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Thor Espresso Bar

Posted by Carl Hiehn / Posted on November 23, 2010

Thor Espresso BarThor Espresso Bar pulled its inaugural shot for the public last Wednesday after a three-month-long construction delay. Rather than twiddle their anxious fingers, co-owners Patrick Tu and Tom Junek used the time to master their Slayer, a nifty espresso machine tweeted by Thor as the coolest espresso machine on the planet.

Thor Espresso BarIn brief, the machine has a a paddle that adjusts the water pressure from one to nine during an espresso pull. While most machines pull level nine throughout, the Slayer allows a barista to moisten the grinds allowing the beans to release more oils before pulling at the highest pressure. The result is an evidently more fragrant, robust shot.

"This specific machine is the 77th of its kind in the world," says Tu, "and the only one in Toronto."

Thor Espresso BarTo acquaint myself with what the Slayer has to offer, I order a single shot of Thor's house espresso ($2.25 per shot); a bright, clean and extremely aromatic shot. Although it didn't have the thick layer of crema I desire, the flavour is undeniable. But not all of the praise can be attributed to the machine as Thor's beans are an exceptional product on their own thanks to Richmond Hill-based roastery, Social Coffee and Tea Co. To appease Toronto's espresso mavens, Thor offers a changing featured single-origin espresso roast -- currently, Esmeralda Special Geisha ($4 per shot).

Next, I order a latte. Like the shot, the latte is an exceptional beverage with a beautiful Rosetta design poured into the thick layer of micro-foam ($3.75). Currently, there's no charge for specialty milks, however, if the cafe begins ordering organic soy milk there may be a $.25-$.50 cent charge says Junek.

Thor Espresso BarThor offers a selection of pastries from Circles and Squares as well as Desmond and Beatrice, and a panini press is already installed for a soon-to-be-available daily selection of sandwiches.

Thor Espresso BarIf the Slayer or the beans don't draw customers, Thor's Scandinavian-inspired cafe will. Thor embraces its modest cafe space by keeping the lobby open with floor-to-ceiling windows, bright lighting, white walls and a few Finnish chairs and stools. There is a funky light fixture by Dennis Lin, a reclaimed 18th century wood bar by SMASH and a huge brick mural of the thunder Deity himself by OCAD alumni Afo Grigoriev. Not to mention, a number of quirky bits and bobs are hidden around the cafe for patrons to discover for themselves.

Thor Espresso BarAlso of interest is Thor's collaboration with blogger The Ambitious C to create a daily playlist for the cafe that will be available on Thor's website. The cafe will host monthly cupping events. It has free WiFi and in warmer weather there is a Niagara St. patio.

Thor Espresso BarPhotos by Dennis Marciniak



The Switch / November 23, 2010 at 09:58 am
Tried their mocha the first day they opened - so good!
Coffeestork / November 23, 2010 at 01:26 pm
Carl - You say that "it didn't have the thick layer of crema I desire". I invite you to really try to understand this desire as it stems from misconception.

It is unfortunate that you and 95% of the population have a blanket perception that crema tastes good and is essential to a good espresso. I invite you to:

1) Next time you have an espresso, scoop the crema off the top with a spoon and taste it. I find that it tastes pretty bad. As does everyone who I've proposed this to. Some of them have had the same conceptions that you have.
2) Read and watch the materials:

After doing this, please let me know your thoughts on Crema.

Thanks - Coffeestork
mrspotato / November 23, 2010 at 02:23 pm
another pretentious cafe.
Gloria / November 23, 2010 at 02:36 pm
Screw pretentiousness -- that wood counter and mural are rad.
coffee whore / November 23, 2010 at 02:40 pm
yay!!! this place rocks!
freddie / November 23, 2010 at 02:45 pm
I live right around the corner and have been waiting for this place to open for months now since I first heard about it. Can't wait.
Coffeestork / November 23, 2010 at 03:30 pm
My helpful recommendation to Carl about crema was deleted. How come?
amanda / November 23, 2010 at 03:32 pm
That mural is so freaking good!
great article!
KJ / November 23, 2010 at 07:12 pm
Went there this week, and any fear of pretentious cafe vibes like "mrspotato" guessed at was quickly extinguished. The owners come off like sincere good dudes who were happy to explain what they were doing, and lacked that apron-wearing last-gen barista snob attitude. Def. going back.
mrquinner / November 23, 2010 at 08:46 pm
This place is fantastic! "Pretentious cafe" is grossly inaccurate. The owners are incredibly friendly and welcoming. I ordered a decaf cappuccino and the barista made me 3 capps with different pulls to try and perfect his decaf shot. Pretty awesome I'd say.

I've tried the regular capp as well and I would rank it very high in the city for deliciousness.

