When I tell people in the specialty coffee community that I live in Calgary, the next words that come out of their mouth are usually “oh wow…I love Monogram Coffee.”
Monogram is certainly one of the big names in coffee in Calgary. Jeremy Ho, Ben Put, and Justin Eyford have done everything right in making a name for themselves in Calgary (and across North America). The amount of talent that comes out of these cafes is ridiculous. I cannot say enough how fortunate I am to call this city home, and to have their coffee so readily available. Their newest cafe (which I will talk about shortly) is just 10 minutes from my work. Needless to say I am likely going to go broke with how often I will visit. In their first week of opening I went five times!
For those of you reading this who aren’t from Canada, today is July 1st–our country’s birthday. And so I thought it would be fitting that this month’s Coffee Roaster of the Month, was not only from Canada but also locally here in Calgary. So like I do every month, I reached out to their team, and am so excited at the opportunity to share their story with you! It was my pleasure to chat with Jeremy Ho (one of the three founders of Monogram) who helped to share their story!
[CC] Hey Monogram, so great to get the chance to connect with you! So, tell us a little more about yourself.
[JH] Monogram was started by Ben, Justin and myself. We started Monogram with the belief that amazing coffee should inspire wonder and warmth. We saw so many great coffee companies only focussing on quality and forgetting about taking care of their communities, and wanted to do both with Monogram.
Q: Tell us about how you ended up deciding to call yourselves Monogram?
A Monogram is a collection of individual letters or motifs that come together to create a signature stamp on something. That is how we see Monogram – a collection of people, all with our unique experiences, ideas and backgrounds coming together to create our unique stamp on coffee
Q: When did your first café open?
Our first “cafe” was actually a mobile coffee cart (that we built ourselves, unfortunately) that we opened inside of DaDe art and design lab near the end of 2014. Since then we have opened four cafes throughout Calgary.
[CC] Q: So speaking of cafes, you just recently opened up your newest location in the NW quadrant of Calgary. Can you tell us a bit about why this location in Calgary, and what people can expect from the cafe when they get to visit it?
[JH] This is one that we are especially excited about. Community is so incredibly important to us and I think the exclamation mark on a good community, the thing that really completes a great neighbourhood is a fantastic cafe. The cafe is more than just a place to buy coffee – it’s a place to connect, form relationships, and learn more about how we can support each other and our neighbours in unique and wonderful ways. Exploring new locations, we have always said that the NW is missing more great cafes – many of our own family or friends live in the NW and don’t have many options for coffee, there are just a couple good places! Opening in the University District in the NW was very important for us to be able to grow our community, meet new faces, and continue to positively impact more people’s lives through coffee.
As with all of our cafes, we look to have a unique flavour to every location. We worked with the ultra talented FORT Architecture team, who were really able to take our values and ethos and tangibly create a physical space that would augment them. The cafe was designed to portray a great sense of warmth, with design influences from around the world. We have a lot of varied seating configurations, with plenty of nooks and crannies to either cozy up with a close friend, have a vibrant breakfast with the whole family, get down to work and hustle yourself, or stop by for a quick cappuccino.
There are two really fun things that are unique to this location. Firstly of all: Slushies. Need we say more? We made a Coffee Slushie and a Hojicha Slushie that are incredibly crushable, especially in the sun. We are also featuring our hand brew bar where we will be using a brand new manual brewer called the Tricolate to showcase some of our best coffees. There’s plenty of seating inside or on the patio, a rollup garage door to people watch outside, and tons of free parking across the street!
[CC] I feel that it’s safe to say that your coffee isn’t just loved by Calgarians or even just Canadians for that matter…but I feel like you have established yourselves on a global scale. Can you share more about what equipment you roast on, and about your philosophy when it comes to coffee roasting?
[JH] Our coffee roasting philosophy and style I think is something that has become synonymous with Monogram. The roasting really has to go hand in hand with our quality driven, sustainable-focus green sourcing philosophy. With roasting, we are looking to ensure our coffees are flavour intense, with great balance. Sounds simple but we work hard and geek out on different parts of our roast profile to ensure that all of our coffees, whether they are more approachable or adventurous, share the same signature style.
[CC] In your opinion, what’s the specialty coffee community like in Calgary? What do you love?
[JH] We have a really great coffee community here in Calgary. A really good mix of some of the mainstays that have been around for a while, some progressive companies like Monogram, and a fantastic new generation of great independent roasters and cafes that are starting to pop up. Would love to see more and more baristas take on their interpretations on coffee and open up more cafes if they are able to. That’s how we can continue to challenge and evolve ourselves.
[CC] I think that anyone who has followed the story of Monogram Coffee for any length of time would recognize names like yourself, Ben Put, and recently Jill Hoff from national & global coffee competitions. Why has Monogram been so involved in the coffee competition space? What value does that bring to you as a company? Are you looking forward to these resuming soon?
[JH] It’s always been in our DNA, even from before we opened Monogram! Competition is so important to us because it allows us to always push ourselves to experiment, try new progressive techniques and to constantly be changing our perceptions as to what our current understanding of coffee should be. It really hits on the Wonder side for us and is something that always sparks our team and inevitably filters down into improving things that we do in the cafe.
Also, it allows us to keep a global community in coffee with some of the most forward thinking people in coffee. To be able to call them friends inspires us to be better and lends itself to creating great diversity to our thinking and company as a whole. We cannot wait to see Jill represent Canada at the World Barista Championship! So proud of her and her contributions to our company and the industry.
[CC] So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
[JH] There are so many great coffees on the menu right now but one that really excites us is our fresh-crop coffees that just arrived from Kenya, specifically the Mahiga. I had the great opportunity to visit Mahiga mill, meet the Mill Manager Daniel Kingoii. This is the second year that we have purchased Mahiga’s coffee and you can see all the steps that they do right at the mill level which translates to a sparkling, ripe and absolutely delicious coffee.
[CC] Looking forward beyond COVID-19 what do you see as some of the emerging trends or new initiatives that will shape the future of specialty coffee?
[JH] I think you might see more mainstream introductions of very high end coffees. Also, hopefully we will see more focus on sustainable sourcing and a better education for the consumer as to what is important and having it be something more than just a buzz word.
[CC] Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
[JH] I think that we need to mature into ourselves and start looking at different ways “quality” can look like on a cafe point of view. Different types of experiences, different price points, different interpretations. Hopefully we can mature as an industry like the food industry have and have great quality in a variety of different shapes.
Find their beans: If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-store for what they’re currently roasting!
If you find yourself in Calgary (let me know) and make sure to visit any (and all) of their four cafe locations:
Altadore: 4814 16 Street SW
Britannia: 800 49 Avenue SW
5th Ave (downtown): 420 2nd Street SW
University District: 4153 University Avenue NW
I just want to say a huge thank you to Jeremy & the entire team for sharing about Monogram Coffee Roasters and for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in Calgary, AB. Keep up the great work!