Wednesday, December 29, 2010


The low tech method of brewing coffee is getting a huge surge within the coffee circles of Toronto.
Personally I've been experimenting with Hario V60s, and Chemex. There will not be a deviation from espresso, just another method of brewing to be explored.

Mercury, Crafted, LIT are just some of the cafes to offer V60/ Chemex or some variation of the kind.

In the meantime, I happened to have stumbled upon this lovely video created in Japan.
Enjoy the rest of the year, and be excited about 2011.
Wrapping up New York Trip, and constant search and exploration of different roasters, machines and more.

Until the NEW YEAR; keep it caffeinated

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bean Talk: Stumptown - Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Tumticha

Let's have a little chat about the beans I picked up today!

Roasters: Stumptown Coffee Roasters (Brooklyn, NY)
Roast Date: December 6th, 2010
Beans: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Tutimcha
Varietal: Ethiopian Heirloom
Location: Gedeo, Yirgacheffe
Region: Africa
Elevation: 1900-2300 metres

TO Connection: LIT Espresso Bar (639 Queen Street West)
Price: $14 for 3/4lb - 12oz - 340g

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Featured Espresso: Alchemy

New Espresso Blend?
Beans: Alchemy Espresso Blend
Regions: El Salvador, Brazil, Costa Rica

Roasters: Geogre Howell's Terrior Coffee
Where to find: Mercury Espresso Bar
                        (915 Queen Street East)
(DEC 10, 2010 - hopefully still there)

Technical: Pulled for 27 seconds at 197F

New Blend that GH/Terrior has come up with. The greatest piece of information they provide are the specifications that will optimize the shot. Geogre has a plethora of knowledge and is constantly improving the craft.!

Verdict: Smooth Chocolate Body! with hints of fresh Cirtus once it hits your tongue. Sweet aftertaste.

Look who else I spotted: Josh, (New member of Mercury team, ex-Crema)

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Opening Soon: Dark Horse 3
Spotted on Queen West at Euclid! 
The Rumours are true!

684 Queen Street West will become the Third location for household darling Dark Horse!
Launch date: Sooner than you think! Jan 2011

The will be in heavy competition with LIT, Quaff, White Squirrel, Niche.

Queen West is now a mecca for coffee houses/ Espresso Bar.

Fashion + Caffeine = good combo

They will still be serving Detour Coffee!

Friday, December 24, 2010

First Experience: LIT Espresso (Queen W)

LIT Espresso Bar 
Address: 639 Queen Street West
                Main Floor of the Burroughes Building
Neighbourhood: Queen West/ Fashion District
(website) @litespressobar

LIT Espresso became the first of the BIG household Toronto names to open their third location. Having successfully launched in early December, it was great to see these guys move into the iconic Burroughes Building and bring charm back to the quickly developing 'hood.

The historic Burroughes Building (est. 1907) acted as a flagship store for King Sol and became the current incarnation after extensive renovations in 2006. Don't be fooled by the ample amounts of furniture that are on display for Design Republic , these guys have taken partnerships to a new level.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The New Cafes in Toronto for 2010

Haven't even touched 13 out of the 33 locations..... Espresso Adventures?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coffee Cupping at LIT (College)

LIT Espresso Bar (College Location)
Address: 810 College Street
Neighbourhood: College Street, Little Portugal
(website, @litespressobar)

At LIT Espresso Bar on College there's an opportunity to discover the tastes and aromas of coffee through their informal coffee cupping sessions. Typically used for quality assurance, Alex (barista), was able to run through 4 different types of beans from renowned US-roasters Stumptown. Lit is the only cafe in Toronto to have a partnership with Stumptown, so it's an exclusive deal. A Good thing for sure.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

First Experience: Niche Coffee & Tea Company

Niche Coffee & Tea Company
Address: 626 Queen West (Markham Street)
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Telephone: (416) 203-0458
Hours: 8am-5pm

Niche has been on my "to visit" list for while. At night, I've passed by countless times being attracted to the bright luminating glow of their espresso machine. So I decided to drop in on a weekday, during regular operation times, and sample their espresso.
They have a full menu of food including lunch staples of sandwiches, pannini, soups, salads...etc prepared in the full kitchen at the rear of the cafe. As for the coffee part, they've chosen a great workhorse - Elektra Barlume VA. Having had experience with Managing Balzac's in the Distillery District, it would only be fitting that they know a little something about coffee. They carry a whole array of beans to reflect the neighbourhoods of our city thru unique profiles.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Balzac's (Distillery District)

