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Best of Toronto

The Best New Cafes in Toronto, 2008

Posted by Tim / January 19, 2009

Best New Cafes TorontoDespite a year filled with rumours of a Starbucks moving into Kensington and a Tim Hortons opening up at Queen and Bathurst, 2008 has actually been a very good year for local, independently owned cafes in Toronto. In fact, it seems that the major chains have actually helped pave the way for much of their success.

After all, it was Starbucks and Second Cup that set the bar for $4 and up mochachinos, and through their cookie cutter confines and margin-focused product strategies have made it all too easy for others to offer a superior (often fair trade and organic) product for less money. Throw some eclectic furniture into the mix, some free WiFi and maybe even some latte art and all of sudden you have a collection of amazing new spots to fill our list of the best new cafes to have surfaced in Toronto in the past 12 months.

From the Junction to Leslieville, here's a look at the best cafes that opened in Toronto in 2008.

Lit Espresso Bar

Lit Espresso Bar

Taking over from the lactose-fueled Daddy O's Milk Bar on Roncesvalles, Lit has helped cement the street's rep as having perhaps the best concentration of cafes in the city. Good eats like fresh panini and butter tarts are paired with high quality Intelligentsia beans. More »

Crema Coffee

Crema Coffee

Offering both style and substance, Crema Coffee is the perfect reprieve from an afternoon of vintage furniture and antique shopping in the Junction. Coffee is brewed using a much sought after Clover machine; and beans are brought in from Ethiopia, El Salvador and Honduras. More »

Broadview Espresso

Broadview Espresso

Found in an old porn shop north of the Broadview subway station, Broadview keeps things on the straight and narrow with some well made americanos, chai latte, foamy hot chocolate and excellent zucchini loaf. More »

La Merceria

La Merceria

Part design store, part cafe, La Merceria is owned by a couple of South Americans who have brought a sense of Argentinian style and taste to Adelaide. Go here for the alfajores - essentially, one cookie made out of two cookies, held together with a generous dollop of dulce de leche and covered with powdered sugar. More »

Green Beanery

Green Beanery

Green Beanery is part coffee equipment store, part cafe. Walking in through the front doors at Bloor and Bathurst, there's nothing but a sea of bodums, home roasters, espresso machines and, uh, a few toasters. But beyond the shelves of equipment there's a number of tables to chill and savour a coffee and one of their basic sandwiches or baked treats. More »

Hank's

Hank's

From the people who brought us Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, Hank's cafe in just next door and is home to one of the best baristas in the city. Along with some artfully prepared hot drinks expect tasty lunch fare including a daily soup, stew, sandwiches built with St. John's bakery breads, baked goods and meats prepared in house. More »

Balluchon

Balluchon

Balluchon is a small, neighbourood cafe and specialty food store at Sorauren and Wright, just south of the park. It's more of a take-out spot than a place to settle in for the afternoon, but the coffee here is fair trade and organic, and there are a bunch of cheeses and prepared foods also available. More »

Discussion

24 Comments

modernmod / January 19, 2009 at 03:15 pm
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Do any of these offer free wi-fi?
Josh / January 19, 2009 at 03:15 pm
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re: Crema

Espresso is made on a Synesso machine, not a Clover. They have a Clover, but it is used, as intended, for brewed coffee.
Tim replying to a comment from Josh / January 19, 2009 at 03:21 pm
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Thanks. Just assumed such an expensive machine could be used for more than just regular coffee. The text has been updated.
Josh replying to a comment from Tim / January 19, 2009 at 04:13 pm
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I said "brewed coffee", not "regular coffee".
Question / January 19, 2009 at 04:17 pm
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Isn't it a Starbucks, not Tim Hortons, at Queen and Bathurst that caused some stink?
Reality Check / January 19, 2009 at 04:36 pm
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Question - there IS a Starbucks at Q&B but there were rumours that a Timmy's was going in as well. The usual "keep Toronto horrible" crowd were up in arms.

I'm just waiting until that same crowd starts firebombing Starbucks after a pro-Hamas rally like they do in London. Too bad we don't actually use the riot act anymore.
Tim replying to a comment from Reality Check / January 19, 2009 at 04:58 pm
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There were rumours that a Tim Hortons was/is going to move into the old Queenshead Pub
m / January 19, 2009 at 05:43 pm
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There IS a Tim Hortons going in. There is a sign on the storefront which is under construction right now about zoning that mentions it.
Corina / January 19, 2009 at 06:25 pm
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I'm thrilled to have another Starbucks at Q&B vs. a smelly burnt coffee Tim Horton's... even if I can only afford 1/2 the beverages. But I guess if they open a Tim's (likely 24h) there'll finally be an all night coffee place in the area...
Yukon replying to a comment from Tim / January 20, 2009 at 01:00 pm
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Would it be too much trouble to put it at the top of the profile, though? Location can be the biggest factor in whether people actually try some of these places. Or, for me, at least, it sometimes is.
Tim replying to a comment from Yukon / January 20, 2009 at 01:16 pm
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I think it's a question of not wanting to make the page too cluttered. We already have a map on the page indicating where all the places are, so repeating the same information multiple times will likely make the page more busy than it needs to be.
Patrick / January 20, 2009 at 04:41 pm
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A review of coffee shops around Toronto is *always* a good thing. I'd love to read a review from coffee snobs about what they think of these locations.