Look forward to that patio!
Tim replying to a comment from Coffeestork / November 23, 2010 at 08:54 pm
Your comment got caught up in our spam filter. It's now up. Thanks for your patience.
Espresso Adventures replying to a comment from Coffeestork / November 23, 2010 at 10:08 pm
Thank you Coffeestork for demystifying the notion that there needs to be THICK Crema to equal a delicious double espresso shot.

There are many locations in Toronto with desireable crema, but produce lackluster flavour profiles.
A shame that visuals trump taste.
Der Lattenreiter / November 24, 2010 at 12:21 am
1800th century wood? I must visit Thor Espresso Bar and witness this futuristic wood and have an Americano, while I'm there.
Carl Hiehn replying to a comment from Coffeestork / November 24, 2010 at 11:00 am
Thanks for the comment. I'm going to try your recommendation and see the difference for myself as I'd hate to perpetuate any misconceptions. Again, thanks for letting me know.
HHH / November 24, 2010 at 03:45 pm
Went there today, with a bit of hesitation, because of the "pretentious cafes" that recent open up in around this area. I was happy to say that this place is any thing but pretentious. the guys behind the bar draw a fine line between being serious about the coffee without all the mumble jumble crap that the other coffee place spews out. I also like that Patrick (one of the owner) simply asked me "how was your Americano?" then tentatively listened to my input, as opposed to the guys at Sense Appeal to asked me "Wasn't that the best Americano you've ever had?" which got a quick reply of "No." from me.
Sameer / November 24, 2010 at 10:06 pm
Good job guys!! great article. Get ready for a rush boys! its gonna get crazy!
Larry replying to a comment from Coffeestork / November 25, 2010 at 12:06 am
Yeah, it can taste pretty bad by itself. But it IS part of the process and the end product - it's just that it doesn't have to be thick, because that doesn't do anything in terms of the espresso as a whole.
mana / November 25, 2010 at 10:39 am
The coffee at this shop has about as much knowledge behind it as this blog. They both leave a horrible taste in my mouth, and anger me to my very soul. It's about time we had some legit credibility behind these reviews instead of having reviewers writing about subjects they have no knowledge about. Money shouldn't just be thrown into a cafe to make it good, or "third-wave", instead it should be built upon hard work, passion, and knowledge of coffee. I have two suggestions for this cafe: (1) Please, dear god, go work somewhere to see if you like coffee before you try and build a cash cow out of it, (2) start conforming to a standard shot-run time and volume-- they're made like that everywhere else for a reason.
The Switch replying to a comment from mana / November 28, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Go to the cafe and talk with Patrick about coffee - he's very knowledgeable. I don't know much about coffee but when I asked for his recommendation of something to try - he asked what I liked then made a couple recommendations explaining the flavours & whatnot.

I'm going back for sure.
Coffeestork / November 30, 2010 at 02:00 pm
Larry - here's a few extra tidbits that I thought might be useful about crema to clear up my previous comment:

1) There is no set way I like my crema, it all depends on the coffee that I am drinking.
2) The amount of crema produced is different between Arabica varietals as well as the region where it is grown. As a general rule, Central American coffees have less while Sumatran coffees have more. Of course, taste between the two is significantly different between origins. In this case the amount of crema is characterisitc of the bean, not a quality indicator.
3) There are 2 general types of coffee species: Arbaica and Robusta. Robusta beans generally produce more crema, but generally have harsh bitter and unpleasant tastes with few exceptions. They are often used in Italian or Italian-style blends. Luscious thick robusta crema usually has a bad tasting coffee underneath.
4) Fresher coffee produces more crema. So in some cases, excessive crema may indicate too fresh coffee, while lack of crema may indicate staleness.
5) By itself, I don't like the taste of crema. When I skim it off, I like the clarity in the cup, but find that it lacks in mouthfeel and body. When trying to figure out taste, skimming may be helpful. When drinking for pleasure, I like stirring in my crema. It's personal taste.

Mana - I disagree with many of your comments, and I would invite you to relax a little and not jump to conclusions before building up your own knowledge as your comments show some lack of understanding.

With the introduction of pressure profiling / variation, the extraction rate changes, therefore the extraction time must also change. Consider an extraction for 25 seconds at 9 Bar versus an extraction for 25 seconds at 3 bar. The guys at Thor understand this and pull shots with different extraction times from the standard 25 seconds because they use variable pressure. It's not a matter of being hip or not, it's a matter of understanding the capabilities of new machines.
Larry replying to a comment from Coffeestork / November 30, 2010 at 10:56 pm
I'm aware of the different species of coffee, thanks, and that crema varies between varietals (I do a considerable amount of blending myself) and that it's related to freshness. Your original comment about thickness is still valid and I'm not disputing it. I neither stir nor skim it and I don't value its thickness or taste over anything else, but it IS an integral part of the whole.

