Business Spotlight: Monogram Coffee
Many know it as that near-magical elixir that affords them the ability to function in the morning, but coffee is so much more a tasty drink enjoyed by two-thirds of Canadians. Coffee has a rich and varied history, and the coffee house itself, or the qahveh khaneh as it was known where it originated, became a place to socialize, enjoy music, play chess, and exchange news. Coffee has always been a social and economic driver that brings people together and fosters the exchange of culture and ideas — and this is why Jeremy Ho, co-founder of Monogram Coffee, helped launch the business.
"We saw that coffee companies were focusing exclusively on quality and forgetting about why we go for coffee in the first place — community. We wanted to be a coffee company that cared as much about serving people and building community as the quality of the coffee," says Ho.
The experts at Monogram Coffee have more than 20 years' experience in sourcing, roasting, and serving coffee. The brand also distinguishes itself with public cuppings.
Um... public what?
Image Credit: Monogram Coffee | Mugs designed by Vanguard Works and crafted by Miir.
"A cupping is an industry standard way of evaluating coffee. It is a method that controls a lot of brewing variables that might hinder one from truly evaluating the coffee's quality. Different coffees are weighed in exact equal weights across several cups, they are all ground at the exact same grind, brewed with the same amount of water, and for the same amount of time," Ho explains. "That way each cup is extracted to the same levels, leaving the cupper to evaluate only the intended difference between the cups, which could be the type of coffee or different roast profiles. Coffee is taken from each cup with a spoon and slurped into the taster's mouth, aerating the liquid over the entirety of the palate, allowing the taster to get a clearer picture of the coffee's character."
He points out that you don't have to be a professional to participate in a cupping. It's a unique experience that any coffee lover can try, and if they do, they experience more than a hot beverage.
Monogram Coffee also holds tastings, which differ from the cupping format. "At a coffee tasting patrons can expect to feel like they are a part of a great community, expect to learn a lot about why coffees taste the way they do, and to have their perceptions on coffees changed. There is something very powerfully educationally about being able to taste many different coffees side by side — it's one of the most educational ways of doing it," smiles Ho. Patrons can enjoy monthly public coffee tastings at the 5th Avenue location.
He loves his work at Monogram, and it shows.
"One of my favourite things is how great coffee can bring so many people together, from across the world and through every part of the supply chain, from producers all the way to customers. Different cultures and locations around the world enjoy different styles of brewing and serving coffee and that really influences the types of coffee roasters and cafes source and choose to serve to their customers. In Asia, you might see a lot of really interesting filter coffees, in Scandinavia they love to roast very light and aromatic coffees, and in North America you see a strong espresso-based culture."
Ho and his co-founders credit the team as a big part of Monogram Coffee's success.
"We have an amazing team that is like family and serves each other and our customers with joy every day. Without them we'd be nothing! Also, we have a very strong set of values and ethos that everyone really resonates with that drives everything we do throughout the company."
As with any independent business in Calgary, the Alberta economy's ups and downs are part of the daily challenge of entrepreneurship. Monogram Coffee takes a very proactive approach.
"Instead of looking to cut, our approach is to look at ways to become busier. This has led us to take an intense focus on creative ways we can bring in more customers and continue to give back and build community." He also cites the resiliency and strong sense of support for local businesses that he and his team see in Calgarians.
Monogram Coffee is proud to give back to the city.
Image Credit: Monogram Coffee
Ho says, "The community is our foundation, so we give back in so many ways. Aside from the many donation requests from the multitude of great local organizations, we run several campaigns throughout the year that raise money and awareness of some important social causes, like our Already Home campaign, where we partnered with local Jazz artist Ellen Doty and donated $5 of every bag of Already Home coffee to Inn from the Cold. We also like to celebrate the unique neighbourhoods each of our cafes are in and have just recently launched a set of mugs with artwork that celebrates each neighborhood with a fantastic social and photography campaign that goes along with it."
Coffee started a social movement when coffee houses started to bring communities together, and Monogram Coffee is determined to keep that movement going.
"I love that we can continue to make a positive change within the lives of our customers as well as all of the stakeholders that are involved with coffee, from seed to cup. Also, that we can be a place that fosters community and supports the diverse lives of everyone that calls Monogram home."
Ho's coffee order is a traditional cappuccino in the morning, and a fruity filter coffee in the afternoon. What's yours? It's time to go beyond the standard brew quickly grabbed a drive through and learn what coffee order really awakens your senses and helps you develop a deeper sense of community. Start a new coffee tradition today by visiting monogramcoffee.com.