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Cafes

Balzac's Coffee

Posted by Staff / Posted on April 16, 2006

Balzacs DistilleryBalzac's Coffee in the Distillery is a good place to curl up with the weekend paper over a coffee and energy cookie on the comfy chairs upstairs. When the weather is nice, there are plenty of outdoor options including an expanse of picnic tables on the south side of the building.

Discussion

34 Comments

Nonny / April 17, 2006 at 07:46 am
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I recall the days when "progressive" referred to real politics, not to bicycling and fad diets. Sigh.
anon / April 17, 2006 at 03:14 pm
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Sigh...we can't all be Dooney's. I thought progressive meant moving towards better conditions, better ideas, better methods. I'd say that a diet conscious shop is a start - transportation and diet have an awful lot to do with "real politics".
Hey / April 19, 2006 at 01:16 pm
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Wow, a coffee shop that has soy and chai. I've never heard of that before. I bet Starbucks would never do that, they're just so evil!

As for Dooney's, it is the absolute worst restaurant on its strip of Bloor. The service at the Brunny is light years ahead of the lackadaisical, coked up airheads that occassionally meander around to see if you're still there. I'm not a fan of message businesses, but the important thing to do is to excel at your business, then do politics. Doing the reverse is a bad idea, hence why they're doing all sorts of things to try to actually make money, rather than serve as a deficit laden haven for faux commies with million dollar real estate portfolios.
embracing a beginning / April 21, 2006 at 10:49 am
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Balzac's runs a coffee shop first and foremost. They also happen to buy/sell fair trade coffee beans as opposed to many chain shops who buy rotten reject beans, roast the hell out of them and hope no one notices. <br><br>

I don't understand where the argument is. A coffee shop that buys/sells fair trade beans, offers alternatives to dairy, is a haven for cyclists, etc - is more progressive than Tim Hortons or Starbucks anyday. <br><br>

Perhaps Balzac's is not Alternative Grounds... yet. But for goodness sakes, we need more businesses moving towards these ideas. Let's help them instead of being so negative and critical.<br><br>

Why so down on Blazac's - because of it's in the trendy distillery district?
Tim / April 23, 2006 at 10:05 pm
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Follow up - must give a shout-out for their croissants as well which they bring in fresh from Clafouti.
foodieboy / October 18, 2008 at 04:00 pm
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Overrated, taste like piss coffee.

Latte review: Crema was slightly disappointing. Too much milk. Integration of coffee and milk horrible - shows lack of skill with barista. Coffee blend lack depth and aroma.
foodieboy / October 18, 2008 at 04:01 pm
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However, this is still a step up for most cafes in Toronto
John / October 31, 2008 at 05:41 am
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Have you seen their roaster!!! Its like racing in today's F1 with a car from the 50s. Most people focus on the beans when the roasting equipment actually plays an equally important role in the quality of coffee you cup.
Rick / December 5, 2008 at 12:56 pm
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Balzac's coffee is horrible. Fantastic space, great owner but retched coffee.
whatever / December 13, 2008 at 01:50 pm
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the coffee is terrible. it tastes burnt. the tables are always filthy and the service is terrible. you can get a better cup of coffee with better service elsewhere in the city. it's only due to the location. and don't bother complaining to the management nor the owner because they both a bitter attitude like their coffee.
Sean / December 22, 2008 at 03:53 pm
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It looks like some people don't like Balzac's coffee. Simple solution: don't go there and don't buy and drink their coffee.

As for their coffee being burnt, awful, or whatever, such comments are OPINION. In my opinion, their coffee is fresh and tasty, and the roasters (each location has its own) are in fact new technology.

Having been a regular at the original Stratford location since its opening in 1996, I can attest that it is busy year round, with locals and tourists alike coming back time and time again.

Are you critics suggesting that we are wrong? By all means, enjoy your Starbucks (bitter and overpriced in MY opinion), Second Cup or Tim Hortons.

I'll stick with Balzac's.

