Coffee Adventures in Montreal

Out of all the cities we have visited in Canada so far, Montreal is probably one of our favourites. Effortlessly cool and confident, the city has a vibrant soul and an eclectic mix of people, culture, art, design and ideas.

Known for it's food and nightlife, we knew Montreal would have a great coffee scene. So we were excited to see what it had to offer. 
We spent just over a week in the city, mainly in the downtown area; and in that time managed to taste some great food, find some awesome bars and, of course, drink some amazing coffee. 

Here's what we found on our Coffee Adventures in Montreal...


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1. Tommy

Old Montreal

On our first day of exploring the city, we decided to head to the area of Old Montreal to peruse old buildings, cobbled streets, statues and the famous Notre-Dame Basilica. 
We also had a Café in mind that was conveniently situated a block from the Basilica, so we headed through the cold, snowy morning to find Tommy

The café was in an old, corner building with heavy wooden doors. Once we stepped inside, it was warm and bright, with lots of hanging greenery. The interior had been transformed into a light-filled, modern space, while still using some of the older, elegant fittings. 

It was busy, but the service was efficient and pleasant. We ordered a Latte, a Macchiato, and a French sweet treat; a Brioche à tête. After some brief shuffling, and subtle eyeing up of who looked like they were finishing up, we managed to nab some seats with a view of the barista at work. 

Overall, it was a little cramped, but the experience was a good one. The coffee tasted good and the milk had a nice texture. The brioche was really good; light, fluffy and just the right amount of sweetness. 

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2. Café 1880

Latin Quarter

On our second day of exploring the city, the snow had gone, and in it's place was a blue, sunny sky. Perfect Spring weather for walking and exploring a city. 

Café 1880 was another coffee shop that we just happened to walk by, not far from where we were staying. 
It had the standard minimalist decor of many coffee shops, but a nice colour scheme that included black, pale wood and teal. 
A small space, but smartly fitted out and we happened to catch it at a quiet time, so ordering and finding a seat took no time at all. 

They had a good selection of baked goods and treats, so we decided to try an Almond Croissant, along with our coffees; a Latte and a Flat white.

The croissant was delicious - but then again, we were in French Canada, it was hard to find a pastry that wasn't.
The milk of the coffees had a beautiful velvety texture, though the strength of the espresso was a little on the weak side for us. Next time we would check the espresso to milk ratio before ordering. 

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3. Café Nocturne

Plateau Mont-Royal

By now, the cold spell seemed to have left Montreal, and in contrast, the days were sunny and warm. We wanted to make the most of the sunshine and fresh air, so we walked towards Mont-Royal, the well-visited attraction where the city gets it's name from. We were in for a short, slightly steep climb to the top of the Mount, to see amazing views of the whole city. 

Along the way, we had a Café in mind that we wanted to visit, but once we got there, we found that it was closed on Sundays. So we carried on, in the hope that we would find something else.

When we first came across Café Nocturne, we were a little apprehensive. The branding and decor of the shop front was very minimal, so much so that we weren't even sure it was a café until we got closer. Then we thought it might be a little too "pretentious hipster" for us. 

However, we were intensely feeling the need for coffee, so decided to give it a try. 

Once we entered the café, we were pleasantly surprised. The inside, although small, was light, bright and kind of cosy. There was a steady stream of customers, and no spare seats, but we were taking our coffees to go, so we didn't mind. Just one barista was working the till and coffee machine, but she was friendly and doing a good job. She managed to serve customers, grab food and make coffees pretty quickly.

We got a Latte, a Cappuccino and a chocolate chip cookie to share. 

The coffee was really good! Probably one of the best coffees we've had, not just in Montreal, but in Canada. And the cookie was delicious too.

We were feeling pretty happy after discovering this hidden gem, and now felt ready for the hike up to the top of Mont-Royal.

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4. Café Chat L'Heureux

 

Happy Cat Café

The next place we visited, was a little bit different to the cafés we usually frequent, but it was a very comforting experience.  

If you've never visited a Cat Café before, it's definitely an experience worth considering. The idea originally started in Taiwan and became popular in Japan. Now you can find Cat (and other animal) cafés in many different countries around the world. These cafés aren't really about the coffee and food experience, though many of them do have menus and offer a selection of things to eat and drink. The purpose is generally more about providing a place for people to relax and spend time with animals, as a way to relieve stress.
All of the cat cafés we have visited, have adopted and/or rescued cats and have a strict number allowed in residence at one time. 
There are also rules in place for the customers to follow, in order to be respectful of the animals' space. 

On each table, alongside the menu, their were bio's of each cat, and a guideline on whether they did, or didn't like to be touched. 

