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Cafes

Te Aro

Posted by Dar Mustafa / Posted on May 19, 2009

20090518_tearo_01.jpg"Te Aro," as it revealed itself through a Google-mapping, does not mean "I love you" in Spanish after all. Of course, I jest. But I also, upon my first couple of lazy reads, was positive that this hot, new café I was searching for was, in fact, called "...te amo?... or something?"

In actuality, the meaning was much further linguistically and geographically than I would have ever guessed, one that satisfied my desperate need for something exotic and balmy on this cold, Monday, "holiday" morning. Named after a New Zealand suburb, this spacious and spanking-new addition to the ever-changing face of Leslieville is modern and sleek yet comfortable , with a glorious patio space that is so sprawling it feels more like a parking lot (in a good way; such a good way), or at least a very big drive-way. Who can compete with that?

20090518_tearo_03.jpgWorking on everyone else's holiday, waking up at 6 am, and braving a five-degree-Celsius Victoria Day should be unbearable. And unbearable it all would be, if not treated as novelty and peppered with things like decadent, leisurely hour-plus meditations in joints like this. Strong Americano ($2) and an exceptionally moist maple and oat scone ($2.50) from Circles and Squares Bakery sustained me, body and soul (seriously), through the long morning that followed. Fresh sandwiches made possible by the usual, yummy, ethical and health-conscious suspects (Rowe farms, Fred's Bread), could have taken me into the afternoon with a ham and cheese croissant ($4.50), or BLT ($5.50), had I only let them.

Te AroA chalked greeting out front to "Come say hi! [we're new]" carries the promise below, in fine print, that the coffee is "fresh, air-roasted in Leslieville." The shelves inside boast pounds of eponymously-branded beans, bagged with the same cheerful aesthetic as the wall-painted descriptions of various blends, cutely named: "big-bro", "little-bro" and "easy-mate"(from strong espresso to Swiss water decaf, respectively).

Te Aro
Te AroThe friendly demeanor permeates everything, and little touches like a water pitcher and glasses, magazine collection, and a couple of prominently-placed high-chairs all strengthen this air of hospitality. Had duty not been calling, I would have pulled out the ol' laptop and stayed for hours. The steady flow of regulars, after a mere two weeks in business, seemed to feel similarly, and were a testament to the awesome rapport between the staff and their customers.

Te AroIn bonding with my server over our holiday work schedules, I asked how she felt about Toronto, moving here two years ago. "I love it!" she responded without hesitation and more enthusiastically than I've heard in ages. Damn right. The relative serenity of this day's streets, looming warmth after frost (it was the coffee, I tell ya), and a new face in a familiar landscape sent me off to work feeling similarly blessed: Te amo, Toronto. Te amo, Te Aro!

Discussion

46 Comments

Dawn / May 19, 2009 at 11:18 am
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My husband and I checked this place out on our day off Friday, I am so happy to have this new spot in the neighbourhood. The staff were so friendly & helpful, they recommended the chocolate banana muffin and it was so delicious. It was nice to sit outside and watch the people go by on Queen - great location and I love how they converted the garage into this neat space!
Gloria / May 19, 2009 at 02:29 pm
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It took me a surprisingly long time to remember what place this could be ... and I was really delighted when I recalled the garage on that side of Queen. What a clever change of that space. Can't wait to drop in next time I'm in the neighbourhood.
Adam / May 19, 2009 at 03:41 pm
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I'm jealous. Share the wealth, Leslieville! :)
Diana / May 19, 2009 at 04:07 pm
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Nothing can ever beat Tango. No matter how good it is.
Margaret Collinge / May 19, 2009 at 06:30 pm
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I'm pretty excited to know that next time I'm in Queen Street I'll be able to get coffee that's up to Wellington standards. My son lives in Toronto (Hi Ben!) and I'm sure he'll be haunting it.
Good luck from another Wellingtonian.
Amelia / May 19, 2009 at 10:37 pm
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Well done guys. Te Aro looks amazing, I wish I could drop in for a coffee, maybe next year. :o)
Blaine Pearson / May 20, 2009 at 12:06 am
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What a BEAUTIFUL looking place. The photos are so rich I can almost smell the coffee. I hope to visit the next time I'm in Leslieville.
Emma Cam / May 20, 2009 at 07:12 am
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Looks amazing.. Well done the NZ/Canada collective!
The place looks inviting and delicious (just like the coffee). I'll be sure to visit when I'm over that way
Oranjette5 / May 29, 2009 at 12:01 pm
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I moved to Leslieville 5 yrs ago and whenever I told people where I lived (in response to their question), the reaction was always a look of confusion. But 5 yrs later, people react with enthusiasm and dare I say envy! And it's precisely because of great places like this coffee shop!

