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Eat & Drink

Crowd descends on Leslieville for espresso throwdown

Posted by Rick McGinnis / April 3, 2012

espresso throwdownTe Aro held its second annual Espresso Throwdown this past weekend, packing the cavernous main room of its Leslieville coffee house in aid of an appropriately coffee-themed charity. A tireless team of baristas volunteered their time to keep the crowd caffeinated with non-stop pulls of a selection of European-roasted beans, while Bellwoods brewery provided the (pale) ale and Fidel Gastro's set up their pop-up restaurant for the night.

Owners Andy and Jessie Wilkin decided to showcase beans from Europe, but with nothing from Italy, tasters might have found the shots being pulled at the bar to be outside the comfort zone of mass-market coffee here. As blended by roasters like Tim Wendelboe, Square Mile, St. Ali and Origin, the beans tended to be more lightly roasted, and the espresso was full of bright, acidic notes, with a long aftertaste.

baristas at workThe baristas were working full out the whole time I was there, with no let-up as the crowd thickened halfway through the evening, and the Wilkins estimated that they might go through all of the thousand recycled paper espresso cups they'd ordered for the night.

The crowd was enthusiastic, with a visible contingent of local "coffee pros," some of whom took up position with notebooks and cameras; coffee culture in the city has certainly developed wildly in the last decade, and Te Aro and the Wilkins have done their part, evangelizing for small growers and out-of-the-ordinary flavours and processes at their locations at Leslieville and on Ossington.

fidel gastroFidel Gastro's has been written about here before, but this was my first experience with Matthew Basile's "extremo sandwiches," which he and a single helper produced tirelessly from their spot by Te Aro's roaster, loudly greeting regulars and bellowing "Ole" all the while. Basile says that everyone asks him when he'll be opening a storefront location, but he says that he wants to stick with the catering/pop-up business model for now, mentioning in passing the possibility of a food truck.

Basile concentrated on three or four basic sandwiches all evening - crowd pleasers like cheese steak and buns filled with braised meats mixed with bright toppings like his "slawlsa." The rich Sloppy Jose with its tender beans was delicious, but his pork belly sandwich, the product of a night's slow cooking, was actually sublime.

moms drinking coffeeAndy Wilkin recalled that he encountered Coffee Kids, the charity set to benefit from the night, on his travels in Central America checking out small growers. Founded almost twenty-five years ago by an American coffee roaster, it works in coffee-producing communities to help build schools, sustain local food production and finance microcredit projects. It's a fine example of the kind of hands-on charity work that should thrive in the shadow of our burgeoning coffee culture, which can actually fill a coffee house with young singles and families on a Saturday night.

espresso cups



guy / April 3, 2012 at 09:38 am
Leave your children at home, yuppies.
Welshgrrl / April 3, 2012 at 09:50 am
Unattended children will be given espresso and a free kitten
back / April 3, 2012 at 10:10 am
I hear West Jet has some fancy kid promotion right now.

jibbly / April 3, 2012 at 10:52 am
Yeah! leave your kids out of engaging social situations where they're out of the house and becoming comfortable with groups of strangers.

Because letting television and the internet raise and give life experiences to the children of negligent parents has raised a generation of social darlings, right?
Ratpick replying to a comment from guy / April 3, 2012 at 11:12 am
"Leave your children at home, yuppies"

But bring your anthropomorphic doggies, right?
furcouch replying to a comment from jibbly / April 3, 2012 at 11:48 am
Serg / April 3, 2012 at 09:12 pm
Hoof Hearted?
Lville / April 3, 2012 at 11:23 pm
A great article on Te Aro, thanks. It was fun. Just a shame you have several brats who read it, likely didn't even attend and yet feel compelled to criticize those who did just because they took kids......."yuppies" - seriously??????
fast wishes guaranteed / April 29, 2012 at 03:25 pm
People only have children because they're delusional bastards who think they have genes worth propagating, or they want a cute little adorable munchkin to snuggle and dress up in pretty clothes gawww schnookums ayahadyh brain drenched in enfeebling hormones, or they're just careless. Nobody's allowed to have children any more!!!! HGLUHGLH RIP ME UP
fast squishes guaranteed / May 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm
^ She's right, you know!
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