many people still judge the quality of a coffee based on the color of the bean (including my mother-in-law, until she tasted a Rwanda Bourbon AA city roast). There is education to be done in order to discover the aromas of a good, lightly roasted bean. And I don't know many roasters who like to char a bean at 450F°, which has been previously selected for its particular terroir. Especially since roasted at this level, a coffee loses around 30% of its weight.

Which leads me to clarify a point that bothers me. Just because you roast coffee past the 2nd crack doesn't mean you're a bad roaster. There is a bit of snobbery at this level and I have the impression that all Quebec roasters are put in the same basket. This is perhaps due to the advocacy of coffee from the Plateau Mont-Royal, by the journalists of Le Voir, whose emphasis is clearly placed on the use of coffee roasted in the USA. “The Americans have it! » And the winter wind blew across the colony... There are good roasters in the USA but I believe there are good ones in Quebec too.

We're talking about Quebec beer using Quebec malt which adds a touch of our terroir to our beers, our cheese, our ice cream, etc. But there is a dark aura around Quebec roasters. Would a Voir journalist rave about a new bar using a beer brewed in California? I do not believe…

Quebec roasters are responding to demand. 50-60% ask us for dark roasted coffee, we respond to orders. Judging the quality of a roaster by its most popular sales is a harsh judgment. You have to pay the bills ;-) we are not about to rebuke and make people who like strong coffee feel guilty.

I believe that in the USA, roasters have positioned themselves in the specialty, tasting coffee niche, a niche left empty by Starbucks. So they built their business on this niche. In Quebec, roasters build their business on what their customers ask for, black coffee. Above all, these are companies, entrepreneurs who follow the market, and I believe that this is what makes the difference.

For perhaps two years, the Quebec market has been evolving. From the USA, to English Canada, to Quebec, owners of cafes, restaurants and hotels are discovering the work of the roaster. For us, Van Houtte dominates with loyalty through constraint (I lend you a coffee maker and you buy me coffee). And now, the restaurateur realizes that he can choose his coffee and that a good filter coffee maker costs around $800. Why deprive yourself of working with a good coffee roaster? And now Quebec is turning to their roasters, but the majority are still emulators of Van Houtte or who still consider that roasting is divided into three (brown, half-black, full-bodied), nothing very attractive if we compare them to certain American leaders. On the Brûlerie du Quai side, we are pushing hard to demonstrate that we can be in Quebec, speak French and know coffee (we also speak English if necessary). We are also experiencing growth in partnerships with cafes and restaurants. Our customers come to the workshop, to the lab, participate in roasting, tasting, the green coffee purchase contract, it's great!

For me, a good roaster is one who selects good green coffees, who roasts them to make the most of the terroir of the bean or according to the customer's needs, and who controls the roasting process in order to be consistent in roasting. to another. Consistency is then the marriage between the technology of the machine and the senses of the operator.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a partner to supply you with coffee, talk to a Quebec roaster, buy your equipment and see if they can meet your needs. It's time for us to have a little embarrassment when a new café opens its doors and the emulators of Elvis Gratton boast about themselves because they use coffee roasted thousands of km from the coffee shop, paid twice as much of the price for an equivalent roasted coffee next door. And I'm working on my carbon credits... As much as Quebecers have pushed for fair trade coffee, the media presence is going towards roasters other than Quebec. You would never see this type of glorification in the microbrewer industry. Neighborhood convenience stores and grocery stores are proud to have local beers but have industrial coffees on their shelves (except the best of course). Fortunately, things are changing, slowly, you just need to blow the embers a little…

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