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.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

First Experience: THOR

Thor Espresso Bar
Address: 35 Bathurst Street
Neighbourhood: King West/Fashion District

ATTENTION: Bathurst and King area, you have someone to compete with Jimmy's Coffee, and they are GOOD.

This Scandinavian influenced espresso bar is definitely a jolt to the area. With crafted wood being used throughout the cafe, from their bar to their warped wood shelves, with a the viking mural designed by OCAD students. They've teamed up with new-kids-on-the-block Social Coffee and Tea Company to create their very own unique espresso blend. They did their homework and the female-dominated population craves for the rich velvety chocolate profile in their espresso drinks. Kudos to Steve and the team at Social, as they've come up with a great combo of flavours. Co-owner Tom Junek, indicates that as they become familiar with their clientele, they'll tweak their espresso to fit what the customers want. Now that's a great business model.
It's an espresso bar, and they kept it that way on purpose. Comfortably fitting 10 people with simple Herman Miller Eamed Modeled Plastic chairs, small tables and a carpetted ledges - good for small bums. But the focus should be at end of the cafe - a nicely designed bar that they hope to use for coffee cuppings down the road. This idea is not new, but is refreshing when they are keen to expose their clientle to other coffees/roasters/flavours and open up a discussion about coffee knowledge.

On this soft-opening, it was evident that they had more ideas for the upcoming weeks.

 They will always have their espresso on hand, and will be featuring another bean on a 2-week rotation.

Thor's Espresso - Blend of Panama, Ethopian, and Brazil.
"Our espresso blend will hit you like a hammer with its' citrusy Panamanian brightness, quickly easing you onto the fruits of Africa, before finally letting you off nice and easy with a sweet chocolate Brazillain finish."
Verdict: Balanced with small hints of citrus, but the sweet chocolate finish screams in your mouth for another sip. Great Crema was produced from the machine. 

Featured Espresso: Esmeralda Special - Geisha Naranjo from Panama (Jaramillo region) Single Origin
" Truly exceptional coffee. Intensely rich aromatic, with notes of floral, citrus, orange, berries, peach, fresh mint and lemongrass. Syrupy mouthfeel, sweet balanced acidity, long lingering aftertaste."
Verdict:  More of an intense flavour resonating from this shot. Fruity taste with berries,woody highlights.
The consistency of this shot is velvet with a lingering aftertaste of sweet acidity for the WIN.

 In addition, they were gracious to pull another drink: Cappucino.

  Using their signature beans, the smooth chocolate milk passed thru a more complex taste of buttery, almonds/walnuts/and cashews. The citrusy tones were mellowed and it was equivalent to biting into a KitKat bar. It was delicious.

Machine: Slayer Espresso Machine
Doser: Mazzer
Turnover: Unknown - NEW
Beans: Own Blend from Social Coffee and Tea Company
Music: Curated by The Ambitious C

Added Bonus: Pasteries are currently being maded fromCircles and Squares, with diversity from Desmond and Beatrice (TeAro, Rooster), and OMG bakers.
Eventually Junek and Patrick Tu would like to do in-house baking to showcase Swedish baked goods with more Gingerbread power!

Definitely worth a repeat visit!

1: Te Aro

Te Aro Roasted
Address: 983 Queen St East,
Neighbourhood: Leslieville

Using a the space of a former autobody repair shop, Kiwi import Andy does the on-site Small batch air roasting in their machine early in the mornings - 4am to be precise. YES I've seen it happen, and yes I was up that early, for those that know me well - know why. In the ever so saturated Leslieville espresso scene - with the likes of Mercury, Dark Horse, Tango Palace... it seems that Te Aro has done something unique and right. Roasting and brewing their own beans means that they have always have freshly roasted, carefully blended beans in stock, and with high demand to boot. It's also not surprising that this "roasters and cafe" have quickly made a name for itself within the cafe and resto scene signing up (Rooster).

In the photo to the left is the La Marzocco Linea, acting as a stand-in as they recently got something new and shiny to pull their shots with
Machine: La Marzocco GB5
Turnover: Heavy Traffic
Beans: Big Bro (Own Roast)
Music: typical
Indie Coffee Passport: YES

Again, just like CRAFTED - their second location in the west-end, they take espresso seriously. This means allowing the drinker to enjoy their espresso in one of the warm brown Italian hand-crafted cups and always served with a glass of sparkling water. This gesture always makes my heart smile, and gives me that comfort to appreciate their skills in developing the best double shot of espresso.

Even on separate occasions with different baristas, it's always the same high quality. Thumbs up! They also were awarded Krups Kup of Excellence for Toronto.

Along side the espresso - they serve a very mean Flat White, one of the best in Toronto with a very extensive list of espresso based drinks, along with daily brews, it's only fitting that Te Aro is making a name for itself in the neighbourhood, and attracting other Torontians to come and experience what the east end has to offer.

On their shelves they carry big names such as: Bodum, Hario (Japanese makers of coffee equipment) and their line-up of beans. Cups, equipment, beans - everything you need for being a home barista superstar.

Verdict: The Big Bro blend is very smooth, with hints of sweetness and equal parts acidity to round out the taste. Sip it, savour it, pound it back (watch out, it might be hot), all will satisfy the delectable experience that your taste receptors will scream for MORE!