Balzac's Coffee
Address: 55 Mill Street (Building 60)
Neighbourhood: Distillery District

Nestled in the eastern pocket of downtown Toronto, in the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery, a National Historic Landmark, comes the second location of Balzac's Coffee. Taking refuge in the old Pump building (established in 1895) the building known as #60 has been transformed into a two-storey high ceiling, open space cafe.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Coffee Cupping at Detour

In the last edition of this week's spotlight, the pivotal practice of

Coffee Cupping

A technique used to evaluate the aromas and flavour profile of roasted beans, and to determine defects. Sometimes used to ween out bad beans or to even to create their own blend. Taking samples at different roasting points can pin point the exact roast time to bring out certain flavours. It's all about the roaster and how well they know their craft.

It's important to keep coffee relative; meaning that testing different regions side to side and picking out what they enjoyed best from that particular region is all part of the fun. Be it the subtle hits of bergamont, juiciness of a grapefruit, to the sharp earthy tones of Sumatra, the roasting process that will allow these features to shine through.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Roasters: Detour Coffee

Detour Coffee Roasters                   
Address: 41B King St. West
              Dundas, Ontario
(website, @detourcoffee)

Toronto needs local roasting powers, and we're seeing this trend emerge as the likes of TeAro, Social, Merchants of Green Bean (and their Coffee Network), T.A.N and Rufino (Classic Gourmet) roast within the GTA. There is a step in the direction to go local, but it's the quality and consistency that creeps in the background. But it doesn't surprise me that some cafes are sticking to the well-known, such as Intelligentsia (Chicago), 49th Parallel (Vancouver), or Stumptown (Portland/Brooklyn), but they should really consider the local guys. They're quickly catching up with these power houses, and their learning as they go along.

The lovely guys at Detour, Kaelin (Owner) and Geoff (Lead Roaster), invited me to come and check out their Burlington Roastery and discuss the finer details of their craft. Once located in their Dundas, ON cafe, they've moved to a bigger site capable of keeping up with all the new orders they get and try to upgrade their roasting capacity. Since the move, they've also equipped the roaster with a custom-made wet scrubber to help reduce 60-70% of smoke emissions. That's accountability right there.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bisgono Espresso Bar

Bisogno Espresso Bar
Address: 61 Sherbourne Street
Neighbourhood: Sherbourne&Adelaide

What's so special about Bisogno on Sherbourne?
It's like you step into someones main floor of an antique house. Not only do they have a long dining table,  and high backed dinning chairs, but adoring books shelves as well. Not the mention the back corner coffee table with matching vintage lounging sofas, it's only a matter of time before you pick up one of the national geographic magazines that lie around the cafe.
Don't be fooled by the decor, it's not just a fancy place to sit, these guys know their coffee, and they do it well.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spotlight: Dark Horse Empire

Dark Horse Espresso Bar (2)
Address: 215 Spadina Ave
Neighbourhood: Queen West/ Chinatown / CSI
(website, @darkhorsecafe)
(416) 979-1200

Dark Horse Espresso Bar began its decent on Toronto at the end of 2006 opening up their first location in Leslieville/ Riverside. The Cafe that's just across the bridge on the EAST side, opens it's heart with large windows featured artists and swivel chairs around this large oak table. What separated them from others in the emerging cafe scene was the introduction of this LARGE communal tables to work, chat and socialize with other community members. That void and lacking community spirit was what the co-owners Deanna Zunde and Ed Lynds wanted to bring back to our neighbourhoods. This has been a huge success as they expanded to Queen West, taking space  in the Robertson Building. Famous for the CSI (Centre for Social Innovation).
Located on the main floor, a natural meeting place for those in the building and again creating space with two communal tables, and "upstair loft section" laced with tables, 60s era lounge chairs, and more people watching through the glass walls.
Something is different at the Queen West location, maybe it's WHITE machine, or the larger windows, or the large menu, or maybe being home to Momiji Kishi Eastern Barista Champion and highest placing Torontoian at the CDN Barista Champs this past fall.

Machine: La Marzocco Linea (4 Group)
Doser: Mazzer Robus
Turnover: Heavy Traffic (sit in and take-out)
Beans: Detour Coffee Brazillian (Dark Horse only)
Music Chill, Indie, Rock
Disloyalty Card: YES

They have a large selection of Detour Coffee Beans and they've worked with Kaelin to develop the Brazillian single-origin espresso.