FYI - there's a new coffee spot (very humble by comparison) that serves EXCELLENT espresso/based drinks and has free wifi on the north side of Gerrard E., at Redwood (one block east of Greenwood). No awards for interior design but it's cosier than Mercury and the people are much nicer...actually, they're nice period.
Arby / June 8, 2009 at 02:15 am
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Well, The above article was very... positive. It wasn't too critical - in a positive sense - however.

Firstly, I completely agree with much of what Dar said about this place. I not only find the folks here to be friendly and attentive, but very appropriately positive. I'm not convinced air roasting is the best way to go (but it's a very interesting method of roasting which I think is worth exploring). However, I'm convinced that running this sort of business the way these people are running theirs is the way to go. The roast master is intensely focussed on all aspects of his craft. He already knows how to air roast his beans, after finding them. But he's also keenly interested in feedback from his customers and, it seems, he's willing to experiment with his roasting profiles based on ideas he gets from that feedback. I don't know whether my feedback, specifically, influenced him, but he did tell me that he had been experimenting a bit when I let him know that I found his Americano and espresso to be, to my taste, improved from my last visit.

Te Aro is conveniently located for me, as I'm always on the Queen St streetcar coming from Coxwell further east. If I'm not off exploring some other, newly discovered, bean joint, and just want to relax and enjoy a good espresso or Americano, te aro is, amongst a few other spots I like, top of mind. I like to 'bar hop' actually. It's comfy in te aro and that has to do, in no small part, with the friendliness of the owners and staff.

Oh, And they don't hit you with overly foreground, on and off music. I guess I just happen to be lucky in that we have similar tastes (on) in music. But I think they also have some common sense about volume levels and how they affect customers' comfort level as well.
su / August 5, 2009 at 10:11 pm
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I love it here!!!!
everyone smiles together!
Gastronomic gastroenterologist / August 16, 2009 at 11:37 am
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Finally....coffee that is actually consistently good in Toronto
Gavin / August 29, 2009 at 04:03 pm
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No attitude at this new hot spot. Cool vibe, nice staff with none of that attitude you find at cafes on the same street. Poured a beautiful espresso, and then tried a macchiatto. Nice smooth chocolate taste, nice body.
M M / August 29, 2009 at 04:09 pm
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One of the baristas, Nicole, rocks. She makes an awesome espresso, and her cappuccino is the best in Toronto. Trust me, I've tried them all. She actually asked me questions about how I wanted my drink - finally, someone who knows what they are doing, and cares!
Jackie / September 5, 2009 at 03:57 pm
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I fell in love with this place about a month ago. The staff were friendly, engaging and in no way pretentious. The espresso I had was delicious with a thick golden crema on top. I will absolutely be back
Matthew / September 8, 2009 at 12:12 pm
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wow i must have gone on an off day. because the girl who served me was so unfriendly it actually made me laugh out loud. No hello, she just stared at me...
the coffee was good, but that unfortunately threw me off completely.
Becks / September 25, 2009 at 06:32 pm
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Amazing coffee, amazing food, great space.
Mr-Big / October 22, 2009 at 06:38 pm
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great coffee and great staff.
the espresso came great 4 out 5 tries.

good to have some good coffee without some noisy music and attitude like other joints.......

