The Best Coffee Roasters in Toronto
The best coffee roasters in Toronto reminds one of the glitch that exists in this city's duel obsessions with sustainability and indie cafes. While we love our coffee, we can't grow it here, leaving us with a little moral quandary about heavy consumption of our favourite cup. Since coffee production is located in the tropics, there is potential exploitation of land and workers, CO2 emissions in travel and roasting, and heavy packaging to consider.
Hence the rise of Toronto's local coffee roasters where attention can be paid to directly sourced, fairly traded beans expertly roasted in the area, using the greenest technology to lower the environmental impact of coffee drinking. This search for the increasingly ethical and fresh has only enhanced the flavour profiles of coffee available here. What feels good, and is good, tastes good too.
Here are the best coffee roasters in Toronto.
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Pilot Coffee Roasters
The brainchild of Andy and Jessie Wilkins, Pilot Coffee beans are used at their own Te Aro locations and a number of high profile cafes across Toronto and Canada. This roaster methodically sources beans through Direct Trade and roasts these varietals with the utmost care at their new roasting facility near their Leslieville cafe.
Social Coffee and Tea Company
Social Coffee and Tea. Who would have thought you could start a revolution in Richmond Hill? This well-respected roasting company consistently places in the top tier of several international roasting competitions and their premier blends of socially conscious roasted beans are also winners at home. Their blends People's Daily and People's Liberation, amongst others, have coffee drinkers united in celebration. Available at Dineen Coffee and many other local spots.
Pig Iron Roasters
As Joe Angellotti's passion for coffee grew with the success of his two Lit Espresso Bars, he turned his attention to roasting and began Pig Iron Roasters. Named after the vintage Probat roaster they had shipped from Barcelona and rebuilt in Oklahoma before setting up in Mississauga, the beans can be cupped at any Lit location, and their Steel Wheel espresso blend has a loyal following.
Think great coffee in Toronto and you think Sam James, Sam James Coffee Bar and now his baby, Cut Coffee. Funnelling his obsession with all things caffeinated into roasting, he has set up shop in the Junction. After months of testing, Cut is served at all SJCB extensions, and it's no surprise he highlights beans from places, like Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, that are a bit off-the-beaten-path. Cutting edge, indeed.
Detour Coffee has a cafe in Dundas and a roasting warehouse in Burlington, but as the supplier of beans for such indie coffee darlings as Dark Horse, we've come to consider these roasters our very own. They focus on great coffee roasting and brewing through sustainable practices, using a combination of direct trade and importers, and a Loring Smart Roaster, "the greenest roaster on the market."
De Mello Palheta
De Mello Palheta, around Yonge and Eglinton, is the product of Melbourne-trained Korean Brothers Felix and Won Cha who roast their select beans in a state-of-the-art roaster at the back of their eponymous cafe. Try their Dancing Goat or Deadman Walking blends before taking some home. The physical closeness of the roasting process to the brewing and cupping experience makes for a coffee lover's dream.
Sense Appeal Coffee Roasters is known for its scientific approach to coffee brewing and the bean treatment is no different. A former sommelier heads the coffee program and with his love of experimentation Sense Appeal has some unusual flavour profiles but two potent favourites remain - GN, their single origin espresso, and AG, their blended espresso.
Merchants of Green / Fresh Coffee Network
This roaster lives up to its green moniker. With blends for the Jane Goodall Institute, The Stop and the Evergreen charity, not only are beans ethically sourced and locally roasted in their Riverside location, but money from each pound sold goes back to the organizations to help them with chimpanzee protection, greening urban environments and sustainable food systems education.
Classic Gourmet Coffee
John Rufino's engineering background inspired him to create the most nearly perfect roasting process imaginable - an all-stainless steel plant in Concord that recycles the heat from its roasters to increase energy efficiency. Since coffee's footprint is hardly small - as long as we can't grow it here, transportation will always be a factor - Classic tries to make what goes on here as low-emission as possible, while maximizing pure flavour. It's worked, and customers include Bulldog Coffee, Cava, Woodlot, George and the Gladstone.
Photos by Morris Lum and Jesse Milns