Verdict: sweet with a hint of earthy-rich-cocoa and some lingering acidity that makes you wonder how it'd taste in an americano or Capp.

From Detour:
After picking, the coffee cherries are processed using a technique called “pulped natural”. This method falls between the natural and washed methods. Only the outer skin of the coffee cherry is removed and beans are sundried with the pulp of the cherry left surrounding them. This method results in sweetness and body like natural processed coffees but with a bit more acidity like washed coffees. A little bit of acidity in this coffee works well to cut through milk drinks but can equally be enjoyed as a brighter single origin espresso.

Rumour has it they are going a bit further west and opening up #3 in early 2011 at Queen/Euclid.....

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Week's Spotlight: Detour Coffee Roasters

For the week of December 5th - 11th, 2010 all main posts will be related to Detour Coffee.

On a recent visit to Detour Coffee Roasters, there was an opportunity to chat with owner Kaelin at their Burlington Roastery, experience a coffee cupping and talking about where coffee is headed in the GTA.

Not only were these guys (Kaelin and Geoff) passionate about single estate/single origin coffees, but they were also sporting staches for Movemeber. Many local barista were on that bandwagon, and it's great to see support for prostate cancer. If you didn't have a chance to donate, click here.

1) What is your company ethos?

Detour is first and foremost about quality; this translates to paying premiums through contracts. Sometimes it's exponentially above the fair-trade standards this make a big difference for farmers. Our commitment to excellence also keeps us always experimenting with our coffees both in brewing and roasting.  We are constantly in touch with other roasters over email, and also tuning into the forums and twitter for what people are up to.  This is an exciting time to be in coffee and I love the willingness to share and experiment from people like James Hoffman (2007 World Barista Champion.)

2) What regions do you currently work with, and where do you hope to expand?

We are big fans of Ethiopian coffees and cup and buy a lot of them. We often spot new coffees on offer from our importers and reserve a few bags even before they ship from origin.  This is the case with our current Pacamara from Finca La Montana in El Salvador, one of my current favourites.  I’ve contracted for some exciting microlots from Brazil which we should see in a few weeks and also for coffee from Burundi, an origin we haven’t featured before.  I’ve also got a lovely peaberry from Papua New Guinea on its way, another new origin for us.

3) How long does the process take from green bean to packaged product

The roasting process is pretty straight forward.  Our roaster takes about 30 minutes to come up to temperature once it is fired up.  We can put in about 20lbs of coffee at a time and finish roasting that batch in about 15 minutes.  You lose 20% in the roasting in the roasting process, so 20lbs becomes more like 16 lbs.  After the coffee cools in the cooling tray, it goes into a bucket and then to the packing area.  We package in compostable kraft paper bags.  I decided to go this route after visiting the West coast of the US.  There seemed to be a real coffee culture there, people were used to buying fresh beans weekly so no need to use foil, plus there seemed to be an environmental consciousness that came along with this.  We have been talking with a company about a high barrier kraft bag that is actually sealable but will compost.  They are still in development but this may be a good solution for us down the road.

4) Why Dundas, ON?

I’m actually from Toronto and moved out here 4 years ago.  I come from a film industry background (as do a bunch of coffee people, including The Rooster and Voulez Vous) and I came to Dundas on a few film shoots.  At first I looked at this town and couldn’t even figure out where the hell I was.  Dundas is a strange place because it is nestled in a valley created by the escarpment and separated from Hamilton by a large water body called Cootes Paradise and a conservation area.  But then I looked around and saw there was a Cumbrae’s butcher here, and a great cheese shop (Mickey McGuires), not to mention a Dundas institution, Piconnes grocery similar to Pusateris, but great family run business that carries great gourmet products, including Intelligentsia Coffee!  However, all these great businesses succeed, partially due to the influence of McMaster University.  All my neighbours are profs or docs at the hospital.  In the end we moved here for our kids.  I’ve got 3 girls and this is such a great place to raise a family.

Just before we moved out here I was thinking about starting an espresso bar in Toronto.  This was early days, Mercury had just opened but I had never worked in coffee and wasn’t sure about my ability to pull it off at the time.  So we moved out here and the idea stuck but I knew that an espresso bar only here might not work.  The whole time I had been roasting and  cupping and thought to myself “Toronto needs a good roaster to supply these new cafes”.  So off I went to study roasting at the SCAA and then I bought our Diedrich on eBay!

