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Eat & Drink

Hale Coffee wants a piece of Toronto's roasting scene

Posted by Erinn Beth Langille / February 12, 2014

Hale CoffeeThere is a subtle cacophony in the Hale Coffee Co. headquarters. Khaldoun and Ramzi, two of the four business partners (missing are Adel and Khaled), are leading me through a typical roasting in their operation. Big burlap bags full of green beans sit in the corner, stacked bins of the roasted sit high on a shelf. Various coffee machines line the walls, and at the centre of the room is a table and chairs, the table full of trays of various bean types for me to sniff and try. My senses are piqued.

"Coffee roasting is a mix of the creative and the scientific," remarks Khal, as he pours a bucket of Ethiopian Harrar beans into the top of the Diedrich IR 2.5 machine. In the little window you can see the beans dancing round and round like customers at a Boxing Day sale. Over the whir of the machine, Khal takes readings, calling out numbers to Ramzi to later cross-reference with the computer data that runs straight from the roaster to a nearby Mac.

Soon aromas of light caramel and roasted chestnuts fill the room. They keep taking samples of the beans at various roasting times to test in a cupping tomorrow. For now, Hale Coffee only sells single origin beans - Ethiopian Harrar, Guatemalan Antigua, Costa Rican Tarrazu, Brazilian Cerrado, Colombian Supremo - though they are at work on custom blends.

Before they started up the roasting, we do a series of espresso shots. Using their La Marzocco machine Khal pulled a shot of their Guatemalan. It displayed a lovely tiger-skinned pattern crema, and tasted just as it should - sour notes at the first sip, but upon the second it opens up with balanced and rich chocolately notes.

He adjusted and ground another type of bean, this time the rare Yemeni. The Yemeni bean is one I've never tried. The near drought conditions, old seed stock and traditional harvesting and drying techniques results in smaller, tighter, uneven beans and the flavour is fruity and acidic.

Yemeni beans seem to me to be to coffee culture a loose equivalent of what Georgian orange wine is to oenology and viticulture. Due to (western) isolation and political instability, their products are steeped in history, retain a comparative unprocessed or rustic quality, and are hard to come by. They remind us of the roots.

After they roasting we share a final cup, this time a Costa Rican brewed in a Chemex. It's lighter, fruity and a little sour, a delicate finish to the day. We talk about the roots of their business. They all previously came from disparate careers (banking, sales etc.), but together got hooked onto the idea of coffee roasting as interest for local roasting grew in Toronto.

They saw a gap in the market, a need for fine roasted coffee distributed to mid-range businesses; bars, restaurants and coffee shops to be consumed on site or taken home as whole beans by customers who don't roast their own but care about a good cup. After some roasting and barista training, they began experimenting in October 2012.

What they lack in experience, they have ten-fold in enthusiasm. Khal and Ramzi stress Hale's interest in ethical beans, eschewing brand labels like fair trade, and highlight their business interest in coffee and food pairings.

The beans are done, tawny, bright smelling and just a little warm to the touch. Talk has switched to the future. Long-term plans involve a flagship storefront, but for now they roast and distribute to a number of Toronto locations. I like that their initial take on coffee has been focused and simple, but I am encouraged by their motto - "keep exploring" - it belies roots and wings. It also leaves them room to grow, and I believe, with their energy, they will.

Discussion

26 Comments

cathy / February 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm
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Best coffee in Toronto. So much love put into the beans, you can tell by the aroma and first sip
Yousef / February 12, 2014 at 01:12 pm
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I actually met the guys at the Gourmet Food and Wine show a while back, I think November 2013

They had the entire pavilion buzzing with energy and the whole arena just smelt of coffee. Followed the massive coffee sign (balloons) they had suspended and finished off my wine tasting with a macchiato that also came from a Marzzoco I believe.

One the nicest pulled shots I've had, they also complimented it with a chocolate (complimentary) that was incredible.

amazing
Christina Riolleta / February 12, 2014 at 01:16 pm
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No one takes care of their customers like these guys do, they go out of their way to provide that extra step that proves they care. Hands down, best upcoming coffee roaster!!
Husseini / February 12, 2014 at 02:08 pm
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I know the guys that work at Hale and had the pleasure of actually visiting their shoppe. Very warm and loving.

The coffee is terrific and I basically subscribed on a 6 month plan to get two pounds of coffee each month.

I even forget about it, wake up and see the Canada Post sign at my door telling me the coffee is here. Just Great
Michelle / February 12, 2014 at 02:49 pm
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I guess Toronto's best kept secret is coming out!
I tried Hale when I was in Toronto and I'm addicted! So happy I can have it delivered to Calgary
Rio / February 12, 2014 at 03:06 pm
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The enthusiasm and energy surrounding the Hale crew is irrefutable. The effort put in to deliver such a premium cup of coffee is evident in every step of the process.

I'ts a must have for all Torontonians
Shelly / February 12, 2014 at 04:37 pm
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I subscribed to Hale crew, it was the best thing that I ever done... freshly roasted coffee (and I mean FRESHLY) delivered to your doorstep

I met one of the roasters, Ramzi.... let's just say I couldn't focus at work the next week.
Great Coffee!! / February 12, 2014 at 05:40 pm
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I only just found out about Hale a couple of days ago! I visited Capitano's, and they had just gotten coffee. It was AMAZING. I don't know which one they had exactly, I think it was Columbian, but it tasted better than any coffee I've had in awhile!!! A+++ Will definitely be subscribing!
Mar1 / February 12, 2014 at 06:15 pm
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Passionate crew and excellent coffee to satisfy cravings of those of us who dare not drink Timz (or even Starbucks) in the name of coffee
Angelique P / February 12, 2014 at 08:54 pm
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I made an online order for 2 bags of Costa Rica and chose the option to have the coffee ground for a french press.

