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T.A.N. Coffee

Posted by Dar Mustafa / Posted on June 30, 2009

TAN CafeVisiting T.A.N cafe felt like re-uniting with an old MySpace friend, when I made my way over there last week. A few months back, I had helped Melissa hang pictures for her photography show, and got to know the place almost inappropriately well.

Just like those couple of times I stayed at my high school until 11 pm, there is something about being in a public establishment when the public is gone that feels kind of weirdly intimate and... intrepid.

TAN CafeEven more thrilling still was the shortbread that awaited me; shortbread which had been given as a reward for mounting frames. Shortbread for which my love was so intensely memorable, that a re-encounter with Chris behind the counter brought a spark of recognition to his face... "oh, right... you guys were really into the shortbread, weren't you?"

TAN Cafe"The shortbread" in question, would be that of World Class Bakers. The size of saucers, and bursting with cranberry (or chocolate, if you swing that way), I feel as though somebody has finally listened to my cookie dreams and made them flesh and blood (butter).

TAN CafeSimilarly bespoke, seem the delicious, raisin-free(!) and flaky-crusted butter tart that is provided by... you guessed it:
Circles and Squares Bakery. Man, those guys get around, and I'm not complaining.

TAN CafeThe list is rounded out with yet even more selection from Sweets of the Earth, who serve up some truly delicious-looking vegan goodies. The lure of the cashew cookie was enough to make my eye momentarily wander, until I remembered that my body runs on butter.

TAN Cafe
TAN CafeT.A.N. Coffee roasts their own beans on site, which are singularly-sourced and fairly-traded. They have a number of blends displayed on their shelves, and even some thematic garments & gear for sale. The "Expresso Junky" t-shirt wins extra hard for their creative spelling - the latter word adopting my (and William S. Burroughs'?) favourite.

TAN CafeAs I mentioned, the space also doubles as a gallery, whose very successful usage I have witnessed. It holds a surprising number of people, and has plenty of wall space; deep crimson wall space that sets a vibrant, dramatic field for a variety of art works.

Along with the TD Jazz Festival performances this past weekend, the website also lists various lectures and exhibits on its roster, often with an activist angle (a model which the aforementioned show certainly fit).

TAN Cafe
The super-comfy digs allow both the steady circulation of crowds, but also encourages those of us who wish to sit and percolate on an overcast Thursday. On benches with crushed velvet cushions, no less.

The cozy area in the back (a precursor to a lovely patio that I didn't know about/couldn't use anyway as 'twas raining) had stayed particularly vivid in my mind, being the focus of my previous visit's tasks. How psyched we were to find it unoccupied, this little private coffee den where our caffeine-riddled voices freely bounced off the walls.

TAN CafeWe savored our buttery treats for what seemed like hours in a kind of lovely, rare isolation that felt like home. Add to that the wood-paneled kitchen table (not unlike my mom's old one), and some very familiar-seeming dishware (not unlike the ones my great-aunt still has), and everything felt kinda frozen in time.

TAN CafeIt somehow seemed appropriate that in this sepia-tinged room was where I received a call telling me Michael Jackson had passed away.

How surreal to walk onto Queen Street and be bombarded by the news we'd been missing for the past couple of hours, coming from the mouth and car stereo of every passerby. I only mention this, T.A.N. Coffee, because to not do so would seem dishonest. Our ordinary afternoon took a sad turn, and became downright historical, but have no fear: our relationship is just that much stronger. And in this post-MJ world, I need your shortbread now more than ever.

TAN Cafe
TAN Cafe



Soren / June 30, 2009 at 11:25 am
TAN is Queen West's best kept secret. Their beans and baked goods are amazing, but even more delightful is Marilyn, the proprietor. Love this place!
Nicole / June 30, 2009 at 02:29 pm
Marilyn rocks!
This place is my daily coffee stop and my nightly shortbread/pecan square stop!
Jenninat0r / June 30, 2009 at 02:45 pm
Can't believe it took this long for BlogTO to hash up a review but I'm glad it's here. The owner is really generous and let me hang out on the couch everytime I was waiting out in the cold to meet my co-worker.

