Tandem Coffee just opened in Corktown on King St., in a little sliver of one of those old houses, and it is as cute inside as it is out. Former Rooster employee Michie Yamamoto and partner Eugene bubble up with genuine enthusiasm, handling and preparing each coffee request with a sweetness that's rare among busy baristas.
Opening your own business is a lot of hard work, but it can also be a reflection of your favourite things, and Tandem Coffee fits that kind of joyful personal stamp.
The room is a jumble of quirk and subtle design elements - blond wood benches and tables, milk glass vases with sprigs of wildflowers, '60s and '70s mismatched coffee mugs and plates, a few small Japanese dolls and trinkets, exposed brick, and a living wall of plants in the back. It sounds like it might be too much, but it comes off as very Zen.
As soon as you enter, you'll see the owners standing behind the counter, their gleaming Synesso machine ready to go. They support a revolving line-up of local roasters like Pig Iron, Cut Coffee and Detour, with a daily feature of decaf as well.
The day I arrived they were featuring the Steel Wheel Espresso from Pig Iron , and its Decaf Wolf. They also have Chemex and urn brewed coffee (8oz for $1.55, 12oz for $1.86, and 16 oz for $2.22). The price list indicates you can get espresso ($2.57) or espresso with milk (4 oz for $3.06, 8oz for $3.26, 12oz for $3.54, and 16oz for $3.90).
I order an Americano from Michie while Eugene helps me decide on a treat. They bring in two types of baked goods: "the healthy stuff," says Eugene, pointing out the raw, vegan coconut energy and breakfast bars, "and the unhealthy stuff," gesturing toward a line of buttery-looking cookies, banana bread ($2.25) and brownies ($3.75).
The ginger cookie ($1.50) with cracked black pepper on top looks really good, but figure I should stay relatively heath-conscious and pick a champion bar instead ($3.50).
I take a seat and Michie delivers my coffee, dark and rich and heavily crema'd, with that trace of burnt toffee bitterness I always notice comes with the Pig Iron roasters. I usually drink coffee black, but find the Pig Iron espresso blends need mellowing with milk, which is why they make good cappuccinos and lattes, but not so great black Americanos (to my taste, anyway).
It's no fault of Michie's either; the shot is pulled perfectly, and once I add milk it's pretty great. I imagine it would be nice as an affogato, which they make, and I'm curious about the vanilla/matcha float, but I settle in with my coffee and treat and watch Michie and Eugene charm everyone that walks in. She may just be down the street for her former employer, but Michie has created a place with a unique style all her own.
Photos by James C Lee.