THE HUMBLE BARISTA
Interview by Annie Lafortune
Images © Miguel Lalonde Photography
His coffees come from 12 countries. Carefully selected, each one is unique, organic and fairtrade. Africa, Indonesia, South America, Peru, Mexico and Burundi are but a few of the exotic destinations to which those exceptionally smooth flavours and aromas will transport cafeine lovers even if they never expected to go there.
Micro-roaster Mike Shore has been running Joyful Coffee in Rockland for the past two years. He serves and sells only organic and fairtrade coffees, which he roasts in a Toper 10 kg natural gas fueled TKMS coffee roaster.
“The idea is to support agricultural practices that respect our products and the environment, and to promote a fairtrade market and fair working conditions for the people who work to bring us a product that we love so much,” explained Mike.
Before launching into organic coffee roasting, Mike worked in organic farming. He had lots of questions about the purity of the products we buy in big box stores. “I wondered whether the things we consume come from the soil. Are the things we consume healthy or have they been corrupted by humans?”
His experience in this area enabled him to familiarize himself with the purity of the flavours found in organic products. He also discovered an overriding passion and sense of ethics on the part of the workers in the field.
“More and more consumers are discovering and appreciating organic coffees that are easy to recognize by their certified organic logo. They prefer more natural and full-bodied coffees for their everyday enjoyment and well-being. They want guarantees that those organic coffees are grown using ecological farming practices, and processed according to organic principles.”
Organic coffee is above all an organic agricultural product. It comes from organic certified coffee plantations. Small coffee growers belong to cooperatives that promote more traditional work methods based on the recycling of organic materials. In Nicaragua for instance, growers use the juice of mulched papayas to protect the coffee plants from insects. They improve the ecosystem through the diversity of cultures. On plantations, Arabica coffee trees grow next to banana trees and avocado trees, and live alongside a wide variety of plants, flowers and large trees that can shade them from the sun and the cold in the mountains.
“Coffee is said to be certified organic when it is controlled by growers, cooperatives, roasters and accredited certification bodies,” explains Mike.
Before opening his own café in Rockland, Mike followed the advice of his mentor, Joël Béland. The former owner of Café Joël took the young 30 year-old under his wing and started teaching him. “I got to thinking that he and I could give it a go together.” Joël agreed to help him develop further, to back him and to pass on even more knowledge so that his student could make it on his own in full pursuit of his passion.
A simple kind of guy
From the personal point of view, Mike Shore is rather shy. But he’s funny and likeable, and projects the kind of sensitivity and gentleness that it feels good to be around. Very likely he transfers all of those qualities into the coffee he roasts himself. He is passionate about his trade, and you can feel it…
At first encounter, you might be taken aback by his many tattoos. He has at least 40 of them! Each one has a meaning. Those two on his arms? “One is a circle, the other a triangle. Both represent infinity, the infinitely big,” he discloses.
One of two children, he grew up in Nepean, in the west end of Ottawa, in a loving family. “When I was a kid, I liked to be on my own. I spent a lot of time dreaming and thinking. I remember wanting to be a lawyer so that I could earn a lot of money,” he chuckles. I wanted to be rich, I thought it would be cool to be rich. I didn’t want to save the world. But as a teen, I moved on from that dream. I was rather self-centred, doing only the things that pleased me. I’m sure that’s why by the time I got to university I had no idea what to study.”
Nonetheless, he ended up with a Bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Ottawa. It was the least demanding program. I really had no wish to work hard. Academia was simply not for me,” he adds.
In his early 20s, he had no direction, and felt empty. He was 23 when he got his first tattoo. That made sense given that they stemmed from his questions. “I don’t mean religion, but rather spirituality,” he emphasizes. According to Mike, it is important to ask the right questions in life, to ensure our own growth.
“It is essential that we go through life working on ourselves, because this is but a journey, but one filled with inner discoveries.”
At this point he seems well grounded, very likely because of who he is as a person. The inner journey is gradually evolving, which is probably why he likes to take his customers to lands that they have not yet discovered. All through his coffees.
Mike has grown not only on the personal level, but also on the professional level. His Joyful Coffee can now be found in several businesses in Prescott-Russell. You can buy it at Vert Fourchette in Vankleek Hill, at the Hammond Golf Club, and at L’amie de la santé in Hawkesbury.
The road ahead
Even at this early stage of his professional journey, his roadmap is filling up. You could say that it’s all about love. When you love, when you feel passionate, nobody and nothing can stop you. That’s the case with Mike. He is destined to pursue his journey with his heart and sights set not only on doing well, but also on doing right by others. With all of the humility you sense from this engaging guy.