Thank you Te Aro for opening my eyes to the potential of what an amazing shot of espresso can do to ones life. Inspiration to go on the quest for greatness.

Pick up your Indie Coffee Passport soon - $25 and access to one drink $5 at 24 locations.
Pure Brillance!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ALERT: Thor Espresso Bar opening

THOR Espresso Bar
35 Bathurst Street

Opening November 17th -- WEDNESDAY!
THOR is an independent espresso bar/cafe/cupping room/concept space located in the King West/Fashion District. Locally roasted, Scandinavian influenced, featuring T.O.'s first n only SLAYER machine!

Here is a video about the Slayer machine.

Slayer Espresso Machine Explained from Gary Schweikert on Vimeo.

Check back later this week for the Espresso Adventure crew's review

2: Crema Coffee

Crema Coffee Co.
Address: 3079 Dundas St W
Neighbourhood: The Junction
Tel: (416) 767-3131

After 2 years in the Junction, they decided to open a second shop in the core of downtown - SMART move as the Yonge/Bloor area really lacks good espresso. Let us focus on the main cafe, with many small tables for the chatty people of the West (High Park, Runneymede, Junction crew etc...) The cafe takes over the former space of a bank with a renovated inside containing wooden floors, and bright walls. In the cafe there are books, coffee equipment new and old (French Press, Aeropress) and official Crema's & 49th Parallel cup ware . Along with a  vast array of beans in Crema packaging! GOLD!
Trekking out to the Junction is definitely a must - they take their coffee seriously. By this I mean the literature available in the space all points to coffee lovers, professional barista books and anyone in the know will appreciate that they pull Vancouver roaster 49th Parallel - Epic Espresso.

In their other grinders are different roasts to compliment milk based drinks, this is what I call "attention to the individual coffee drinker". Along different roasts to compliment Caps, Lattes, or Americanos.. and another roast specifically for espresso is refreshing.

Machine:Synesso's flagship model, the Cyncra 
Doser: Mazzer
Turnover: Heavy Traffic
Beans: 49th Parallel - Epic Espresso

Music: indie hip, rock, and blues
Indie Coffee Passport: YES

Disloyalty Card: YES
 On this day as I was watching the barista - they were clearly trained to produce well crafted shots. He would have the same stance each and every time that he went to tamp the bottomless baskets - the best way to enjoy my double espresso. His technique didn't vary too much, which is the consistency that is needed at a heavy traffic espresso location. If it varies from barista to barista, then one will start to avoid it at certain hours if the barista on the bar is less skilled. But this is definitely not the case with Crema, they do coffee right. The training that is being passed on, is something I respect as an espresso lover. Being over in the junction is a rare sight - but the times I've gone over the last month, have created that sweet taste of Epic Espresso that I've come to enjoy Kudos.

Verdict: Sweetness rings thru this blend from 49th combining Honduras and the ever so popular  Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The current iteration of Epic, makes me smile when I can taste the sweet, juicy fruit tones dance on my tongue. While having that nice cocoa-ness that rings thru coffee beans.

Special Shout out to the Bloor St. E location with the amazing Mirage Triplet Idrocompresso.
MANUAL Machine for the win to watch it in action (click here)

Monday, November 15, 2010

3: Mercury Espresso

Mercury Espresso Bar
Address: 915 Queen Street East
Neighbourhood: Leslieville
Contact: 647 435 4779 email

Having open in the spring of 2006, they made this corner shine with their precise attention to details. It took a while to get used to the new layout having spent a long time with the huge mural of Toronto streets, corner couches and tables these recent renovations opens up the floor to a bigger space for this hip-east side hot spot. 
Currently there are more windows, a revamped espresso bar, and more small tables to conduct business meetings. There is a large art installation hung from the ceiling and a tribute to the old - with their old white sign hanging on the side wall. New coats of paints, and this new set-up gives it more of a professional look, than the old hangout joint.
The baristas and owners really try to connect with their customers, by knowing their roasters, products and machine. This relationship manifests itself into how they pull their shots.

They usually have Intelligenstia Black Cat Classic and a feature espresso on this visit it was Intelligenstia single origin Kenya Gichathanini

:Synesso's flagship model, the Cyncra
Doser: Mazzer
Turnover: Heavy Traffic
Beans: Intelligenstia Black Cat Espresso; 
Feature:Kenya Gichathaini - Single Origin
Music: indie hip, rock, and blues
Disloyalty Card: YES
Owners Matt and Doug strive to find quality beans while bringing new coffees, roasters and flavours that they find fascinating.
On this trip I had an opportunity to chat with Nolan about how he liked the amazing Synesso machine.
Individual temperature control of the 3 heads, means that the Synesso machine can handle three different beans. Nolan noted that the featured beans use 201 degrees while the other ones typically are pulled at 196/197 degrees.

Nice that they take care in keeping the temperature gauges monitored for the optimal temperature to create the best shot.

Verdict: Well balanced, citrus acidity, notes mandarin orange & grapefruit, spicy lingering finish.This brings me back to SF's Ritual Coffees' Sweet tooth (August edition). yum yum!
Great vibe for a cafe, but the love of espresso oozes once you step thru the curtains, and explore what they have in store.