5) Where can we find your beans?

Dark Horse Espresso Bar always carries a good selection of our coffees. We've developed a single origin espresso for them which they’ve been using for about a year.  We are all in agreement that it’s time for a change and in a few weeks will be changing their blend up, probably this time to a multi origin one. 
You can also find our espresso at Bisogno  Espresso Bar, Cool Hand of a Girl, Zoots cafe, Haarlem Espresso Bar.

Aro.  We are all working hard to provide the same quality of coffee as the 49ths or Intelly’s that are out there.  It is a learning process and we are catching up quickly just like the coffee scene has.  Heck, Sammy Piccolo raved about our shot at the coffee and tea show booth we had so I think we are well on our way!

6)How did you develop your espresso blends (punch buggy).

I wanted to do something classic which to me meant using a Brazil base.  I’ve been using the same farm from the start, sometimes using Pulped natural or natural beans from the same farm or a combination of the two.  We’ve always had an Ethiopian in Punch Buggy and I love the way they add complexity, fruit, and brightness.  Recently we replaced our Sumatra with an El Salvador and in a few weeks we will move into a coffee from Panama which has a nice deep fruit note but with milk chocolate notes (think Cadbury fruit and nut). 

Check back later this week for our post on the coffee cupping experience and the story about the Diedrich Roaster.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Featured Espresso: Mamuto North Italian Roast

Spotted: Mercury Espresso Bar (915 Queen Street East)
Hours: M-F 6:30 am - 8pm
           Sat 7:30am - 8pm
           Sun 8am - 8pm
Featured: Mamuto North Italian Style Espresso Roast
                (Single Origin -Mamuto, Kirinyaga, Kenya)
Roaster: George Howell's Terroir Coffee
Located: Acton, Mass.

Pulling until they run out, than they'll showcase the Matalapa

Verdict: Rich brightness, with delicious fruitiness that coats your entire tongue. Sweet citrus notes (juicy) to round out the acidity. Flavours develop as you continue with your double espresso.

We've opted to offer the new crop of Mamuto as an espresso roast!

Tasting Notes:
Bright blackberry and sweet citrus notes embedded in caramel.

Long a favorite of our customers and staff, Mamuto has held a heralded place in our hearts here at GHCC. When we first cupped this farm, in 2005, we were simply blown away by the sumptuous body, blackberry and black currant aromatics, with a hint of sweet tomato.

Taking inspiration from their family, Walter Paul Mathagu, the farm's owner, explained to me, he and his wife named the farm by combining the first two letters from three words: his name, Mathagu, as the father; Muthoni, his wife's maiden name, as mother; and toto, meaning child or children in Swahili: thus Mamuto. Mr. and Mrs. Mathagu have six children - three boys, three girls
Farmer: Walter Paul and Muthoni Mathagu
Region: Kirinyaga
Altitude: 5,000 ft.
Rainfall: Low to moderate+
Soil: Volcanic loam
Arabica variety: Bourbon Sl 28 and SL 34
Size of Farm: 21 acres total; 13 acres of coffee
Roast: Full Flavor

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Featured Espresso: Matalapa

Spotted at: Crema Coffee Co. (53 Bloor St. E)
Mon-Fri: 7am-8pm
Sat: 8am-8pm
Sun: 9am-6pm
Featured: Matalapa North Italian Style Espresso Roast 
                (Single Origin - El Salvador)
Roaster: George Howell's Terroir Coffee
Located: Acton, Mass.

Verdict:  Initial tastes had a smooth buttery orange swirl, with light toasted/burnt marshmallow flavour similar to Greg's Ice Cream. As you take more sips, there is a delightful acidity that tastes cocoa to round out the flavours.

This will be in the hopper until they run out of beans, so come in now for a limited run.

Straight from Terroir Coffee's website:

Layered orange-blossom honey, hint of jasmine and a creamy dark caramel finish. Matalpa’s soft acidity is ideal for a light espresso, providing great sweetness with buttery body.

Matalapa is a fourth generation 190 acre farm at 4,100 feet above sea level. It was founded in the late 1800's by Fidelia Lima, great grandmother of the current owner, Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz. She maintains 14 acres of virgin tropical forest and keeps her coffee plants shaded with over 40 varieties of shades trees. Terroir has been following this farm for several years now and have been very impressed with each year's improvements since winning in the 2003 El Salvador Cup of Excellence. The crop is very impressive for its sweetness and buttery body.