You may want to hold off on assuming that other people know nothing about coffee and are asking for a lecture - it's a little off-putting.
Coffeestork / December 1, 2010 at 12:47 pm
I apologize that my post came across as lecturing and know it all. My intent was to add to the conversation with a bit of information on crema since it was discussed, and as I read the comment, it is directed at you which it shouldn't be as you did not ask for any such information. Maybe it will come in handy for people with less knowledge.

On the subject of being part of the whole, I would be more liberal. When one makes chicken soup, the fat is usually skimmed off the top. WOuld you argue not to do this since it is part of the whole? Bottom line for me: do whatever tastes best personally.
Helena / December 16, 2010 at 03:41 am
Moc hezké!!!! Líbí se mi,že káva i voda je zde v hrníčku a ve skleničce....a celá kavárna vypadá útulně!!!!H.
Andy replying to a comment from Helena / December 16, 2010 at 11:33 pm
Zde Praha, Československé zahraniční vysílání!
Vincent Pollard / April 20, 2011 at 04:18 pm
The coffee is really good but the service is stupidly slow!
Ilovecoffee / May 21, 2011 at 12:04 am
Coffee: pretty good.
Service: excruciatingly slow.
In-shop seating: terribly uncomfortable!
live in the neighborhood / August 11, 2011 at 01:08 pm
Thor is cute little coffee shop in this wonderful neighborhood. However, the manager/owner, Patrick, has a pickle or something up his bum. Let go of the attitude! There are plenty of wonderful coffee shops in this hood and where I choose to go is often decided by customer experience.
impatient / December 14, 2011 at 12:38 pm
I have had their americano -- it's good. but if you're in a rush, or at least want prompt service, this isn't the place to get it!
kama / January 2, 2012 at 03:10 pm
the espresso/americano is the best I've ever had, but agree with 'live in the hood': owner is pretentious and does have an attitude towards customers and his staff alike. Although he does try to hide it when dealing with customers, I never feel comfortable in there. For superior service/experience, I go to Jimmy's around the corner. For a great tasting drink, I go to Thor.
mike / May 4, 2012 at 10:34 pm
I've been here about a dozen times and I think I've had enough. The coffee is very good and has a unique flavour, but that's not enough to make up for the pretentious staff and surly, grudging service.

When I'm getting more honest, friendly service from the drones at starbucks, you know you have a problem.
Will replying to a comment from mike / May 8, 2012 at 11:04 pm
I highly doubt Mike has been a dozen times. I live in the building and go daily. The staff are about the friendliest of any cafe in Toronto. Want pretentious? Go to Dark Horse or Mercury. Thor's staff is super friendly. I think the problem is with Mike's attitude.
Topher / June 22, 2012 at 09:37 pm
You can't go wrong with a Slayer and a good roast. The staff are really nice and really know their coffee. I will say the first time I went I felt a little awkward; get them talking about coffee, ask about the feature espresso and they're super nice dudes.

Awesome place, glad its on my walk to work now!
Mandy / June 24, 2012 at 11:48 pm
Watch out Thor, I'm in town and will be visiting tomorrow! Reserve a table for me! Woohoo! Love your caps!!! And I've heard lots about your Popsicle!!!! Cant wait!
Shana / April 2, 2013 at 04:11 pm
Hľadáte vhodné posilňovacie stroje ? Rotopedy, bežecké pásy, činky či steppery?
Ponúkame najlepšie posilnovacie stroje v prijateľnej cenovej relácii.
Pomoc s nákupom LiveActive / April 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm
Hľadáte vhodné posilnovacie stroje , Thor Espresso Bar
? Rotopedy, bežecké pásy, činky či steppery? Ponúkame najlepšie posilnovacie stroje , Thor Espresso Bar v prijateľnej cenovej relácii.
Ijustlovecoffee / June 20, 2013 at 01:40 pm
I took a quick read over the comments before walking over to Thor to get a feel for the Americano I was about to drink. I have to say that I completely disagree about the service! It was great, the girl at the counter didn't speak the best english but she was happy to assist me in picking what to eat for lunch. The coffee was GREAT, to me that is the most important thing when choosing what coffee shop to go to. I can't comment on consistency yet because this was my first time. The panini was also really good and I'm excited to try out the cookies they have.
Matt / August 9, 2013 at 07:53 pm
I'm a regular at Jimmy's around the corner but this placed knocked my socks off. All the more competition the better.
Dean Douglas / April 1, 2014 at 11:35 pm
I came by today on a friend's recommendation. The americano was perfect. Many until today either tasted a bit too watered down or too bitter. This one was smooth and aromatic right to the last drop. Almost like I was drinkung
Dean Douglas / April 1, 2014 at 11:40 pm
(Whoops! My finger hit the 'post comment' button by accident)...drinking a mug-sized espresso shot. Thor is unfortunately quite far from where I reside but that shall not deter me from future visits I hope. Very friendly service as well from the two ladies.

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