Out on the Town, Student Life

Americanos and Literature: An afternoon at Café Éclair

Though it is easy to spend downtime in the McGill bubble, it is always good for students to discover new places in Montreal. Sure, the classic study spots can be soothing, but it is good for the soul to move out of the comfort zone. Case in point: Café Éclair.

This innovative spot, located just north of Fairmount street on Saint-Laurent, is a hybrid between a café and a bookstore. Quite frankly, there is nothing more perfect than sipping on a delicious flat white while perusing a thoughtfully curated book collection. 

Café Éclair opened in early July, a joint venture between owners Miranda Ko, Chantale Potié, and Daniel Alvarez. Alvarez and Ko have extensive histories in the coffee and bookstore industries. Alvarez is also the owner of Café Difference, located downtown.

“Most of my [employment] history is with books,” Potié said. “So the inspiration to blend both industries came very naturally.” 

The blend is seamless. The decoration is minimalistic, with an impressive attention to detail. From the forest green velvet seating area to the sleek white bookshelves and marble countertop, the café is incredibly stylish. You feel as if you are at a friend’s apartment and a coffee shop at the same time. Furthermore, the staff are all warm and welcoming, further breaking down the barriers between barista and customer. Sitting on a stool at a long counter invokes the feeling of late-night chats at a friend’s home. 

“The goal of the space is to have customers feel like they were in somebody’s apartment, […] somebody’s kitchen,” Ko said. 

The actual coffee is the major test for students assessing whether the café will meet their needs. The coffee roasters Café Éclair sources produce quality blends: Bows and Arrows from Victoria, British Columbia, and The Barn, roasted in Berlin.  

“We chose these suppliers because the coffee is really good but also because their values align with ours and create close relationships with the farmers,” Ko said. 

Instead of carrying best-selling novels, Café Éclair offers themed collections of books.

“We come up with a theme and pick a certain number of books around that theme that we think apply,” Potié said.

In their latest collection they are offering about 12 different titles, all around the theme of ‘womb to tomb.’ This theme raises concerns surrounding work, money, and capitalism, and the books touch on those ideas in many different ways. From a book on working honeybees and their importance for our environment; to a children’s book on how a mother’s love is unchanging whether they’re a CEO or a sex worker; this collection is curated to appeal to all audiences. Their collection includes poetry, non-fiction, fiction, children’s books, zines, with a guarantee of both French and English options.  

Alvarez, Ko, and Potié have high hopes for Café Éclair. Along with the launch of the café, they started a non-profit foundation as a way to bring the books and the ethics of their place out of the space. Through this philanthropy, they work to benefit their neighborhood and the space they occupy. 

“It’s something that’s pretty important for us, not just being a commerce in this neighbourhood but trying to do more,” Potié said.

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