Friday, October 29, 2010

Top 10 Cafes in Toronto

Recently one of the weekly free magazines did a write up of their top 10 favourite indie locations within the city. They narrowed done their list from 60 to a manageable 10. A great write-up and feature piece that was able to showcase the impact of quality espresso in Toronto.

Although I respect EYE as a local mag, I couldn’t help but create my own list using the following criteria: 

Drink:  Only double espresso!

Quality: The flavour, colour and texture were analyzed. Was it tasty? Palette approved

Barista Knowledge: How passionate were the staff, and were they willing to share that knowledge with the customer. Friendly?

: Music, customer base, and furniture were a huge impact for this list.
                (Note: Wifi, store size and funky washrooms were NOT taken into account)

The location and feel of the cafĂ© are a huge drawing attraction as a customer, but in the end it is all about the beans used. Within my top 10 there are the big name roasters: Chicago’s Intelligenstia and Vancouver’s 49th Parallel, along with local roasters.

My palette prefers tasting dark chocolate espresso that gives off an aroma of rich, strong flavours. The lingering that tickles the noise and perks your interest to discover what’s brewing is what draws me into a cafe. These sensory notes heighten the tasting of such a “simple” drink into an experience that highlights berry, nut and even wood.  Such complexity of these espresso blends or defined single-origins allow me to discover familiar taste (Black Cat) to the more adventurous limited edition beans.

Over the next couple of days you will find my most recent reviews of the Top 10 list. Along with backlogging some from earlier this year. Check back daily over the next 10 days to find out my top 10.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Manual Machines!

Crema Coffee Co.
Address: 53 Bloor Street East
(located inside of the Freshii)
Neighbourhood: Downtown

 It's hard to survive in cut-throat Toronto, but it's even more tactical when you are a cafe located right downtown. In heavy competition with brands like whorebuxs, and the likes, its seems that Crema's shared space with Freshii really works. On this lovely fall visit, I was initially coming to experience the 49th Parallel current edition of epic espresso - and the Manual machine of gods!!
What I also found was the clover machine, ad 3 pump manual machine and a vast array of pastries. There was typical Crema menu, plus a choice of 3 different single-origin choices for the clover. Competition as Bux has one up the street

Machine:Mirage Triplet Idrocompresso
Doser: Mazzer
Turnover: Heavy Take-out traffic
Beans: 49th Parallel - Epic Espresso
           (Honduras San Vicente, Organic Ethiopian  Yirgacheffe Koke)
Music: virgin radio
Indie Coffee Passport: YES
Disloyalty Card: YES 
Seating: There are tables on the inside and about 3 sets on the outside -- great in mild-to-hot weather.

Verdict: Balanced body, and a hit of frontal palette experience of smooth rich chocolate, and hits of fruity kick, possibly blueberry, pears.

He's actually owned a cafe out in Vancouver called Bump n Grind located at 916 Commerical Drive, but decided to sell it , and travel the world. Having dabbled in bike mechanics and working in cafes in his life, he decided to move to Toronto and experience the east.  Cool guy, knows this Mirage machine well, enjoys his craft, and "surprise, surprise" enjoy Fixed and SS bikes. A nice fella to have a chat with. He does hope to infuse his knowledge of coffee into every cup he produces.
His next major step will be to buy a boat and travel the seven seas. But he actually hopes to be the first person to compete in the WBC as a nation-less competitor. How COOL would that be?
Check him out at the Crema Location!

Espresso Adventures - Crema (Bloor) Edition from Cindy Shum on Vimeo.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gingerbeard Espresso

 Featured Espressos are popping up in Toronto. Shoppes are not only carrying their regular espresso beans but something more exotic, flavourful or single-origin in presence. The name of the game is experimenting. Those that want to try new flavours will enjoy the concept as it opens up the possiblity of trying different origins or blends while still attending their home coffee stand.

Case in point is Crema Coffee Co. (photo insert: Bloor Street East Location), had some Gingerbread Espresso from Geogre Howell Terroir Coffee on Monday, as they posted on their FB site that they were doing Sunday at the Junction location and Monday Downtown! I made a special trip to get a taste of this bean

This was taken from their website:
Gingerbread Espresso - Geogre Howell Coffee

Gingerbread Espresso

93 Points Blind Assessment: Simple, sweet and rich in the aroma; caramel with a hint of flowers. In the small cup deep, balanced, complex: peach-toned fruit, dark chocolate, orangy citrus, continued floral top notes. The flowers and chocolate in particular persist into a long finish. Dense mouthfeel.
My Verdict: Spicy hints of chili, deep cinnamon taste and dark chocolate screaming in my mouth. I did feel a "dense" taste.

