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Cafes

Coffee Tree

Posted by Dar Mustafa / Posted on July 21, 2009

Coffee Tree toronto"Coffee Tree," a friend of mine said. "It smells really good in there." Definitely a good sign. For the name of a place to jog such a specific area of memory, I knew it must really be something.

For many years, smell was the only thing that I liked about coffee, but I sure liked it a lot.
I looked forward to an indulgence of my senses, as well as hitting up the west end. It's where I live in my regular life, but not so much in my cafe life. Not lately, anyway.

Coffee TreeIt turns out that Coffee Tree sits on a kinda familiar corner, albeit one that is more so in much darker light. Had I walked by during their regular hours, I doubt I would have been able to bypass the stylish signage, wrought-iron patio furniture and antique brewing utensils in the window.

And my nose might have also picked up on something, of course, as my friend was definitely right. And apparently, we're not the only ones to have noticed this, as the fact is referenced to repeatedly on their website.

Coffee TreeWhat we all have to thank for these olfactory treats is the daily roasting of Coffee Tree's very vast bean selection in their small-batch roaster. Now, I've seen a lot of roasters around this town, but I think I like this one the best. When I look at it, I feel kind of like the pioneers must have (a mix of pride and admiration), cuz it's got that olde-tyme feel I'm so fond of.

Coffee TreeIt has three separate cylinders which apparently facilitates their penchant for mixing and matching flavors. Lined up all the way down a gigantic wall, are rows and rows of beans which can be purchased in bulk. Or if you prefer, dig around in a bin of still-green Sumatra (today, at least) to take it all a step further.

An almost equally epic selection of teas faces off across the way. An apothecary's wealth of jars is hard to pass up, because there's something to pique everyone's interest. Even an official tea non-drinker like myself was questioning my initial (coffee!) drink decision.

Coffee TreeThe shop has a lot to offer; a chilled but classy atmosphere (I think I saw 2 parties who were in some kind of business meetings), a wide selection drinks (organic and fair trade, of course) and baked goods, and "real" food items like sandwiches and wraps. Giant, doughy empanadas catch my hungry eyes, and "World's Best Carrot Cake" sounds and looks so promising it hurts.

Coffee Tree
Coffee TreeThe generously nut-encrusted surface certainly has the potential to back this claim up. However, I got a late start to my day, and though it's practically lunchtime for the rest of the world, my body only knows what it needs: coffee and a scone. I keep things simple, with a regular, medium roast which is crisp and not too strong (ie. the medium roast actually tasted so).

Coffee Tree
Coffee TreeI am left to explore the eclectic space, which also doubles as a gallery. I am also approached by a man who introduces himself as the artist whose paintings I'd just been staring at. Which was startling, in a compelling way.

Lorne Corley is the cafe's featured artist for July, and he confirms what I've heard around, that Coffee Tree is "Toronto's first independent roastery. I remember when they first opened up here."
"How long ago was that?"
"1988."
"Really??" Damn. 21 years; I feel kind of ashamed for having had no idea.

Coffee Tree
Coffee TreeIt's no wonder that this place has the appearance and efficiency of a well-oiled machine. In this time, they've also managed to amass a collection of interesting prints and knick-knacks, all reinforcing the worldly vibe of the place.

Offering coffees from all over the globe, it seems that they have saved a souvenir from everywhere. The decor reminds me of a well-travelled suitcase. Collaged in exotic stickers, it's comfortable and heartily lived-in.

Coffee TreeMy cranberry and apple scone is dense and crumbly, and even in the shape of a cookie, just to mix things up a bit. The staff are all quite busy, assembling lunch-rush sandwiches and attempting to get them to their rightful owners.

One or two are called out repeatedly, until it is revealed that those receiving are too distracted by the sun. That very one which hid out all weekend, and has now decided to come and drench their backyard patio. Time, naturally, stops.

Coffee TreeNot a bad way to spend a Monday morning.

