This being my first post about a coffee shop, I couldn't allow myself to write about any other than my personal favourite - Humble Lion. I must give you a full disclaimer though, this was my go to place to study a few months after they opened, midway through my degree, and now has become my go to work space while I try to figure out what to do with my life. That wasn't much of a disclaimer but you should know that I have spent hours upon hours upon hours at this place and have never grown tired of it. A number of my friends know my love for Humble Lion and have asked me what it is about it that makes me come back and it's gotta be a combination of the coffee, the staff, the atmosphere and just general awesomeness.
The staff take a great deal of pride in their coffee and you can tell. They don't hesitate to pull a new shot if the first one is off. They value the opinions of their patrons and they will happily educate you if you care to learn more or anything at all about coffee. In fact, Humble Lion is where I acquired the bulk of the coffee knowledge and I am grateful for that.
The staple espresso bean at Humble Lion is the Black Cat. This Brazilian and Colombian blend, roasted by Intelligentsia, has a light start and smooth texture though you can still feel the caffeine flow in but in an uplifting manner. It's rounded off with a hint of earthiness and nuttiness that sticks around to keep you on your toes.
Although very good in and of itself, the team at Humble Lion has recently experimented with the Hathaway, a Nicaraguan and El Salvadorian blend from the Victoria based roaster - Bows & Arrows. I had the chance to try it out and even a month later, I remember absolutely loving it. I don't quite remember the profile but I assure you that it is quite good as I thoroughly obsessed about it over the following days until they ran out. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, it is not being offered but I have been informed that it will be returning for another hurrah in the coming months so keep your eyes peeled.
In fact, sourcing is something the fine people of Humble Lion pride themselves on, especially Jason, head honcho, who explained to me that he prefers to work with and source his products from people who are fully dedicated to their passion. Not only must they be dedicated but also at or near the top of their game. The maple syrup provider, from Oka, makes nothing but maple syrup and yes, you can taste the difference. Jeffrey Finkelstein of Hof Kelsten - croissants, chocolatines and chocolate danishes baker - has been heralded as the boy wonder of bread. The hot chocolate is made using Mast Brothers chocolate. If you haven't heard of or never tasted it then make it today's mission to head on over to Humble Lion and try the hot chocolate or buy a bar of chocolate which they keep in stock - it's an order. The scones, oh the scones, they are so yummy, oh so yummy, especially those with bacon and caramelized onions. These magical scones are prepared by Godley et Crème which has recently become the bakery of choice for so many coffee shops in Montreal. Not only are their scones fantabulous but so are their brownies, pecan butter tarts, cereal bars and chocolate chip cookies. Enough said about the food. Now, back to the coffee.
Unlike the espresso, not only does the filter vary by what is in season but Jason also rotates two to three different coffees throughout the week. I had the chance to try out the Bows and Arrows' Kamuyu from Kenya. It stood out to me with a much appreciated and distinguishable taste of molasses but also a hint of citrus which gives it a bit of acidity. To the "untrained" individual, who is used to drinking coffee from the major chains, this acidity could be perceived as sour so beware. That being said, the Kamuyu is certainly my type of coffee, as an afternoon pick me up, with a full body, well defined flavours and slight acidity. Finca La Soledad from Bows and Arrows and Gaspard from Intelligentsia were also on rotation but I didn't get a chance to try them out but I can confidently say that they must be good if they are being served at Humble Lion.
In the same way that the coffee, chocolate and baked goods are carefully selected, the design is thought through from floor to ceiling. If you're interested in what I think of the design, read on but if you don't care this is where we shall part ways until next time. Humble Lion is contained within a not so little, not so big space but visually quite appealing. You can tell that a lot of thought went into the design which, everyone knows, plays an integral role in making or breaking an independent coffee shop. That is more so true in a market like Montreal where coffee shops are popping up everywhere and patrons expect a hip cool space for meeting friends, working or studying. Its silver patterned tile ceiling lies opposite a cherry wood floor. Its barista bar is made from a reclaimed bowling alley, that's right, a bowling alley. The bar that, visually, wraps around the barista station is made of solid wood and steel, so are the shelves (you can see them in the making by scrolling through Humble Lion's Instagram feed) . The seating for the roughly ten little round tables in the back is made in a similar fashion but you also have the option of sitting opposite these benches in neat little black wooden vintage chairs (the hugging type). The seating for the bar, on the other hand, is made up of vintage leather and weathered steel high stools. The round tables offer just enough space for two people to sit across each other with their laptops open whether it be for studying, working or whatever else you like to do at coffee shops. That being said, they are ideally sized for simple meetings and "catching up" sessions and, unlike other places, you can actually see people as natural light does make it to the back but its mix of conventional pot lights along with its neat vintage industrial light fixtures add a few more lumens to the mix. I'm no design whiz but I like to think I can identify a cool space when I see one - this is one of them.
Whether you're looking to fill your craving for caffeine or for proper good coffee, meet for work outside of the office, catch up with friends or just need a space to get some work done, drop by Humble Lion but be prepared for the possibility of not finding a spot. Yup, this downtown coffee shop is not a well kept secret and is mighty busy during the week but patience is a virtue. A seat or table usually frees up every few minutes so don't freak out, you'll get yours in due time.
All in all, Humble Lion offers exactly what you need in a coffee shop - great coffee, yummy treats, pleasant and vibrant atmosphere as well as a knowledgeable and kind staff.
P.S. If you made it this far, I am very impressed and forever grateful. Like the post, leave a comment, share it, whatever it is you prefer and you'll get a big thank you and a virtual hug which you can redeem for a real one if you ever bump into me.