Oh, and I've never found Diana to be anything but friendly and polite. Then again, I've never gone up to her and told her that her coffee's terrible and burnt.
Sean / December 22, 2008 at 04:15 pm
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Oh, and it would appear to be the case that the New York Times' food critic thinks it's not so bad:

http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/north-america/canada/ontario/toronto/attraction-detail.html?vid=1194774501800
replying to a comment from Rick / January 27, 2009 at 01:21 pm
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Someone know what theyre talking about here. Im sorry, but that coffee is horrible. Love the space though!
ben / February 27, 2009 at 07:59 pm
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I have been looking for the "hours of operation" everywhere. What time does it open??
cathycicek82 / April 13, 2009 at 01:13 am
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We went there for the first time and we simply loved the place. We thought that their coffee was delicious and the ambiance is so worth it. A definite stop at the district!
Bon / May 20, 2009 at 04:12 pm
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There coffee not memorable. Sorry and this is the coffee shop I usually go to when I am there but coffee or latte leaves no distinct impression.

However I love the interior there. I prefer the upstairs area way more chill with great seating a view. Cool place to just chill if your in Distillaries.

Service there although busy is not that bad.
Binkie / June 11, 2009 at 01:29 pm
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It's true, their coffee is awful.
it's true, their coffee is awesome.
Just depends on who you ask. That's the thing about personal taste - it's personal. Some people realize that and don't assume that everyone else has their tastes.
Personally, I love their coffee, and sometimes bring bags of it on visits to my home town to share with my friends, who also love it.
g. / July 4, 2009 at 09:25 am
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I can not say enough great things about Balzacs (both Stratford and Toronto locations). My ONLY comment remotely negative is that the lattes are served in tall glasses rather than mugs and at times it's just a wee bit too hot to carry - but I forget all about that when I take my first sip. One of thee best lattes in the city!
rob / November 16, 2009 at 05:32 pm
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For those who dislike Balzacs coffee, its great to see that Toronto has some people who know the difference.
For those who like it? You have obviously never had a good cup of coffee before.
Grabbing a good espresso, capp or latte etc in this city is not easy but once you find it you will never return to places like Balzacs.
ie.
Darkhorse 1&2
Lit
Bisogno
Manic
Sam James
If youre not too too picky you can also try the following which will still be leaps and bounds ahead of Balzac although sometimes inconsistent
Mercury
Crema

Aside from those shops, toronto has a serious problem producing good quality beverages. Hopefully this is something that those handful of shops can change.
As for Clafoutis croissants.... Pathetic!
On Progress / December 6, 2009 at 12:29 pm
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It takes more than wheat-free cookies and fair trade coffee to make a business "progressive". Progressive is both an objective comment, as in "Balzac's is progressive, because it only uses fair trade coffee." as well as a relative comment, "Balzac's is progressive compared to Tim Horton's, because it offers wheat-free products."

But whereas using fair trade coffee and offering wheat-free products used to be a milestone in progressive thinking, it is no longer unique, original or charting new territory. Many (most?) independent cafés use fair trade coffee and offer healthy products to cater to their customers' varied tastes, from lactose-free and soy milk to wheat and gluten-free pastries and organic or locally-inspired fare. To promote progress and expand progressive thinking, Balzac's would need to do more.