The team went ahead and sent me the coffee as whole beans. Along with it came a nice little handmill burr grinder FOR FREE

They emailed me and told me to appreciate a good cup, you have to grind the coffee on the spot. I felt very special
Elias / February 12, 2014 at 11:19 pm
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After hearing the buzz about Hale from the Gourmet Food & Wine show, I broke my Hale virginity with a half-pound of Guatemala Antigua at my condo in Montreal on September 18th 2013 and I have never looked back. Its simple: if you want to delve into the higher echelons of coffee and value substance and creativity, I would really recommend what Hale have to offer.
Sandman / February 13, 2014 at 07:22 am
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Or, I can hit Coffee Tree at Bloor West Village and grab a bag (which they roast in small batches) or go online to their website to order?
Buzzer / February 13, 2014 at 08:57 am
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Say goodbye to timmies and starbucks and all your mainstream coffee after trying hale coffee!! Best upcoming coffee in Toronto! Hands down! keep going and best of luck!
george replying to a comment from Sandman / February 13, 2014 at 11:37 am
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@sandman you could do that, or you could give it a shot :) Change is good, in support of Toronto's up and coming and ever improving coffee culture.

My personal favorite was the Colombia Supremo on a drip, it made an excellent cup for my hangover Sunday breakfast
Gina Kilakova / February 13, 2014 at 01:29 pm
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What I found cool about the guys is that they not only provide good coffee, but they educate you about all the "whens and hows". This way, you get the best out of it.
Sandman replying to a comment from george / February 13, 2014 at 09:04 pm
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I'm sure I will check it out.

I'm also a regular at Crema, LIT, Cherry Bomb, etc., but (personally) I've got to give props to Coffee Tree for being one of the first in TO to roast beans in small batches.
jim / February 13, 2014 at 10:58 pm
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Not only do they roast beans that made the best espressos I've ever had in my life, but they also exceeded my expectations in the service that they provided by personally delivery 30 custom gift bags filled with a mix of their heavenly aromatic roast coffee beans! I loved the care and attention they took in waiting until a couple of days until delivery to roast the coffee in order to ensure that I received the freshest roast possoble! I will definitely be ordering from them again as everyone who I gave the coffee to were WOW'd by the quality and flavors of their freshly roasted coffee.
George / February 14, 2014 at 07:42 am
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@sandman I see your point. It is without a doubt an imperative to give credit where it's due. Of for starting a trend so long ago, I agree with you, the coffee tree are pioneers. Hale Coffee are got an inspiration from somewhere I assume, maybe this is one of them
Khalil (KD) / February 14, 2014 at 09:45 am
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BY FAR THE BEST COFFEE ROASTER IN TOWN!!!

big shout out to the guys at Hale, they really now how to serve a mean cup of coffee!

if you like coffee as much as me, then its def worth a visit!
lister / February 14, 2014 at 04:53 pm
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"The crew pushes online orders for roasting on Sunday and Wednesday, this is to ensure that anything leaving the Hale roastery is fresh for delivery. This means: a. if you place an order anytime between Wednesday night up until 5pm on Sunday then your order will be shippied out on Monday. b. Alternatively, if you place your order anytime after 5pm on Sunday up until 5pm on Wednesday, then your order will be shipped out on Thursday. Once your coffee ships out, you will recieve a notification email. It should not be long after the email is sent out that you revcieve your fresh coffee. Your order confirmation is below."

How hard of a roasting and shipping rule is the above? (Those typos above are theirs, not mine.) Orders on, say, a Wednesday mid-afternoon should be available for pickup on Thursday or even Friday? Or perhaps blogto.com has crushed them with orders?

Email to info@halecoffee.com is bouncing.

Not a great first impression...
Rawan / February 14, 2014 at 05:57 pm
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Hey @lister why don't you try ordering online through their website instead. I usually order and ask for the pick-up option at the check out page. Their coffee is definitely worth it!
lister replying to a comment from Rawan / February 14, 2014 at 07:16 pm
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I did order online through the website and requested pickup.

That's part of the email that's sent.
The Hale Crew / February 14, 2014 at 07:17 pm
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Hey lister

we have just resolved the issue on our info@halecoffee.com address.

There seems to have been an issue with our domain's MX Files that were generating this message.

We hope you were not discouraged from placing an order with us, we try to satisfy our customers in any way possible.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone and thank you for the lovely responses and reviews

Namaste
lister replying to a comment from Rawan / February 14, 2014 at 07:17 pm
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Speak of the devil. Just now got a reply.
Daniel Miranda / February 17, 2014 at 04:20 pm
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Just picked up my first order from Hale and I am very impressed. Khaled was really friendly and even recommended a better coffee grinder to me than what I am using. He took me to the roastery where I got to meet some of the team who were also very friendly. When I got home I tried the Costa Rica Tarrazu first and it makes a delicious cup of coffee. I got the sampler pack of four different coffees so I cannot wait to try more.
Carmen / April 15, 2014 at 10:01 am
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Received the first bag into my subscription and simply fell in love with the beans and packaging - thank you boys!

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