United Coffee is a mini-cafe that opened a couple of weeks ago at College and Ossington. Perched on the northwest corner, it's an ideal spot to pop into and grab a latte on your way to work or school. Or anywhere, really.
The interior is cozy, with wood paneled walls stained by husband and wife team Kris Miller and Lilian Arraial. Miller did the tin ceilings himself, too. The materials look like they've been there forever, but they're all new — Miller tells the ceiling only took him about a day to finish. They're set up with WiFi, too, but seating is pretty limited, with room for about seven, making it more of a drop-in cafe.
I wander down on a hungover Sunday morning. The atmosphere is perfect; Bob Marley quietly reminds me to get up and stand up. Alongside the regular caffeinated subjects, they also do a cortado, hot chai teas, and a variety of juices.
I order a latte crafted with beans from Rufino espresso ($3.70, and pulled with a Nuova Simonelli machine). The coffee is strong, with purity of heart, and it does its job of jolting me back to earth. While the coffee is good, though, about half of my takeout cup is just foam from the milk, which I don't necessarily appreciate. I did visit only a few weeks after opening, so it may have been just a small kink.
But the banana chocolate muffin I order disappoints, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't a kink. It was one of those kind of gummy, slightly flavourless concoctions that sticks to the roof of your mouth and makes you feel like it's about to be permanently cemented over your tongue. Some of the other muffins look great, though, so perhaps I missed my mark.
Along with my latte, I get a lesson on the art of cigar-making from Miller. His family also runs Frank Correnti Cigars Ltd., which is the last operation in Canada to make hand-rolled cigars . Photos of Miller and various celebrities grace the walls, and small stacks of vintage cigar boxes adorn shelves behind the cash. "From the time the tobacco is planted to the time it becomes a cigar, it goes through a thousand hands." Miller and Arraial are both charming conversationalists, and I stay and chat for a while with them. They're truly hospitable, and happy to answer even the most annoying of questions.
While United Coffee may not have the most space to hang out for extended periods, It's right next to the streetcar and bus stops, so it's great for pick-me-ups on the run.
Photos by Morris Lum