Over the past few years, the number of remarkable coffee shops in Toronto has risen significantly. No longer content with just serving single-origin brews and perfectly-pulled espresso, many of the best independent cafés in the city now source and roast their own beans, change up their proprietary blends regularly, and offer everything from pour-over coffee to specialty lattes. A few cafés even double as beautifully-lit, Instagram-worthy spaces where you will want to linger with friends. Here are five that are worth leaving your neighbourhood to check out.
Sam James Coffee Bar
“On the surface we’re a really simple café: small shop, minimal menu, quick and efficient service,” says owner Sam James. “Behind the scenes, I’m personally hiring, training, and monitoring my staff’s technique. We do a lot of calibration, maintenance, and testing to maintain optimal conditions for brewing coffee, like water chemistry for example.” Beginning with a single spot on Harbord Street in 2009, there are now five branches of this beloved coffee bar across Toronto. Each cash-only, low-frills location—there’s no tabletop seating—serves filter coffee, classic espresso drinks made with beans sourced and roasted under the label Cut Coffee, and sweets from Glory Hole doughnuts and the Tempered Room pâtisserie. Various locations, see here.
Part of Pilot Coffee Roasters’ growing Toronto empire, this airy Ossington Avenue café offers pour-over coffees, cold brew on tap and in cans, and a great place to take a magazine break while shopping the area’s trendy boutiques. The drinks menu changes seasonally, but you’ll always be able to get a great espresso drink made with Pilot Coffee’s specialty, direct trade beans. 135 Ossington Avenue.
Rooster Coffee House
All three branches of this local mini-chain, but especially the newest location on Jarvis Street, stand out for their welcoming atmosphere and cozy décor, which are ideal for lingering, whether you’re a working freelancer or meeting friends. There’s reliably great coffee, roasted and blended for Rooster by Pilot Coffee Roasters, but you can also expect pretty latte art and delicious green tea beverages made with ceremonial grade matcha from Genuine Tea. Various locations, see here.
Their flower-shaped avocado toast might get a lot of play online, but foodies in Toronto are also buzzing about the coffee at this Queen West café. Early Bird serves beans from Calgary’s Phil & Sebastian, Edmonton’s Transcend Coffee, Brooklyn’s Sey Coffee, and a number of other niche roasters, and the drinks menu contains limited-edition creations such as charcoal cortados and espresso tonics alongside classic coffee beverages like flat whites and cappuccinos. 613 Queen Street West.
De Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters
A micro-roaster, café and barista-training company, De Mello Palheta—named after a 19th century explorer who played a role in kickstarting Brazil’s coffee industry—was quickly embraced by the city’s coffee aficionados after opening in 2014. Brothers Felix and Won Cha, who spent years in Melbourne’s coffee scene before setting up shop in Toronto, source, import, and roast their own beans, which are also served at other popular Toronto shops such as Neo Coffee Bar and Sorry Coffee. “We offer full rotation of our single origin coffees on a weekly basis,” says Felix Cha, “and purchase coffee lots at auction a few times a year just to give special experiences to our customers.” 2489 Yonge Street.
For more great coffee shops across Canada, click here.
To discover more Canadian coffee roasters, click here.
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