Moreover, why is any independent café that offers wheat-free cookies deemed progressive, while a multinational coffee chain that donates millions of dollars each year to help disadvantaged children labeled something less? If the proper calculus of whether a business is progressive or not takes into account the socially-beneficial actions of a business (use of fair trade coffee, support of community groups, etc.), less the socially-regressive aspects of a business (pollution, promotion of poor dietary choices, etc.), I doubt most indie cafés would qualify.
Clark_geoff77@yahoo.ca / January 24, 2010 at 10:37 pm
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Its not a great cup of coffee - but its a great space and thus a decent spot to enjoy a reasonable cup of coffee.
Jim M / March 22, 2010 at 12:41 pm
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Balzac's is a great coffee house and a nice alternative to other coffee houses in Toronto. I've been to both locations, Liberty Village and the Distillery District. Located in great, old buildings with a nice ambiance at both. If you don't like coffee you can find some of the best teas anywhere - Balzac's is the only place to find Mariage Frères teas. Try the French Breakfast tea. My partner loves the Farmer's Blend coffee.
monroe / August 11, 2010 at 10:50 pm
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Great place, great lattes,great service.Biscotti?????? Sweets ???? surely ownership can find great products out there!!!! get with it before i go somewhere else!
monroe / August 11, 2010 at 10:50 pm
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foood??? sweets????
monroe / August 11, 2010 at 10:51 pm
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Just making sure someone is listening?
Lisa / August 18, 2010 at 12:45 pm
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Well, if you are looking for biscotti,take a look at www.thebiscottishoppe.ca.
They are made with organic spelt flour, and most of their ingredients are either organic or natural.
I tried their Lemoncello biscotti......delicious!!!
Lisa / September 22, 2010 at 09:07 pm
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their coffee is terrible and the place always looks disorganized, messy and disgusting. the owner is a moody piece-of-work that doesn't know the meaning of customer service.
bigAl / June 4, 2011 at 12:28 am
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Aw. C'mon. Don't be so hard on the shop or the owner. Some food for thought: for all of you who are complaining about the owner, keep in mind that you play a part in the way you are treated/ comments are received. You choose how you will interact with others and the world. I have never had a problem having my comcerns heard there because i remiain kind, patient, and considerate. Perhaps try that next time. Good luck :)
Diana Olsen / August 4, 2011 at 07:09 pm
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Wow, thanks for those of you that have defended Balzac's and in particular me, the owner. I didn't realize that I came across as a "moody piece of work", but then again, I am human and have some bad days. If I have learned anything from these comments, and from my 25 years in this business, it is that coffee tastes are widely varied and totally subjective. For this reason, I can only put coffee and pastries out there that I personally love, because I know that it is impossible to please everyone. Evidently, many people have the same taste as me which is why we are still in business. So to all of you haters out there, why don't you find a coffee house, in this city where we have so many wonderful coffee companies, independent or chains, and write good things in support of their business. That seems to me a way better use of your time and energy. Or maybe switch to decaf...and chill out.
Just my thoughts!


Kevin Bonnici / September 7, 2011 at 09:20 am
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Balazac's is a pioneer in our neighborhood and I will always love their passion and dedication to their products. They have welcomed other businesses (including my own) to add to our neighborhood's diversity and with it comes a powerhouse of ambiance that is truly unique for Toronto.

There will always be people that try to crush our passion, this will never happen.

Long live Balzac's.

Kevin Bonnici
Owner, Caffe Furbo
Patty L / January 7, 2013 at 06:39 am
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Love the coffee, love the ambience. Especially when it's not totally packed. As someone who lives/works in the neighbourhood I've been going to Balzac's since it opened. Always treated well by staff even though they don't recognize me as a regular. Love the cookies too!
Andrew replying to a comment from Rick / May 29, 2013 at 05:47 pm
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I totally agree. Also, I demand organic and fair trade coffee at those premium prices.
NativeTorontonianAl / April 18, 2014 at 06:56 pm
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It's a beautiful Balzac's location, a beautiful and historic building with a great restoration and preservation job. It does have a problem with being too packed and crowded. This is normal with good cafes and eateries, but not when the packed state is prolonged and a hindrance. Balzac's at the Distillery is another of a growing list of places in Toronto that suffer from business without any point to it. You may think, we'll it's in a tourist area, but no, the people lounging there taking up tables for an eternity without much product purchased or even nothing at all, are younger adult LOCALS. I've seen a few times of people with tourist mode looks complete with maps and guidebooks being the ones turned off and leaving Balzac's moments after arriving.

Again, more proof that Toronto is really just a medium or larger town in nature, but one that was allowed to have uncontrolled population growth and how too many condos/housing has been allowed to be built here while not building new shopping/BIA/resource districts (no, outdated big box plazas don't count and don't cut it) and as we see, certainly not building and extending new transit and infrastructure. Too big a population for very little resources. That's why the few places and areas are crowded....nowhere to go.
Frances / July 27, 2014 at 10:51 pm
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I love Balzac's coffee. Simply wonderful!

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