If you've tried this roast - let me know your thoughts.

SF: Espresso Adventure

On my travels around the world, there are many cities where cafe culture is ingrained into society, and some where it virtually does not exist. Luckily on a recent trip to San Fransicso and the Bay Area, there was going to be an Espresso Adventure in the works. The West coast is way ahead of the game!

Rules of the Game:
1) Visit 3 locations and must-see land-marks in SF.
2) Try to maximize tourist time while keeping local.
3) Enjoy a double Espresso at each location.

Prior to the Espresso Adventure: SF Edition, preliminary research was done thru Coffee Ratings an extense website showcasing ratings of the top cafes, organized by area.
Using the landmarks around SF, it made it simplier to discover cafes based on proximity.

Hollow Cafe
Address: 1435 Irving Street @ 16th Avenue
Neighbourhood: Golden Gate Park
Beans: Sweet Tooth - Ritual Coffee

Why this location?
It was one of the highest rating cafe closest to Golden Gate Park, where we'd be venturing to the De Young Museum, and we needed to start our day off right.

Verdict: One of the sweetest single-origin espresso, I've ever tasted. Hints of manadrain, lime, and coconut. With a pleasureable cocoa finish. Unlike any Coloumbian bean I've ever tasted before.

Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
Address: 315 Linden Street
Neighbourhood: Hayes Valley
Beans: Own Blend - Hayes Valley

Why this location?
Rated the top location in the SF Area, it would have been a shame to skip out. We arrived from Golden Gate Park and made a pit stop thru Hayes Valley - choosing the Kiosk location. After shopping at a couple of boutiques one of the sales rep told us that Blue Bottle would be closed, due to recent construction in the alleyway.... We had to check it out in person... even if it was closed
Verdict: Lucky day! It pretty much looked like they were operating out of someones garage. Not only is the location quite hidden, but it's mainly a take-out location, with espresso the only thing available to stand-in. A More chocolately version of smooth espresso, the small hints of smoke and balanced acid. Couldn't compare other locations, only the Ritual beans

 Swan - Oyster Bar
Address: 1435 Irving Street @ 16th Avenue
Neighbourhood: Nob Hill
Beans: Not quite -- but 3 different fresh oysters!
Why this location?
HELLO! How can you leave SF without doing Oysters... not wanting to go to the touristy Pier 39, Decided this would be a great pit stop on the trolley ride heading over to Chinatown and Lombard Street. Who knew SF was sooo HILLY......

Lombard Street - Must visit while in SF, Trolleys - plants, cars with video cameras!

Epicenter Cafe
Address: 764 Harrison Street
Neighbourhood: SOMA

Why this location?
Having a ride on Trolleys is fun, but we still needed to fit in SFMoMA, no trip without SFMoMA would be complete. After Market Street going retail shopping, our stomachs were hungry, and we need a boost.

Verdict: Decent shot of espresso, with chocolate being prodominant. Hints of cherry pulp, but overall similar to 49th Epic. Overall it was Balanced.

Ritual Coffee Roasters
Address: 1026 Valencia Street (Between 21st and 22nd)
Neighbourhood: SOMA
Beans: Sweet Tooth, and Double Rainbow (seasonal) 

Why this location?
Having capped off SF Espresso Adventure with the minimum requirement, I couldn't get my mind off of the shot produced at Hollow. There was only one way to find out -- head over to Mission on Bus 16. Solo trek over, to find out that Cafe are open beyond 7pm!!! How refreshing, but it didn't help that bike shops were closed... oh well!
Literally amazed by the selection of beans that they had for sale.
 Since I had already tried the Sweet Tooth, I opted for the seasonal Espresso -- Double Rainbow

Verdict: Seasonal Blend of Guatemala, Costa Rican, and Kenyan. possess a beautifully balanced sweetness and brightness, while adding a full, lush body. Tasted silky while maintaining a sweetness with layered fruit and complexity as the shot was consumed. Also transforming once it hit my mouth.

Another Successful Espresso Adventure! It would have been a WAY better Tourist day had the 5 Train come to take me up to Coit Tower... unfortunately tonight wasn't happening as waiting for an hour was beyond the MAX I'd wait for the TTC. I should have just walked the 2km. But how would I get back over to Berkeley....