Andi / December 17, 2009 at 06:09 pm
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Wow. Don't come to this side of town too often, as I live on the other side of town where I frequent Crema.
Te Aro is roasting some very unique beans. I was recommended their Kenyan, and it was a seriously enjoyable cup. Light to medium roast and had some unique characteristics.
Finished up by having a chocolaty and full bodied espresso - I was so impressed. Can't believe we have a roaster in town up to this standard and it's still a hidden gem (or is it?)
Andi / December 17, 2009 at 07:20 pm
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Oh, and who is that hot girl that works there???
Sam / December 28, 2009 at 10:18 am
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Which one? There's a few. !
Mike / January 7, 2010 at 01:13 pm
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In my opinion the very best coffee in the city! I'm not a coffee connoisseur but in my opinion their coffee is perfectly roasted and prepared! And of course I second all the comments about the incredible service and vibe. Keep up the great work Te Aro!!
Laura / January 24, 2010 at 05:29 pm
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We were drawn in to Te aro on a rainy Sunday after lots of walking on Queen, it looked inviting and they served an awesome chic pea soup and chai lattes at a good price. Thumbs up!
Yan / February 5, 2010 at 04:24 pm
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Dropped by here the other day and was overwhelmed at just how good my espresso tasted. Why have I not been here before? I rarely write comments about coffee I drink, but in this case, it has to be mentioned. I don't live in the east end, but i will be back. And I will be recommending this place to all my fellow coffee geek friends. Te Aro, your espresso is truly amazing - great balance of flavours, full bodied, and like chocolate. Great finish.
scrim replying to a comment from Yan / February 13, 2010 at 09:41 pm
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I've dropped in several times to try the coffee, and each time I have been UNDERwhelmed by watery Americano, big bubbles in my cappucino. So are they better than Dark Horse Chinatown? Not in my view.
Drea replying to a comment from scrim / February 15, 2010 at 11:42 am
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Dropped by today as part of an espresso crawl. The espresso I had here, and at Mercury were by far superior than what I had at Dark Horse. My friend was in agreement. This was my first visit to Te Aro and I was very impressed. Not only with the decor, but the friendly staff, and most of all the quality of the coffee. The place had a great buzz going on as well.
andrew4515@GMAIL.COM / February 20, 2010 at 09:04 am
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anyone know if they gave free wifi?
GG replying to a comment from andrew4515@GMAIL.COM / February 22, 2010 at 08:42 pm
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Yes, they have free wifi. And amazing coffee.
Jeanie / March 1, 2010 at 03:25 pm
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Te Aro, you have the best coffee in the city, and you are truly pushing the standards UP! Your staff are great too, it seems like they are all one big happy family, and it gives your place such a cool atmosphere.
Allie / March 8, 2010 at 08:57 pm
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I LOVE THIS PLACE. I've just moved to the east side, and I was devastated to not have Manic down the road anymore. Te Aro, however, is the perfect replacement. The best coffee, coolest design, and such a comfy place to hang out. Love love love the vibe, and the best cappuccino I've had in the city! Outstanding.
Quinn / April 4, 2010 at 03:13 pm
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I live in the West end so don't usually get to do a east end espresso crawl. I didn't know too much about Te Aro and rarely write a review about a place, but I have to say that this is one of the best cafes in Toronto. First of all, they roast their own beans, and not on a small scale like some of the other local roasters. They are serious about it. You can tell by the quality. I love that they had little info cards in front of all their coffee too - this place is professional and the brand is very cool. Best espresso that I had in the East end by far. Full bodied, sweet and lingering. I will definitely make the trip across to Leslieville for these amazing beans - wish I could find Te Aro coffee in the West end!!!!!
Elie / April 5, 2010 at 11:41 am
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What do they put in their coffee? It's so good! The Americanos and flat whites are the best. Not to mention the staff. Coolest staff and coolest owners make this place one of the best in TO.
Ron Grimes / April 12, 2010 at 10:11 am
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Gotta get there. Surprised I haven't seen this place yet.
But, do they serve Vegemite sandwiches? Inquiring minds wanna know.
Greg / June 23, 2010 at 11:30 am
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Well, Te Aro is hit and miss if you ask me. I visit occasionaly, and aside from a soothing decor and average coffee, the staff is often pretentious and rude, and the music is in horrible taste (Rhianna on a saturday morning?) and way too Loud. Sandwiched between the superior Mercury and Tango Palace, Te Aro is merely a bronze medal in Leslieville.
Henry / June 23, 2010 at 08:00 pm
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Just moved in down the street, and this is my new fav. cafe in leslieville. Great coffee, music, staff.
Robbie / August 9, 2010 at 12:02 pm
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I live in Kingston, my wife and I love this cafe. We make it part of our monthly Toronto trips. Well worth a visit. In Kingston I support a cafe called Coffeeco, and this is on par to the high quality that I have begun to expect from coffee cafes. On a side note my newborn son visited the cafe last week. He seems like like it too.
Kandeezie / December 22, 2010 at 02:23 pm
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Best coffee in Toronto. Period.
Richard / February 17, 2011 at 09:08 pm
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The coffee at Te Aro is excellent, we love going there whenever in Leslieville. If you ever get the chance to visit New Zealand (where Te Aro's owners hail from) there are SO many cafes and spots to get coffee of equal quality to Te Aro. Thanks for coming to T.O. Te Aro
Mark / March 19, 2011 at 12:38 am
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Heh, I guess I'm the only one on here who was disappointed?
Frankly, I thought the baristas were a bit pretentious and the coffee was overpriced. All times I've been there I've been disappointed. I'd rather go to a place more laid-back and less conceited. The baristas were irritatingly arrogant.
Adrian / April 15, 2011 at 07:23 pm
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Totally disagree! The staff here are some of the least pretentious I've come across out of all the indie cafes in Toronto. They know their customers by name, always remember our drinks, and are genuinely great people. Love the atomosphere here - it is a real neighbourhood joint during the week, lots of film people, creative types, moms, etc. The coffee here is always the highest quality, and if you ever get a chance to talk to the owner or the roasters, you will be so impressed with their dedication to coffee.
Paul / May 11, 2011 at 07:07 pm
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They are pretentious tools though. I'll never go there again. When you order they just stare at you like you're an alien. Almost like they're looking down on you. The layout of the place is awful. Whoever thought of it should be shot. The place is always packed with soccer moms and their kids in strollers. Their coffee is meh. Definitely not worth the price of hanging around in such a lame place.
Shauntelle LeBlanc / July 15, 2011 at 05:50 pm
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My only beef with Te-aro is they close too early. I run a business two blocks from them and I'd love to go for a nice coffee after I close my shop (around 6pm), but they're closed by then. Sheesh...
Paul / January 21, 2012 at 09:53 pm
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It seems like it popped up over night.
and I still haven't gone, thought its right across the street.