There was a minimum order/entry fee, so we ordered a Ca-purr-ccino and Iced Tea, to sip at while watching the kitty cats. As said earlier, you don't really come to this kind of place for the coffee; the ice tea was refreshing, but a little too sweet and the cappuccino seemed to have been made by a capsule-like automatic machine and was boiling hot.  But it was a small price to pay in order to spend some time with these furry little friends. 

We had a great time visiting Café Chat L'Heureux, and enjoyed just relaxing and watching the cats go about their day. There's something ultimately calming and comforting about hanging out with the cats, and we definitely left feeling a lot happier than when we went in.

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5. Café Nocturne

Take Two!

We liked Café Nocturne so much, that when we happened to be back in the neighbourhood, we took the chance to go back for a second taste. 

This time we decided to sit in and enjoy our coffee, so we found a sunny spot on a big table in the middle of the café. 
We ordered lattes, and noticed they offered Oat milk as an alternative, so we tried it with one of the drinks. 

The Oat milk was a great tasting milk alternative. It didn't affect the overall taste, nor the texture of the drink too much. Of all the milk alternatives we've tried, this is probably the nicest.
Second time around, the staff weren't quite as friendly as the barista we had the first time, but they drinks were still very good. 

 
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6. Café Saint-Henri

Latin Quarter

After visiting and really enjoying our experience at the Quebec City branch of this café, we were keen to try the Latin Quarter version in Montreal. 

We were not disappointed. Saint-Henri Montreal made us some fantastic coffees, just like the one we visited in Quebec city. The staff weren't overly friendly in this branch, but they got the job done. 

We ordered Lattes, and they also had Oat milk as an alternative, so we tried it again. The barista managed to pull off some pretty latte art, even with an alternative milk. The taste and quality of the coffee was excellent. 

Along with the drinks, we shared a piece of Cinnamon bun loaf, which was a delicious sweet treat to compliment the drinks.

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We really enjoyed our time in Montreal, and highly recommend it to anyone visiting Canada. While Vancouver and the West coast might be "beautiful", Montreal has a certain unique and eccentric vibe that comes from combining the food, arts, music, personalities and culture of the people that inhabit it. 

In our short time there, we managed to get a taste of what the city had to offer, but we know it was probably only the tip of the iceberg in terms of Montreal's Coffee scene.

We hope to go back one day, and if so, delve a little deeper, and travel a little further in search of a good cup of coffee. 

Coffee Adventures in Halifax, Nova Scotia

We booked overnight flights, so as to save money on accommodation. We had read about that "tip" on a travel blog, aimed at travellers like ourselves; young(ish), low on funds, high on travel aspirations. It seemed like a good idea at the time...yet we soon remembered, an hour or so into the flight, that our brains have a slight, no, moderate aversion to sleeping in a plane, car, train, basically anything other than a bed really. 

But it was a means to an end, and it got us where we needed to go: Eastern Canada.
We were really excited to see the complete opposite side of Canada. And especially to explore the Coffee scene outside of B.C.

Flying out of Vancouver, Monday night

Flying out of Vancouver, Monday night

Flying over Eastern canada, Tuesday Morning

Flying over Eastern canada, Tuesday Morning

So, we managed to lightly doze our way through the 6+ hour flight from Vancouver to Halifax (with a brief stop in Montreal). Needless to say, we emerged into the chilly eastern air, tired, groggy and a little worse for wear. 

After collecting our bags and picking up the rental car, we already knew what the next, and vital step was: Finding a good cup of coffee.

From the Airport, it was a short drive into the city, including a bit of scrambling to find a spare coin for the toll bridge (a "loonie"/$1 coin will do!). We parked, did some quick research on our phones, and decided which coffee destination we would start our Eastern explorations with. 

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1. The Old Apothecary

Bakery and Cafe

From the parking lot down by the waterfront, to The Old Apothecary, there was a KIND OF BIG hill. That, paired with the fresh and biting wind of the Atlantic Ocean, sure woke us, and our appetite, up. Once we found the cafe, we were immediately charmed by the exterior. It had a boutique style, elegant, yet simple.

We stepped inside and found colourful furniture, rustic brick walls, quirky decor and a nice looking selection of desserts and baked goods.

Lemon meringue tart seemed a good choice for breakfast at the time (blame the sleep deprivation), and we paired this with a Latte + Double Macchiato. 

Our experience:

Food - the Lemon Meringue tart looked really good, and the taste was really nice. The meringue was well done, not over- or under-cooked. 

