Tuesday, September 1, 2015Sunny 27°C

Mercury Espresso Bar

Posted by Sarah Ratchford / Posted on September 3, 2013

Mercury Espresso TorontoMercury Espresso is a Leslieville staple that's never allowed itself to get distracted from its mission of providing great coffee made from socially responsible beans. Though it's been open for seven years now, not much has changed in that regard.

Mercury EspressoAside from the regular espressos and Americanos of the world, Mercury also makes some of the best specialty coffee drinks I've had in Toronto. By "specialty," I don't mean they include alcohol. That said, the Ice Break ($3.75), made with cold brew coffee, tastes exactly like a White Russian. The lovely barista told me this would be the case, but I didn't quite believe her.

My skepticism was ill-directed. The cold brew is mixed with cream, milk and vanilla flavouring and served over a bit of ice. I downed it in a few gulps; it's like a milkshake for adults.

Mercury EspressoWhat has changed at Mercury Espresso, however, is the cafe's ownership. Doug Tiller is now the sole owner. One of the original owners left two years ago to operate Manual Labour, a coffee truck that can often be seen making its rounds in the city, Hamilton and other parts of Southern Ontario.

Mercury EspressoTiller also owns Hitch, the Christopher Hitchens-themed bar down the street. He says it gets crazy juggling both, but his staff at both places make it doable. That, and his passion for good coffee clearly hasn't waned despite the distractions.

Mercury Espresso'We're just sticking to our initial plan, focusing on good coffee. Everything else is secondary." Their beans come from George Howell and Bows & Arrows, both of which provide direct trade coffee. So you can feel just a bit better about what's in your cup.

Mercury EspressoThanks to the New Listerine UltraClean for sponsoring our coffee-fueled adventures.

Photos by Jesse Milns



ianna / September 3, 2013 at 10:28 am
Listerine sponsored this visit? That's awesome.

Mercury's coffee is fabulous, but the staff here really, really need to get their heads out of the clouds. They're baristas, not rockstars.

I'll spend my money at Te Aro instead.
MAC replying to a comment from ianna / September 3, 2013 at 12:04 pm
I couldn't agree more. The attitude that comes from the staff is rather astounding. I'd rather go to Starbucks and drink their corporate swill than spend my hard earned money getting hipster attitude.
SJ / September 3, 2013 at 01:10 pm
yeah, great coffee. staff can ruin it though. most of the good barista's seem to have moved on. worst "rockstar" culprit is the guy in these pictures. he has greeted me as bro too much, relies on deep v's and the icing on the cake, a tiger tattoo on his chest. chill "bro".
Thomas / September 3, 2013 at 03:49 pm
I've been going to Mercury twice a day for several years now. I've tried Te Aro and buy their Big Bro beans for home but Mercury is still my favourite for americanos (my drink of choice) in the area. I've always had a positive vibe from both the baristas and the everyday customers. I've seen a lot of baristas come through the shop and admit I do miss staring at Nolan's beard but Mercury is still supported by their talented and fun-loving baristas.

If you want a great cup of coffee and a good place to hang out, look no further. If you have a personal issue with tattoos and funny/ridiculous stories to lighten the monday morning blues then you're welcome to head elsewhere. There's no need to throw anyone under the bus, bro.
Alice / September 3, 2013 at 05:23 pm
I agree about the, ahem, gentleman others have brought up as being a bit too much to handle early in the morning when maybe you don't want a side of annoying with your coffee. I walk past Mercury on my way to work and if I see him working I'll just go Starbucks, or if the guilt gets to me, Te Aro. Besides, there's more good looking guys working on their screenplays at Te Aro.
Sandman / September 4, 2013 at 06:04 pm
Wow?! Has it been 7 years already?
David / September 9, 2013 at 08:31 pm
Completely agree with the "rockstar" comment. I generally stopped going here because of it - hit once in a blue moon because its typically not that busy. When you religiously spend $3-$6 a day on americano's I expect friendlier service. I actually figured that the owner didn't care about making money cause the service has been like this for years.
Rico replying to a comment from ianna / September 12, 2013 at 12:00 pm
Don't be so sensitive. And if you are half as sensitive, then you should research what the staff at Te Aro did a couple years back. I will never step foot into that place. They should be ashamed of themselves.
j. / September 14, 2013 at 04:50 pm
Haters gonna hate.

p.s. Te Aro babes/brew dont compare.
BA / October 23, 2013 at 01:29 pm
I'm not from the neighbourhood but I've now gone twice both times I was close by and really enjoyed my Americano both times. I like the eclectic vibe and decor. The service was fast and friendly (albeit it was midday and not busy) and most importantly, the coffee was excellent.
damon / November 29, 2013 at 05:13 pm
BEST COFFEE JOINT IN THE EAST SIDE PERIOD. STAFF?! the BRO you dissed is not only the nicest dude but he rocks V's like nobody else so stop the hatin'. Seriously, you guys need to cheer up and get into the Mercury know how because this is sacred ground for some of us Leslievillains. Sounds like you guys need a hug with your coffee ;) ...the good news is this is also the friendliest neighborhood so hugs are bountiful and you shouldn't need to go too far for one!
Matt / November 30, 2013 at 10:32 am
This place is awful. Plenty of other options along Queen that aren't run by hipster snobs. Tried going there a few times to give it a fair chance but each time was greeted by an elitist, unfriendly hipster/rocker (and all 3 times I visited the whole place was a mess). No idea why anyone would go here more than once.
Solabusca / November 30, 2013 at 11:45 am
My go to coffee site in the East end, and in the city overall. The coffee is fantastic, the vibe is great, and the "hipster" baristas are fantastic people.

And Zion does rock a fantastic V-neck.
Vee / December 19, 2013 at 12:03 am
I always peeked in to see if Zion (the vee neck guy in the pictures) was in, and I'd just walk on if he was.

