The Mad Bean Coffee House on Eglinton West prides itself on its artistic arteries. Its exposed brick walls are obscured by photographs and paintings by local artists while a large bookcase shelves everything from Dan Brown to a slew of Penguin classics. The cafe hosts regular poetry readings, concerts and oddball events.
"We started thinking about opening a really comfy, inviting coffee house that would have cool music playing in the background, local art hanging on the walls, a nice big bookcase full of books..." says owners Brian and Lisa Roxborough on their website .
Rushing in from the cold, I'm greeted by both Roxboroughs with warm hellos and friendly small talk. The two, along with son/barista Cody, make an amicable trio worth the visit alone.
I order an espresso (sgl $1.81; dbl $2.39) delivered to my table with a small glass of tap water to cleanse the pallet. The shot is incredibly smooth, almost sweet and hits the mid-to-back of the tongue with an herbal finish. Mad Bean's beans are supplied by Reunion Island Coffee in Oakville and come with a certification or label such as Fair Trade, Direct Trade etc.
The latte ($3.62) I order next certainly rivals the espresso in flavour, but the Rosetta design is sloppy.
Mad Bean's menu includes an extensive list of espresso-based beverages, coffees (sml $1.81; lg $1.90), teas from Nourishtea ($1.80) and cold drinks such as Italian soda ($2.50). They have a number of perks for penny-pinchers such as free specialty milk (including almond milk) and free WiFi.
They offer a selection of pastries by Circles and Squares and tea infused shortbread cookies by Tea Aura . Also of interest is their mint hand soap ($4.95 per bar) by B the Balm that has Mad Bean's house coffee beans sculpted in.
Despite being an overall charming joint, it's hard to say whether Mad Bean's granola atmosphere and art-focus will be enough to survive on a strip of Toronto brimming with competition including (but not limited to) Second Cup across the street, Starbucks one block east and Coffeeholic to the west.
Photos by Dennis Marciniak