Quicker than you can blink an eye out went the car garage and grease, in came the chi chi over over priced cappuccino and lattes with regulated hipsters and trendy condo types.

The area has gone to the dogs.


Annette / May 30, 2012 at 12:58 pm
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I was thrilled this morning to find a soy flat white that reminded me of the wonderful coffees I had enjoyed all over New Zealand. Perfectly made, perfectly presented. YAY!!!
Aron / July 4, 2013 at 07:30 am
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Rapidly becoming one of the leaders in Toronto's coffee scene. The coffee is EXCELLENT (very close to world-class) and their "cold-brew," while insanely overpriced ($4 for a very small glass cup) is the best iced coffee in the city.

That said, the attitude needs work. Let me give you a tip, as someone who has traveled three million miles drinking coffee and has published about coffee:

You are working in a coffee shop.

I know that's a lot to process, but bear with me. When someone visits the shop, they would like to see a bit of personality. Even, perhaps, some friendliness. This is coffee, not surgery. Relax. Be nice.
Len Knott / February 10, 2014 at 01:15 pm
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Have loved Te Aro since it opened, but lately been disappointed by the coffee. It seems they are now getting more coffee out of a pound of beans than before with the result the coffee is weaker, less enjoyable. Don't want to switch cafes but may if the coffee the great baristas pour does not improve.

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