Coffee culture is thriving in Toronto. There are no shortages of independent cafes in the city and every neighbourhood usually has several local favourites, all great in their own way. We have compiled this list of cafes that offer something uniquely different to help you experience coffee in a new way.
Boxcar Social specializes in quality and precision when it comes to coffee. Their coffee beans are from roasters around the world but they are always carefully curated and only the best make the cut. Expect to see beans from Phil & Sebastian in Calgary and George Howell, from Acton, Massachusetts to name a few. Their staff really takes the time to find the sweet spot on how to brew each new bean they receive and their pour-over cups are made with a specifically tailored water ratio and grind size. For people who want to experience coffee in a new way, Boxcar Social also offers coffee flight tastings on their rotating beans to highlight each brews unique flavour. For the warmer months, their nitrogen cold brew is frothy like a stout and extremely refreshing. Each Boxcar Social location has a different vibe and their Harbourfront location offers lakeside views and a full food menu. Most Boxcar Social locations stay open well into the night and serve a curated selection of boozy drinks as well.
Hail in Arabic means cardamom and that is a key ingredient used in Arabic style coffee. Hailed Coffee is a classic modern cafe mixed with Middle Eastern flavours. Alongside the classic cappuccinos and Americanos, there are the “hailed” versions which are spiced with green cardamom. People choosing to have their Arabic coffee in their East Chinatown location will be served in traditional handleless glasses with an hourglass shape while their tiny sister location at College Park is meant for take out orders. Aside from the coffee, Hailed is the only cafe in Toronto that can do a coffee and date pairing from their impressive variety of different dates. Shoko Chocolate also makes an exclusive line of chocolate for Hailed to be paired with their coffees as well.
Fika is the Swedish word for coffee break and this cafe is the perfect place to stop for one. Fika is in an old powder blue Victorian house from the 1800’s and their space is bright and cozy. The back room of Fika has a beautiful wall covered in old books and in the summer, there is both a front and back patio. On weekends there is no Wifi so seating is reserved for relaxing and good conversations. Fika uses beans from Pilot coffee and their Cardamom Spiced Latte with cinnamon and cardamom syrup is a popular choice. For something completely different, warm up with a Lavender White Hot Chocolate. All their baked goods are made in house and there are usually some North American favourites along with the classic Swedish pastries. Cute Swedish Dala horse shaped ginger cookies are a staple and look out for their semla, a sweet cardamom bun filled with almond paste, jam and whipped cream.
Roasters is a Toronto favourite and actually provides beans for many cafes in the city. There are now several locations in Toronto, but their headquarters at Wagstaff Dr. is practically hidden out of sight on a small side street that looks like a laneway. At this location, you can enjoy a pour-over at their coffee bar while taking a peak at the stacks of burlap bags full of beans resting on the opposite side of the cafe space. At the Wagstaff location you will find the best selection of their beans including monthly guest roasters. The origins and brewing guides for their different beans can be found on the Pilot Coffee website and the Wagstaff location also offers in depth barista classes at three levels for people who truly want to learn more.
Rustle & Still is a Vietnamese cafe and all their beans are directly sourced from farmers in Vietnam and processed by Hatch Roastery. The idea of this cafe is to act as a space where people can take a pause from the hustle and bustle of their everyday life. Vietnamese coffee is rich, dark and chocolatey and best enjoyed with a good helping of sweetened condensed milk, it can be ordered how or cold to suit any season. Lattes at Rustle & Still are inspired by Vietnamese flavours and their Purple Potato and their Matcha Pandan are popular choices. Aside from delicious drinks, their bright and airy cafe is gorgeous and decked out with lush leafy plants, making for a perfect escape from the busy Bloor Street. Rustle & Still has a small but tight food menu of banh mi, Vietnamese style sandwiches with fillings like lemongrass pork and seasonal items like a saucy pot of Vietnamese meatballs.
Merchants of Green Coffee is all about fair trade, fresh coffee that is sustainably attained. Their signature Cafe Solar coffee is processed with solar power and restorative farming practices and the production is completely managed by women in Honduras. Their cafe has an industrial vibe from the outside since it is housed in a 19th century building that was previously the Sheriff jam factory. The interior is spacious and filled with mismatched cozy furniture. Aside from being a great spot for a relaxing afternoon, Merchants of Green is known for their amazing selection of unroasted green coffee beans. Customers can experiment with roasting these beans in their own homes or sign up for their Art of Roasting workshop among many others that are offered.
Little Pebbles is a Japanese cafe and bakery located in Kensington Market. Their cafe is fairly small but their minimal white walls and light wood tabletops makes for a relaxing space to hang out. Little Pebbles drinks menu features Japanese flavours like black sesame and kinako, a roasted soy bean powder. Lattes come in beautiful Japanese style ceramic bowls made by Secret Tea Time, a local clay studio. All the desserts and pastries at Little Pebbles are made in house and there is a mix of traditional Japanese items such as roll cakes filled with cream and fresh fruit as well as more French inspired offerings like a crispy matcha strawberry millefeuille. On weekends, onigiri, seasoned rice balls are offered in different varieties for a quick snack. Little Pebbles uses beans from local roaster, De Mello Palheta and many different varieties of beans are for available for purchasing.
Located in the west end, in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood, Reunion Island Coffee Roasters specializes in single origin beans with an emphasis on sustainable and fair trade practices. Their most unique offering is their Small Lots Series which is taking a single origin bean and offering it in two ways, washed and unwashed. Unwashed beans are known as the oldest preparation method and refer to beans that have been dried and fermented with the coffee cherry fruit on it. Washed beans are beans that have been processed with machinery which in turn, removes the cherry fruit around the bean. Both methods can produce excellent coffee and it is uncommon to find cafes offering both styles for a single type of bean. Reunion Island’s Small Lot Series only features one bean varietal a month however they have many other freshly roasted signature coffee beans that are offered all the time. Their cafe is great spot for people watching and their black and white tile entryway embedded with the word coffee always makes for a fun snapshot.