September is hurricane season. But count on the Canadians, and the surf community to find point break in the city of Montreal. And that was precisely how Sharper Studios, a surfboard workshop and the commingled twin of September Cafe, found its cafe’s name. And in turn the surfer community found a place to come shake out their blonde hair – insert Shaka sign.
“It’s also a beautiful month in Montreal, with the start of fall, changing colours, changing seasons, new beginnings, crisp air,” says Mitch Martin, co-owner at September. “I believe everyone has their own story about why September is a great month. The word and the month evoke good feelings for anyone that lives here, and we’re happy to be associated with that.” But wait, Montreal has a surf community? That gorgeous Canadian coast, with rugged men and rocks, are hiding some of the best waters in the world. But without caffeine, the cold water peels a wetsuit right off.
“I was living in Vancouver for a few years, where I launched a DIY surfboard workshop with a friend. Our shop was turning into a clubhouse and a gathering place for the local surf community. It struck me that this model would blend nicely with a cafe,” says Martin. He then spend time visiting Vancouver, and the coffee capitals of Portland and Seattle finding some sweet love with the West Coast third wave culture off the hook. “When it was time to move back to Montreal, I had a good vision for our project there, as well as some friends that were keen to get on board and help make it happen. So we built September Cafe, which houses a surfboard workshop, called Shaper Studios. The 2 brands live under one roof,” says Martin.
Nothing like the infatuation with – and deep adoration for – surf, to collect enough energy for a workshop plus an inviting cafe. The “Ville-Marie” was of course ever-so-pleased that on the eve of its 375th birthday a whole community was finding a place to come, ummm, hang loose. “We host events for Montreal’s surf industry – movie premieres, launches and more – and our workshops offer classes where anyone can learn to make their own surfboard,” adds Martin.
But how to choose a roaster to work with? Well it’s easy – a fellow surfer, of course. “We work closely with Anchored Coffee out of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – owned by Dean Petty, a surfer. So when I visit our roaster, we also make plenty of time to go play in the waves.”
But they keep the whole thing very minimal. Just the straightforward three facets – cafe, workshop and retail. With a liquor license pending for some craft brews – once the coffee desire stops for the surfers. “The workshop (Shaper Studios) offers one on one and group lessons, and our retail section is stocked with surf and travel accessories, hats, books, and some clothing for sale. We keep it simple,” says Martin.
But besides for surfers they are starting to attract a bigger crowd of Montréalais(e) eager to spot cute surfers, learn more about waves – and, naturally, to drink something a little more blonde. “I believe this type of coffee is still quite new in Montreal, which is very much a traditional city that loves its dark, Italian-style espresso and associates filter coffee with McDonald’s,” says Martin. “So we have a job to do, and I like the challenge of getting people to appreciate a lighter-roasted, tastier, more vibrant coffee.” Seems like there are all ages and all walks of life here – faithfully Canadian in honor to their JT of course, the medley crowd is refreshing “The compliment we receive the most about the space is the ‘vibe’. I love hearing that customers feel our shop is inviting, warm and inclusive,” says Martin.
But there is a hard core coffee fundi element to everything here too. “Our espresso is ground in a Compak F10 conical master – always two espressos on offer – and pulled from a 3-group La Marzocco Linea PB,” Martin adds. “We also have a Fetco brewer for our drip coffee, and some V60s for pour over.” So basically they runs the gamut. Although Martin says they sell mostly espresso drinks – with flat whites as their most popular – “as people are discovering the tasty notes in our filter offerings, that is selling more and more,” he adds.
“We are very careful with following parameters recommended by Anchored so the shots come out tasting perfect,” says Martin. “I love pulling a good Ethiopian shot and have a customer who is used to dark espresso suddenly having his mind blown with notes of ginger or berries.” And then, as might be expected with all this coffee action, surf snacking is pivotal – smack the lip as they say up wave – “Our food program rotates seasonally, always using fresh local ingredients. This winter we are focusing on hearty soups and yummy sides for dipping, such as the ‘Cheesy Toast’,” says Martin. Surf’s up, coffee’s brewing.