Sam James Spadina
Sam James Coffee Bar has humble beginnings on Toronto’s sleepy but unique Harbord Street, but has since evolved into a miniature coffee empire with a die-hard following.
They have a long-standing relationship with streetwear brand Stussy’s Toronto location, and this cafe is in the entryway to their Spadina store.
Their first semi-joint venture was at the corner of Queen and Ossington, where the two businesses were somewhat bitterly evicted to clear the way for a Toronto location of Shinola.
Fortunately, this has resulted in a great expansion of the space from what used to be a mere (though attention-grabbing) coffee pocket to a more full though still minimal space.
The main design feature of the space is a grey sort of mesh screen material that creates a cage-like effect surrounding the entire area, bare neon arrange in rough x’s.
There’s a good amount of seating for a Sam James, a metal bench stretching along one wall with fashionable layabouts lounging around on it.
Of course, the cafe only deals in Cut Coffee, Sam James’ local roastery. Each coffee bar is essentially a place to showcase the Cut Coffee brand and its seasonal rotations.
A cappuccino ($3.33) is made with their staple house Butter Knife espresso, not too acidic or floral and full of genuine coffee flavour and aroma, with full fat milk that brings out the coffee’s sweetness and creates a glassy foam on top.
Sam James’ partnership with Stussy isn’t the only one that’s been formed. Tempered Room provides them with local artisanal pastries such as the popular Nutella rolls.
Chocolate croissants ($2.62) are just one of many other pastry options they provide, along with cookies, croissant sandwiches and scones.
Though the Butter Knife espresso is great for making a classic Sam James coffee, an In Bloom espresso with an opposing flavour profile was also on offer during my visit. Bags of these beans ($16/$17) are also available for purchase from this shop.
Businesses like these prove that relationships within the community matter, and are nearly always extremely mutually beneficial.
Sam James always seems to create hangout spaces as much as he creates cafes, and it doesn’t hurt that the coffee being slung by the expert baristas here always tastes excellent.