NEXT TIME: Four Barrel, Coffee Bar, and Frog Hollow Farm.

What do you think of my Espresso Adventure? Add comments below. Additions, Avoidences, Substitutions... what's your best espresso place that you visited in SF.

Monday, November 29, 2010

First Experience: Sam James Coffee Pocket

 Sam James Coffee Pocket
Address: 688a Bloor Street West
Neighbourhood: Koreatown/Christie Pits

It's here! Sam James opened the doors to Coffee Pocket on Saturday to a good crowd of people that helped to celebrate the launch of the second location for famed barista. Located on Bloor Street West and Clinton Street, it's in  good company with Tacos, and Korean Food joints. Not too far from the original location, it's still great to find a no-nonsense to the point espresso bar.
They do not serve DECAF, so be forewarned, but they have teas.
Pulling only a limited menu selection of traditional drinks, it's easy to see how this shop can be 1-person operational machine.
On this chilly Sunday morning, as you open the door the sudden warmth instantly makes you feel at home. You're greeted by plants and hanging light bulbs as you take two more steps, and a massive art installation of a VOID cheque hanging on the western wall. The attention to detail is something that was not missed as the prepared for the opening weekend. Installing new machines and the single grinder, it's no surprise that this used to be a store front for a cellular shop, the old sign is currently still up, and gives it that charm and evidence of what could have operated here. Beige wooden panels and white walls stare as you contemplate a double espresso or Cappuccino.
Machine: La Marzocco GB5 (2 Group)
Grinder-Doser: Mazzer Robuar
Turnover: Unknown (but will be popular)
Beans: Espressone Toi Moi et Cafe (MTL)
Description:  roasted north Italian style, heavy body and long on the palate, pleasant acidity, sweet and chocolaty aftertaste.
Music: N/A
Seating: Standing room only! Fits ~7
NOTE: Only Espresso for here, everything else is in take-out cups.

Sam James will be here more often, to suss out the situation of Bloor West and say hi to the new faces.

Verdict: Pleasant palette experience of balanced acidity and sweetness. Pronounced cherry hints, with the typical chocolate smoothness.Same beans they use at the Coffee Bar, but definitely tasted sweeter.

Having a brief discussion with James, he attributes this to 2 things, NEW Machine, and fresh burrs (Grinder).

Love the concept, love the space.
Another winner for Toronto's Indie Coffee Scene

Friday, November 26, 2010

Opening Soon: Coffee Pocket

Sam James Coffee Pocket
Address: 688a Bloor Street West (Bloor W/ Clinton)
Neighbourhood: Koreatown, Christie Pits
(website , @ 297Harbord)

Sam James is opening a second location!
This Saturday at 9am he will open the door to another "hole in the wall" walk-in, walk-out location. This time focusing on mainly espresso type drinks.
The cafe "deprived" strip on Bloor West will be a welcome edition, and with their main focus becoming take-out drinks, this will be exciting for Sam James and his crew. Foot traffic, Good Eats, and well-crafted espresso means that the locals will now be torn as to which location to visit.
Keep it posted for interior photos.

Yes... Sexy Bikes, Painted murals on street planters and Coffee Pocket means more cold rides into the winter months.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First Experience: sense appeal

Address: 96 Spadina Avenue, Suite 101
               (just south of Adelaide on the west side)
Neighbourhood: Fashion District
(website, @senseappeal)

Co-owners Peter Adamo, and Rob Rota have turned this normal condo store front into a coffee laboratory where they conduct the most delicious experiments in Toronto. They make their trek into the core of the downtown from their local roasters (north of King City) to influence and infuse knowledge about their blends to the suspecting clientele of King and Queen West. It's working, and many are coming in droves to be apart of this magical experience.
In addition, they've teamed up with Sameer Mohamed to head up their Coffee Program. He has worked with Toi, Moi & Cafe, in MTL for the past 5 years before landing in Toronto.His passion shows through the attention and detail he brings to each and ever crafted drink.
Teaming up with Peter only made sense, since he understands the science behind pairing great food with drinks. His background as a sommelier, allows Peter to shine through the complexity of their roasts. This pairing will only become stronger as they establish themselves with the tough Toronto crowd.

: espresso workhorse Dalla Corte Evolution.
Doser: Malkonig K30 Twin and Sing
Turnover: Medium
Beans: Oa, Bh, M --> Own Roasts available in the shop.
Music:Electr-funk, trance upbeat on this morning.o
Seating: a small bar with 5 seats, enough standing room for 10.

