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