Everyone has their own signature bean such as Intelligenstia Black Cat Espresso, 49th Parallel Epic Espresso, Te Aro Big Bro, Detour Punch Buggy and the list goes on and on. On the flip side,  some like to vary from time to time as is the case at places such as Green Beanry or Merchants of Green Bean. Both location promote own roasting or have an on-site micro batch roaster to roast the green beans on the spot. 

My only problem with this constant rotation is there is no "Normal" espresso shot. This bothers me , as you never know what the product will be.... and you are always hoping it turns out great. IF it doesn't... then it's the bean - and do you really want to gamble on that?

Most of the beans are usually great with milk, but I am one of those that goes into a shop and just gets the double espresso, so if it's sometihng that sounds great -- awesome! but usually at Green Beanry I'm left underwhelmed by what they roasted for the day...

Question: Do you like to see your favourite shoes everyday, or do you mix and match and hope it works with your outfit? At the end of the day, it's person preference where you get your daily brew.

    Downtown Cafe with a bustling presence of traffic along Bloor. 
What better way to spend a Monday Afternoon

Saturday, October 23, 2010

White Squrriel (Zombie Attackz)

On a lovely Saturday afternoon near Trinity Bellwoods, a park in the urban jungle, spring a cafe that is literally a whole in the wall with a small "upstairs" section. The seating arrangements consists of a T shaped table that seats 9 ppl comfortably and a bar wall that seats 6. Many of the patrons were on their laptops or chatting about the zombies in the park.

This shoppe has a lot of foot traffic capped off with a walk-up window situated on Queen West. They serve Espresso - own blend, local staples: Greg's Ice Cream and some sandwiches and pastries.

Drink: double Espresso
Cost: $2
Beans: White Squrriel - own blend
1/2 lbs. 8, Full lbs. 12.
Machine: double headed Elektra.
Dairy: Harmony organic

Verdict: Rich dark chocolate flavour with hints of something acidic.
Smell floral and tamed.

From the machine there was major crema at first, then a dark colour for the body formed leaving 1/4 inch of crema in the tall 3 oz. glass. High rotation of beans in the shop but there was a bit of something acidic on the back of the tongue that lingers.

At least the shop gives a great view of the east side of the park- it just so happened to be a zombie event today. A yearly events that brings its attendees up to Bloor Cinema for more fun!

Would I come back.... If I was in the area. But the constant foot traffic and spatial layout is more conducive to chatting than working. I'd choose Tampered Press up at Dundas across the park.

Upcoming posts: Review of my Top 10 - ib rebutal to Eye Weekly's post.
"innovation starts here..."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Manic Coffee mid day break

Rainy day in Toronto, which sets up a great time to hang about at a cafe.
What better way than heading down to the local shop of Manic!
This establishment opened its door in 2007 to the crux between the Annex and Little Italy. Flagship location to enjoy the sweet espresso of Intelligenstia. The location is conducive to many local budding artists, musicians and small business folk. You will find the typical design people with their macbook pros, handful of writers and many that just come to enjoy the atmosphere.

The ambient light and slow rock- chill music make a great location away from home.

Todays beans: Black Cat espresso. From Chicago-based roasters Intelligenstia
Drink: dble 'spro
Verdict: Chris the barista pulls constant shots on their La Marrozo.
Taste: rich Sweet citrus/berry tones with powerful chocolate finish which whooshes in your mouth.

Overall: a hang-out is a must and the Berry Muffins are great too. Proper review of the muffin to come soon as I'm preparing for many backlogs in posts
"innovation starts here..."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bloor West Village Gem

Here at the Espresso Adventures, we are on a current search for great espresso within Toronto, Canada

Location: Crema Coffee Co.
3079 Dundas Street West
(Dundas West and Quebec Ave)
Neighbourhood: The Junction
Tel: 416-767-3131
*Indie Coffee Passport= YES*
* The Disloyalty Card = YES*

Machine: TBD
Drink: double espresso
Bean: 49th Parallel - Epic Espresso

Verdict: rich chocolate with hints of floral sweetness.

Since 2008, Geoff and his team of highly trained baristas have made a name for themselves as the Cafe to go to in the Junction. Using the world renowned Vancouver beans gives it a selling point very similar to how Manic uses Intelligentsia. The amount of traffic in and out keeps the rotation of beans fresh and the turnover is high. Not only is the building beautiful, as its in an old bank building, but the open windows and the corner patio allows customers to really enjoy their drinks.

The huge selling point that was evident during our visit was the attention to details. They serves the double espresso shot with water- not sparkling... But at least there was a small amount of water to clear the palette of anything you were tasting. More of a discussion on that topic later.

Overall: Recommended by EA! Definitely worth the trip across town.
"innovation starts here..."

Monday, October 4, 2010


I'll leave you to ponder this.