Don't judge Mercury solely based on this douche though... I adore the rest of the staff and the cozy atmostphere. I've met lots of lovely regulars here that are now dear friends. And the coffee is great!
Randy / January 19, 2014 at 01:31 pm
The washrooms here are a bit small for two people to comfortably commence that latter part of a date in, however the best time for a quick 'tete a tete' is not during the weekday morning rush (like in Tearo) but closer to the dining hours on the weekend. The coffee is pretty good and although the staff have personality, it still doesn't compare to the persuasive and robotic up-selling I unwillingly subject myself to from the Starbucks a stones' toss away. Should be open 24 hours a day.
George / January 19, 2014 at 03:28 pm

I just got back from working in the Caribbean and got to experience a different working culture, I feel that many of the negative comments come from people who are miserable and will always be miserable. I'd prefer to have someone with some personality and who's enjoying themselves serve me. You guys are buying coffee not getting finical advice, when you head to your office you can put on your serious cap. Service 10/10 Coffee 10/10.

Smile Amigos!
Krista / July 1, 2014 at 07:22 am
We buy our beans here weekly and beverages every now and again.
I don't understand all the negative comments towards the staff as I've never had a bad experience.
I've boycotted Tearo on the other hand for consistently rude/disinterested staff.
Mercury staff makes great coffee and is always interested in chatting about their bean selections on hand.
fehn / September 21, 2014 at 07:37 pm
The coffee at Mercury is just as amazing as any other fine espresso bar. I had dropped off my resume to be a barista there about two weeks ago. After the service I experienced tonight, I am absolutely ecstatic that I didn't end up working there. The contempt that was coming from the barista there was so disgusting. I was with my mother whom I don't get to see often and the way she was treated was beyond rude.I understand getting frustrated with customers as I have worked in the service industry for 6 years and one can get some nightmare costumers - this is why I try my hardest to be very kind when I am ordering in any establishment. To watch my mother be treated like that though.....that made me infuriated. I promise that I will never set foot in Mercury Espresso Bar ever again. What a shame, after just recently moving into this neighbourhood.
Khammer / September 22, 2014 at 03:08 pm
Stopped in last night before a long drive home with two others. All three of us ordered our drinks to go. Mine was a cortado. At no point did the barista mention they didn't serve cortado in to-go cups. So when my friends got their drinks to go and I didn't - this after he was paid and tipped - I politely asked for a to -go cup. He became hostile and said simply, "that's our smallest drink." I misunderstood this as meaning they didn't have a small enough to-go cup (though I could see them stacked behind him) so I offered very politely to pay for a to-go cup. He glared at me, and snapped, "Can't you drink it here? It will just take a few seconds." I don't chug my coffee, no matter how small, so I explained that I had a long drive ahead of me and would like it for that. He took a to-go and literally threw my cortado in it - it splashed over the sides. All three of us were stunned. On the way out, I actually heard him call me an "asshole". Outside, I thought better of it, turned around, and simply left the coffee on the counter saying that on principle, I was returning it to him because he was unbelievably rude. Today, I actually feel sorry for him; he has to wake up being that guy every day. The beauty of a big city like Toronto is that there are lots of others places you can get great coffee poured by passionate, knowledgeable people who don't let their zealotry get in the way of their decency.
Narima Singh / October 8, 2014 at 12:00 am
I went to Mercury with a Girlfriend of mine who was visiting from England and we both found the overall environment to be extremely stuffy and stuck up,the Guy that was making our espressos was very cocky and arrogant and was shamelessly flirting with my friend to the point of disgust,he was wearing a very tight and quite transparent shirt that showed off a large Tiger Tattoo and wouldn't stop chatting us up.My friend was extremely uncomfortable and looked at me with disbelief,this Guy was Blatantly flirting to the point of no return,and as a result it seemed we were waiting for an eternity,needless to say we will never go to Mercury ever again,this Guy was so sleazy and creepy.when you go somewhere to get an espresso the last thing you expect is some Narcissistic and Vain Bald headed Creep to hit on both you and your Girlfriend,talk about unprofessional ! Ladies be warned!!!!!
Jack De Kooning / October 28, 2014 at 03:50 pm
BEST COFFEE IN THE EAST END. No messing around. And the staff rules. Ladies be warned for real. Don't bring your sad boyfriend. Fire up a conversation, coffee, films, politics, whatever. No attitude unless given. The locals know, this shop takes pride in their brew. I'll say it again. BEST COFFEE NO QUESTION.
Maggie / November 20, 2014 at 10:13 am
This is hilarious. Who DOESN'T want to be served coffee by rockstars, especially when it is HANDS DOWN, THE BEST COFFEE IN THE CITY that you are being served ;)? In all seriousness, there is no way anyone one who works at Mercury would be unkind to an old lady, unless she ordered a skim latte which we all know should be punishable by slow death. Lighten up people!
Alex / June 16, 2015 at 07:38 pm
Congrats to Jack De Kooning & Maggie, for their skill in writing fiction. Their claims as to the even passable atmosphere of Mercury are Pulitzer-grade.

There's a bottom line to Mercury, and it's the management's asinine banter, and contempt for their own customers.

Everyone I know in Leslieville has a story about that Zion guy's crass mouth. This barista's loudly-projected and constant babble consists solely of his workout regime, and girls he thinks are hot (usually in earshot of his wife, who also works there). Although he will deviate from this formula to offer a snide comment about a customer who's just left.

My last visit here as a patron I overheard Zion calling short-haired women 'disgusting', completely oblivious to the several such women currently in the cafe.

That said, the espresso is pretty good! Just head in wearing a sensory-deprivation helmet and you're sure to enjoy yourself, bro.

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