Coffee Tree


Discussion

12 Comments

ME / July 22, 2009 at 11:08 am
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This place is so nice. Great staff. Small patio to people watch. Yummmy Coffee and baked goods. SIGH. This was my secret place and now ALLLLLLLLLL know.........rats:(
Marcus / July 22, 2009 at 11:24 am
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When I used to live around there (5 years ago or so) they used to roast beans to order. You could literally call them up, ask for a pound of your choice of bean roasted however you like it. Not sure if they still do it, but it was awesome.
tg / July 22, 2009 at 02:47 pm
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$40 for a cake is serious. you can go downtown and get a real chocolatier to make you one out of swiss chocolate for the same price.
ME / July 22, 2009 at 02:52 pm
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TG.......if you go to ANY cake store that is the going price.
And poop on you. This place is NOT snobby or shallow.
Good food. Good vibes. Perky coffee:)

THE END:)
boo boo / July 22, 2009 at 11:01 pm
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Wow! I am really glad this place was reviewed so soon (I requested blogto review it just a few days ago). This is the best cafe in the city. The staff are all very friendly, it's a great hang out (patio, deck in the back, and inside is very nice and relaxed), and the beverages and food are amazing. The coffee and tea both are incredible. I've been to so many of the cafes reviewed on this site, and Coffee Tree is the absolute best in both. I also got ground beans for mother's day for my mom, and any time we have company and my mother makes some, everyone comments on how good it is. The only place that compares in terms of quality of coffee that I've had so far in Toronto is Manic's clover coffee.
Arby / July 25, 2009 at 01:18 am
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When I visited the Coffee Tree a few months back, I was very impressed. As long as the owner isn't distracted with other concerns and the place continues to do coffee to the high standards they do, then I expect this shop will find favor with folks who really appreciate a good cup. I forget what I had, but I remember that it was very good. I believe I had an espresso and something drip. But I can't swear to that.

The value added thing is okay - if it works. Will trying to have a vast array of eats take away from focussing on the coffee?

I found the barista who pulled my shot - forget his name after all these months - was very friendly and just what a place that serves culinary coffee needs. If servers of fancy coffee are going to entice cusotmers into their shops, then they had better follow up with service that continues to engage and inform. Otherwise, The cusotmer will go away thinking, rightly, that he/she was subjected to the usual empty marketing of a product.

Bloor West, in my view, badly needs an upscale coffee shop like the Coffee Tree. Therefore, The locals are forunate to have one - so far.
Edith Prickly replying to a comment from Arby / July 28, 2009 at 12:23 pm
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The locals have been finding favour with the Coffee Tree for as long as I've lived in the area, which is going on 18 years. As they've survived the invasion of Second Cup, Starbucks and Timothy's (two of them!), they're obviously doing something right.
Arby / July 29, 2009 at 12:37 am
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Then I'm happy for the locals. And I'm happy for me, for should I find myself in the area again, it's good to know there's someplace there to get a real cup! Although I have no problem with Second Cup's drip coffee, especially the Continental Dark. The overly loud funky music, though, I can do without. Second Cups, like Starbucks stores, are offenders in that regard. But you get that just about everywhere. I don't remember what Coffee Tree was doing by way of tunes.
boo boo replying to a comment from Arby / July 31, 2009 at 03:46 pm
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Coffee Tree plays a lot of classic rock if I remember correctly. I know I've heard Springsteen on quite a bit whenever I've been in.
Andrea / August 5, 2009 at 10:53 am
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There was briefly second location in the Forest Hill Village in the 1990s but it closed in the late 90s. It was my second home for a couple of years in high school. In additional to visual art on the walls they featured live jazz performances every Saturday evening. Now that I've moved back to the vicinity I wish it was still there. Second Cup and Starbucks doesn't cut it. I want an indi coffee shop. Live jazz a bonus.
susan oppenheim / December 9, 2009 at 11:13 am
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When i was first opening my shop Java Mama- a small roastery across town in the annex and called folks for any help, support ,whatever I didn't get the reactions I had wanted. All except for Susan at Coffee Tree -she was terrific. I have still not gotten over there-but this family has earned the respect of the city for their excellence and their genuine camaraderie.
5andman / December 9, 2009 at 07:21 pm
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One of my favorite (little secrets) in Toronto ... I guess (secret), not anymore.

A great way to start my morning/day ... the smell of roasted beans as I approach the cafe.
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