The coffee is unique (you actually taste the bean and not the overpowering roast here)... and they make a fine flat white! (For those who don't know what it is it's like a stronger latte with no foamtop.) ---hits the spot for those days I want a stronger, milkier coffee without the fancy foam/texture. Theyre also very generous with the coffee strength. Couldn't complain as a constantly fatigued cultural worker...
LMIH / June 30, 2009 at 02:49 pm
If only the CAMH zombies didn't have to stop and settle in front of the store.
parlour salon / June 30, 2009 at 03:50 pm
we are so happy that we are around the corner from t.a.n. With such a great social and eco practices we love to send our clients here for a fantastic bite and drink.
we love you guys!!

Sparky / June 30, 2009 at 04:38 pm
Best Americano in the city.
Biscotti / June 30, 2009 at 05:15 pm
Marilyn does run a great little shoppe. I've been going there since the day it opened. In fact I was just there this afternoon. She's really done a lot with that space, and she is a wunnerful hostess. Me luv her! So do yerself a flavour and check out her coffee spot next time you're in the Ossington area.
N.G. / June 30, 2009 at 07:30 pm
Wow, I wish I am there at the T.A.N. Coffee! The decor is so artistically done and one can appreciate the amount of time, effort and thought that must have gone in to give the place such an intimate atmosphere! I could easily spend a whole afternoon there just to thaw away! Cool!

Their coffee must be great being roasted on site and the confectionery is so mouth-watering....

Those of you nearby - you are so lucky! You are being fed physically, emotionally and all your five senses are well stimulated....
smiley / July 1, 2009 at 01:20 am
I've been to this coffee shop a number of times already and they always serve simple and tasty coffee. I'm not a coffee connoisseur and I don't know what they do to their coffee, but whenever I walk by this shop I feel this strong craving and urge for that ahhhh taste and I always get drawn in. The decor is also very unpretentious and I find it very comfortable, too.
Cath / July 1, 2009 at 03:35 am
You go Girl!
Will Scott / July 1, 2009 at 01:17 pm
This is a gem of a spot!

What sets it apart from so many other TO cafés is that they have the knowledge and confidence roast their own rather than slavishly following the crowd and buying in from 49th Parallel and Intelligentsia.

And this shows!

The baristas are excellent - Marilyn and Chris in particular - and effortlessly finish each drink off with a latte art flourish, even the macchiato. A rosetta and a heart are becoming quality kite marks and if you're not getting one at your usual café then maybe you should wonder why...?

TAN Coffee even has a back soak up some sunshine...and for those who still enjoy the simple pleasure of a coffee and a cigarette...!

Hunt this place out and support your local specialty roaster - you won't regret it.
Imperial Tattoo / July 1, 2009 at 02:33 pm
What can we say about TAN Coffee and Marilyn that hasn't already been said?!! Marilyn is always smiling and welcoming with a wise crack or two, their amazing fair trade coffee blows starbucks coffee out of the window, and there are delicious treats for everyone, including vegans!!! Imperial Tattoo does not go anywhere else, you shouldn't either!

We send clients there because we love this establishment and it's proprietor!!!!