Sameer really knows his coffee and his machine, and there is no doubt as to why this is the guy who runs the coffee program. He was kind enough to explain the amazing qualities of the best espresso machine on the market. The capability of hooking up technology to track the temperature gauges, broiler sets, and consistency of the shots was something I've never seen before. Along with this, the machine keeps constant 9.8 Bars of pressure. Not limited to just the broiler groups, but when the steam wand was in use, it typically drops its pressure, but what happened next, I was not prepared for at all; the needle started to climb back up to 1.2 Bars.... My eyes became wide at the endless capabilities of the Dalla Corte's gradual  rise in pressure from the steam wand.. Incredible.

Espresso Testing - do not forget to stir to have an even emlusion of flavours and not just separated layers. It will taste better if stirred.

Bh - Bambibto Estates, harrar Boldgrain
50/50; Panama, Ethiopian
Pulled for 23 seconds
Description: balanced acidity, creamy-mouth feel. notes of blueberry, caramelized finish
VERDICT:  very smooth, velvety rich. The blueberry notes from the Ethiopian were evident on the second half.

Oa - Poteira da Onca, Santo Antonio
Brazilian cerrado
Pulled for 26 seconds
Description: mellow acidity; rich, viscous body, elements of dark chocolate, amaretto
VERDICT: a huge nutty tones, and herbal background rounds out the middle, while the end finishes with delectable cocoa.
M - Competition Brew (Single estate from Australia)
*takes 2 weeks to rest, before it can be brewed*

Pulled for 28 seconds
Description: Luscious richness, amazing marmalade zest.

VERDICT: citrus tendencies, balance acidity, not for the inexperienced bean-heads. Frontal Palette was very rich in flavours, and a smooth evolution to delicious marmalade sweetness.
(Reminded me of the Sweet Tooth-Colombian from Ritual)

On my visit, fellow celebrity barista Sam James came in and got Sameer to pull 2 capps. You could tell that the indie coffee scene is very friendly and they just love to share the knowledge.

Will be back! and it's not a far walk from Queen West during those holiday shopping escapades.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

First Experience: Capital Espresso and Pastries's

Capital Espresso and Pastries's
(formerly operating out of Blondies' across the street)
Address: 1349 Queen St. W. (corner of Dunn Ave.)
Neighbourhood: Parkdale
contact: (Facebook, Twitter: @capitalspro)

CAPITAL Espresso doesn't really need an introduction if you're a local. It's just Blondie's Espresso crew moving further west and across the street. Co-owners, Alex, Damian and Maggie did reno's, put in new furniture, and slapped on a carefully selected logo. They've taken over the former space of VICE magazines office, and they've done well with their initial set-up, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The wooden floors and big comfy coaches remind me of visiting my friends' livingroom/space down the street on Cowan Ave. With full backed benches and small tables it creates space for multi-purpose workstations. Along with a long bar ideal for cuppings, but the added bonus are the hooks located under the bar. Keeps your bag dry and off of the ground. This is a huge plus, during the slushy winter months.

On my visit earlier this week I was greeted by some familiar faces from Mercury Espresso. Having to do a double-take, it was friendly to see some east-enders travelling to take in the new digs - shout outs were made on twitter - but who uses that....

With the large windows all around the store front, I really hope they've insulated themselves well for the upcoming winter months, as we all know those hydro bills are off the charts. My concern was quickly negated as the number of bodies in the cafe made up for warmth as virtually ever seat was taken except the back table. Parking ourselves back there, close to the wooden wall, I noticed their photo tribute to fixed gear bikes, and the many hooks for hanging out their roadies during their time at the cafe. I'd put up a photo of my sexy bike, and definitely bring it inside for warmth if this was my cafe. Respect on that! Is it me... or is there a growing trend of baristas and fixed/SS.
Machine: La Marzocco Linea
Doser: Mazzer
Turnover: Unknown - constant on this visit
Beans: Origins Coffee (5 Origin Blend)
           (From Vancouver's Gransville Island)
Music: indie rock! (almost CBC R3 like)
Disloyalty Card: YES (if they count as Blondie's)

Verdict: nice golden taste, with smooth body, and a hint of citrusy/acidity to linger on the tongue.
Cocoa, but not dark chocolate.
(didn't enjoy the barista rushing me to drink the shot, it sat for the duration of my trip to the back table.)