http://torontocitylife.com
Alexandra / January 25, 2009 at 11:39 am
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To any entrepreneurs out there: we need an independent cafe like any of the ones above in the gay village!
Rain / January 29, 2009 at 12:32 am
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Alexandra, walk two blocks to Bulldog. great espresso.
Toni O'Brian / March 5, 2009 at 05:17 pm
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Merchants of Green opened in 2008 as well I believe. VERY cool place. The have free wi-fi too and don't seem to mind me over staying my welcome. The coffee is the best I've had in the city for sure and baristas are great!
linus / March 20, 2009 at 11:36 am
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I second Merchants of Green. Every since I tried their freshly roasted and brewed coffee from a workshop my taste bud just became spoiled and I seem to taste flaws in all other coffee I drink. Worse, I can simply never drink another sip of Timmy's without wanting to spit it right out.
s replying to a comment from modernmod / May 15, 2009 at 01:20 am
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Bloom Cafe on Baldwin has wifi. All things Tea and Green Beanery do to, although I'm not 100% sure
Arby / June 14, 2009 at 02:56 am
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Hello all. I've been to quite a few of these cafes recently and some others. A few of the spots listed here, I am not familiar with. So I'm happy to add them to my list of places to check out.

I tried Ezra's Pound (Dundas West just east of Trinity Bellwoods Part) today (yesterday now) and it was fine. The espresso was proper and good, although asking a simple question like "Can you tell me something about the coffee?" scared the crap out of them. The dude responded with "Like what?" I said "Whatever you want to tell me." He said it's from somewhere in central South America. Ooookay.

I find it interesting that coffee, unlike other foods, gets away with never meeting the reasonable expectation of paying customers to know what it is they will be consuming. Note to self: 'If you ever get your own coffee shop, let customers know, without hesitation, what they are paying for and consuming.' It would certainly help to make the experience more interesting for cusotmers, especially when we've succeeded in enticing them with all of our talk about culinary coffee etc..

Communal Mule, a few doors west of Ezra's Pound is wonderful. He still doesn't have a sign up out front telling people the name of his shop. But that doesn't seem to stop folks from finding it. Peter, the owner, is a totally nice dude. And he's packing a La Marzocco Mirage. (Von, at Bisogno, thinks he may have one of only two in operation in Toronto, the other one being Dark Horse's Queen St E location.) There's wifi. Don't know whether it's free.

Another couple of wonderful spots I've been to lately are: Bisogno (pronounced bis + own + yo), on Sherbourne just a few doors north of King. Von, the owner, is a super nice guy and the joint has that atmosphere that conduces to strangers feeling comfortable enough to talk to each other. Von, unlike other places, always has Intelligentsia, 49th Parallel and his own blend on tap. He has a little menu card for espressos specifically, sitting on his counter, aside from the usual menu board on the wall listing various kinds of drinks and other items. I wondered why others don't do that and he offered that it's a lot of work.

Te Aro, which air roasts (a minority of roasters air roast), is another spiffy, wonderful cafe that just opened on Queen St E, between Pape and Carlaw. The coffee's great and the roaster isn't shy to experiment with his roasting profiles. On my last visit, I found the results of that experimentation to be excellent. It's on the south side of Queen. The folks who run this place are super friendly. The machine is a Wega, which, from my reading around, is not in the same league as a La Marzocco. I don't expect you'd notice anything unless the shop was going non stop for the day and you arrived well after they opened. Wega's are single boiler, heat exchanger machines (which are, I believe it's accurate to say, 'old' technology in the espresso machine manufacturing industry). La Marzoccos are dual boiler machines (one dedicated to steaming, leaving the other to deal with steady shot pulling) with sophisticated boards that allow for temperature control or better temp control. I'm not sure of the details.

The Merchants of Green Beans (Matilda, just off Carroll, off Queen St E, next to the DVP) now has a cafe onsite. The people there are really nice. I don't know whether it's their Saeco machine or something else, but the espressos seem to not be what they should be. They aren't terrible. But something's missing. But it's a great spot to relax. They'll also make you a personal cup that they roast and grind right in front of you. The selection for that option is limited of course. But hey! That's pretty special!
Paul / June 14, 2009 at 11:49 am
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I just sent in a 'tip' about this, but there's a newish cafe in Bloordale on Bloor a couple blocks east of Lansdowne called the "Holy Oak Cafe". Good coffee and a really nice atmosphere, and I'm really excited to finally have a nice coffee place in the neighborhood. The funny thing is that it's been open for 2 months and I didn't notice it until yesterday!
Alice replying to a comment from Corina / February 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm
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Although I have nothing against Tim Hortons - and as a student it's a lot cheaper, the problem with T/H is that it attracts homeless and crazy people,
COSPLAY / September 26, 2012 at 10:06 pm
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Merchants of Green opened in 2008 as well I believe. VERY cool place. The have free wi-fi too and don't seem to mind me over staying my welcome. The coffee is the best I've had in the city for sure and baristas are great!
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