Rachel's Coffee House
Rachel's Coffee House is a new independent (key word) cafe by a pair of longtime Toronto coffee veterans. Maria Chan and her husband, Jack, owned a Second Cup franchise in the Eaton Centre for more than a decade.
"Thirteen years," Maria says, as we take a seat in her new cafe. "The one near the Bay, that was us."
But after years of following franchise rules, Maria and her husband thought it was time to give it an independent go.
"We had a solid business and a good relationship with our customers," she says. "But we felt that there were too many limitations. Things that we wanted to do, we couldn't do."
Some of those things included sourcing beans from a local roastery, and serving only fair trade, organic coffee (now at Rachel's à la Mountain View Coffee). The couple also wanted to emphasize products made with natural ingredients with few, if any, preservatives.
"We didn't want to offer anything we wouldn't serve to Rachel," Maria says. The couple's daughter (also, of course, the cafe's namesake) is happily typing away at a laptop at a nearby table. Rachel's Coffee House is deceptively spacious with two areas of seating and a cozy front patio area. Maria says the space was vacant when they came across it, so they quickly decked it out with modern hanging lamps, upholstered chairs, and patterned wallpaper. Needless to say, it doesn't feel like Second Cup.
But the biggest differences, of course, lie in is offerings. There's a long list of espresso drinks with almond lattes ($3.60/$4.25) and other alternatives listed right on the menu. The shop also offers specialty blended drinks such as pina coladas (virgin, of course), strawberry mango smoothies, and vanilla creme drinks ($4.25). Maria also shows off the shop's collection of Tea Forte organic and fair trade teas, which can be ordered in the cafe ($2.75) or taken home.
But I'm a coffee drinker, of course, so I set my eyes on the La Marzocco machine and order an Americano ($2.25). Exploring the baked goods while I wait, Maria tells me they bake fresh croissants each morning in house, while sourcing most of the other goods from local businesses in the area (including an assortment of gluten-free eats).
My Americano comes piping hot with a bit of a fruity flavour, coating the tongue quite nicely and soon giving me the buzz I was hoping for. I can't remember the last time I had a coffee from Second Cup (and here's the part where I give the impression where I'm a coffee snob...), but I'm sure it was nothing like this.
Maria says she and her husband are thinking of adding in sandwiches in the future, along with a few new other ideas for their cafe. And no longer under franchisee rules, I suppose they can do that now.
Photos by Irina No