Coffee - the Taste of the coffee was okay, but the milk texture wasn’t great. The Latte came out more like a Cappuccino. However, the milk wasn’t burnt and the overall flavour still held well. The Barista probably just needed to hone their milk texturing technique. 

Would we visit again?
We would go back there to try more of their baked goods.

Lemon meringue tart for breakfast, solid choice

Lemon meringue tart for breakfast, solid choice

sweet selection at the Apothecary cafe and bakery

sweet selection at the Apothecary cafe and bakery


The next day, we had a busy day of driving planned to explore the East coast of Nova Scotia. We needed coffee and a snack to start the day before heading out, and were happy to find that one of our pre-researched coffee spots was right down the road from the Hotel we were staying.

 

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2. Dilly Dally 

Coffee Cafe

A small, cozy place; light and bright and busy, but didn't feel cramped. They had lots of good cafe-style food to choose from, including cabinet and menu items.

We went for the Veggie Bagel + Coconut coffee Muffin + Latte + Flat white.

Everything came on mismatched, antique crockery, which looked cool. The staff were hipsters, but seemed friendly enough.

Our experience: 

Food - Muffin had unique flavour and tasted pretty good, though it was a tad dry. The bagel was really good, and they cut it in half for us without us even asking, which was nice service.

Coffees - Very good taste and they had pretty good-looking latte art.

Would we go back? Yes, and we would be interested to try more of their food/menu too.

 
dilly dally eats

dilly dally eats

 

Our third, and last day in Halifax. We had read about our next spot and were keen to check it out before heading to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

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3. Grafton Cafe

 

by Scanway


Scanway bakery’s specialty is their baked goods, and when you first walk into this cafe, that is apparent. They had a big selection of breads, baked goods, and a cabinet with some great looking doughnuts.

It was one of those moments when you just accept your fate and eat pastries, because, well, why the heck not...we got a pain au chocolate + white chocolate blueberry doughnut + Latte + Double Macchiato.

Our experience:

Food - the pastries, as expected, were really good. It was a little bit of a sweetness overload, but that was due to our choice of goods.  

Coffees - Unfortunately, I would say their specialty lies in their baked goods, and baked goods alone. We may have just got an inexperienced barista that day, she did seem kind of young. The milk was piping hot (burnt) and the taste of the espresso was bitter and ashy.

Would we go again?
We would probably return for the food; it would be a good place to go grab some baked treats to share with friends, family or workmates. 

 
Grafton cafe

Grafton cafe

 

Wandering around the Maritime Museum for a few hours, and our time in Halifax was drawing to a close.
We had a longish drive ahead of us to our next destination, and wanted a little fuel to keep the fire going, our next stop had been on our radar, so we mapped our route out of the city and made sure to pass it on our way out.

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4. Two if by Sea

Cafe

When we pulled up to park outside Two if by Sea, we were a little apprehensive upon seeing the brick facade and old fashioned awning. We wondered if it might be a little dated, with not-so-good coffee. 
But, as they might just say, "Don't judge a cafe by it's facade". Once we stepped inside, the interior was much more new and modern. It was light, open and fairly busy.

We were looking for lunch, and at first were a little disappointed by the small selection of baked goods on offer. But then we noticed a winding staircase leading to a second level, and were happy to find some food options up there too (more on that here).
Once we had lunch, we headed back down the spiral staircase to grab some drinks to go. We also checked out the merchandise. There was a good selection of general merch and also coffee to purchase, and we bought a t-shirt.

Staff were a little spacey, or awkward, or shy? We couldn’t really tell which, but they were nice enough. We ordered coffees (Latte + Double Macchiato), and picked up a cookie for later, as they looked too good to miss.

Our experience:

Coffee - Great texture of milk and the overall flavour of the coffee was very good. My 12oz Latte tasted a little weak, so next time I would check the espresso to milk ratio when ordering, and possibly go down a size, or add another espresso shot to get more strength in flavour.

Food - the cookie we had later on, and it was really good! It was oatmeal chocolate chip, with a blend of spices, so it had a great flavour. Texture was good too; firm on the outside, soft on the inside.

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Our time in Halifax was short, but sweet. It's a small city, a little bit quirky, and with lots of character.
We would definitely like to go back, should the chance arise, and could see it being a cool place to live.

In our adventure to find good coffee, we managed to go to 4 of the coffee places that we wanted to visit, and out of those we had some pretty good coffee.

We have no doubt there are a probably a few more good coffee spots hiding away though. Or if not yet, in the near future the city will see growth in the coffee and food scene.  

Have you experienced good coffee in Halifax? Or in other parts of Nova Scotia?

Let us know! We're curious to hear more...