PS: Handsome Rob is also a huge fan of their lemonade!!!!
adam / July 1, 2009 at 04:05 pm
best coffee in the city! bar none.
you will not be disappointed.
Jennie / July 2, 2009 at 09:57 am
After working on Ossington for almost 4 years, having Marilyn and TAN in the neighbourhood has helped create and foster a community like no other. Not only does she run a GREAT business with wonderful coffee and sweets, she's the go-to person for all things Ossington/Queen West. She knows everyone, and makes a concerted effort to introduce her clients to one another, furthering the community feel of the area. I'm moving to Montreal in September, but rest assured, every time I'm back in Toronto, you can find me at TAN!
Iced Coffee / July 2, 2009 at 03:37 pm
Marilyn knows her coffee! She strives to be the best and she is!!!
I own a shop on Ossington and feel very fortunate to have the best iced coffee in the city right around the corner!
TAN rocks!
smiley / August 17, 2009 at 02:25 am
Their iced tea was also very refreshing. It was an interesting blend of naturally sweet rooibos.
Pierre / September 27, 2009 at 08:11 pm
A MOST disappointing experience! When I arrived with my 12-year-old daughter this Sunday around 4h00, there was very little on offer by way of cakes and pastries and what there was looked stale. My daughter ordered a brownie, which she ended up not eating because it was, well, inedible. In fact, it was so hard that she could not even chew on it. As for me, I had the "fresh lemonade", which, in effect, involved half a glass of lemonade and half a glass of... tap water (at least, the waiter let it run a little...). The result was wholly predictable: a watery and tasteless concoction. Other than that, we had to cope with a group of 6 very loud and very unpleasant clients who appeared to assume that they owned the place, an assumption that the waiter did absolutely nothing to challenge. These people were so loud for so long that it did not make any sense that the waiter would not have asked them to tone things down a bit. All in all, as I said at the outset, a MOST disappointing experience. This was my first and very last visit to that cafe.
Ray / December 31, 2009 at 08:31 pm
@ Pierre...sorry hear that my should go again, and have some cashew cookies!
Paul / March 27, 2010 at 09:16 am
Unbelievable! Great espresso made from some of the best beans available. Marilyn’s care, warmth, and welcome permeate her entire café, and I will always be thankful for her generosity in teaching me about coffee—a very complex drink when you get to know all that is required to pull those perfect espressos. Marilyn, you’re a gem… T.A.N is Toronto’s finest café!
Dex / March 6, 2011 at 09:12 am
Having been addicted to Dark Horse for years I have found a little spot on my way to work at CAMH. Having been to most cafes in Toronto and having been very disapointed by the quality of coffee at times I found T.A.N coffee to be a pleasant suprise. The espresso was perfect, smooth, no bitterness, the barista was very nice and approachable, my milk was steamed perfect, so I didn't need to add sugar. and it was topped off with a well crafted tulip. My Monday mornings have just got better. Thanks T.A.N.!
Joel Richmond / July 12, 2011 at 03:44 pm
In the past, I have enjotyed the coffee and service at TAN, however this morning at 11:oo A.M. I ordered a coffee and went to add sugar and cream but the cream container was empty. I informed the owner of the cafe that a cream refill was in order and she returned to me and asked if milk was suitable as a replacement. I informed her that it was not acceptable and she replied to me that she had some spare cream in her refrigerator. When I poured the so-called cream I noticed that the combination was not coffee and cream but was coffee and milk. She continued to insist that her product was indeed cream. I have been drinking coffee for 45 years with sugar and cream. I know the difference between 5%, 10%,18%, and 35% cream as well as skim,1%, 2%, and homoginized milk. It angered me that I was lied to for a business exchange of $2.35.Before I reached my destination, I angrily discarded my coffee with milk in the garbage. You know lady, for $2.35, you have absolutely no class.
Brad Schmitt / December 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm
@Joel Richmond

Get over yourself. Nothing worse than a snobby coffee drinker. You bought a $2.35 cup of coffee. Not a Ferrari. I'll be checking out T.A.N. today!
Carmen / January 29, 2012 at 04:04 pm
White Coffee ($3.50) on a Sunday afternoon.

Served by a quiet but friendly barista. Arrived around 1PM and it was fairly quiet. It progressively got busier later but no where close to being overly noisy.

Cozy little café. For those who need power outlets - there's 2 (only one is near a table).
will / June 27, 2012 at 11:18 am
Hey java junkies and delectable debutantes....not sure about all those dreamy photo ops;seem to have slipped from a fairytale book as I was there recently and I assure u, I was wearing no rose-tinted glasses! Unless it's reno time, it looked nothing like the pics offered. BUT I SAY BUT, The service was better than most trendy joints I've tried, the server/barista was with awesome attitude, eager to help and without any hint of pretention in her voive. Selection of treats was varied and tempting.I had a great tasting red-eye only and I will surely return! THanks (T.A.N.)
Robin / April 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm
Found this little gem while waiting for the streetcar a few years ago. Great coffee no attitude and fab ginger cookies, you can taste the fresh ginger.

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