“What?! You’re writing a blog post about your favourite coffee shops? That’s so unlike you…I thought you loved tea,” my friend Jake sarcastically quipped.
Hardy har har. If you know me at all, you know I love caffeine.
My barista/coffee shop owner cousin convinced me to boycott Starbucks when I was 15 (not that I was a serious coffee drinker back then). But my obsession has certainly been fuelled living in Toronto as there are so many great independent coffee shops here. These are some of my favourites (arranged by neighbourhood).
Queen West/Entertainment District/Chinatown
This is where I live, and while the location is prime for getting anywhere easily and efficiently, there’s a dearth of local gems (in comparison to our Western and Eastern counterparts).
Little Nicky’s: Come for the coffee, stay for the mini donuts. They are unbelievable.
Dark Horse Spadina: Arguably one of the most aesthetically-pleasing cafés in Toronto.
Sense Appeal Coffee Roasters: I’ve yet to try their Turkish latte, but I’ve heard it’s dreamy.
Early Bird Espresso Bar: The best latte art I’ve seen in Toronto and they cater to the laptop carting crew. As a remote employee, I appreciate their hospitality and their stash of Mast Brothers chocolate.
Kensington Market/College & Harbord Street
Fika: An excellent Swedish café and restaurant. They serve great open-faced sandwiches and delicious brunch on the weekends. Also, I constantly rave about their iced coffee with cardamon and fresh mint.
Voodoo Child: One of my absolute favourite Toronto coffee shops. A great place to settle in and do some work or meet up with a friend. The coffee is top notch (one of their baristas, Bruce Ly was named the 2nd best latte artist in Canada, 8th in the world!) and the service is super personable.
Café Pamenar: This spot is always busy and rightly so. The wifi signal and coffee is strong, and like many Toronto coffee shops, Pamenar transforms into a watering hole during the after hours.
Sam James Coffee Bar: There’s not much that can be written about Sam James that hasn’t already been said. He’s a coffee god in Toronto and has opened four cafés downtown. I finally ventured to the original Sam James location on Harbord this past weekend, and oh mon dieu! C’est superbe! It’s worth the trek, which isn’t really even a trek for me because I live like 25 minutes away (by foot). Do yourself a favour, and go on Thursday or the weekend and treat yourself to a Springfield donut. Not only do they feature rainbow sprinkles, they are baked fresh at local Beast restaurant. They pair perfectly with a cappuccino, which in my opinion are the best in the city.
West Queen West/Ossington/Parkdale
RSquared: I come here to write every now and then. The baristas are really approachable and they have healthy lunch options, which is always great for those who plan to spend a couple hours here working.
Sud Forno: While the coffee is simple, Italian-style (less elaborate than I’m used to) the fresh pizza and baked goods are worth writing home about at this Terroni-owned café.
Nadège Patisserie: Just go, you can thank me later.
Sam James Oz: The newest location is the one I frequent the most, right on the corner of Queen and Ossington.
Crafted Coffee: By the same folks who run Te Aro in the East End. These places always remind me of New Zealand (Land of the Long White Cloud and the impeccable flat white).
Capital Espresso: Parkdale’s favourite coffee shop, I’ve yet to go!
Dundas West/Little Portugal
Ella’s Uncle: cash only, this neighbourhood gem is a favourite among those waiting to grab a bite at nearby Saving Grace. Their baked goods are also hard to resist! I also love the name.
I’ve heard good things about Tampered Press, but haven’t ventured in yet. It’s on my list.
College West/Little Italy
Empire Espresso: the vibrant colours here help me forget Toronto’s plummeting temperatures.
The Brockton Haunt: A great space with the best light and best s’mookies (s’more cookies, what?!)
Bloor West/High Park/The Junction
Northwood: Close to Christie Station, Northwood is spacious and serves amazing coffee and booze.
The Good Neighbour: Gorgeous local spot in an area without a lot of coffee shops.
Café Novo: Right by High Park station this is another great spot for writing or working.
Propeller Coffee: Lots of space for you to spread out and stay awhile. The coffee is, as expected, delicious. What more can I say?
Wallace Espresso: Another favourite in the Junction Triangle, it’s more of a grab-and-go option
Kaffebar: A new Norwegian-style café with goodies baked in house.
Full Stop: Plenty of space and lots of healthy meal options, so settle in.
This area isn’t a ‘coffee destination’ per say, but there a few cafés worth checking out!
Dineen: Situated in the most beautiful historic building, the tile floors at Dineen are likely the most instagrammed in Toronto. The patio is where you need to be in the summertime.
Fahrenheit: I used to go here all the time when I was interning at St. Joseph Media, but unfortunately haven’t really been back since. All the baristas make an effort to learn your name and always ask you how your day is going. It’s quite refreshing, actually.
Tandem Coffee: New kid on the block, Tandem is doing everything right. Their cat cookies are the cutest and the owners are so sweet and kind.
Rooster Coffee: The original location on Broadview Avenue is favoured by many, this is a good option if you don’t feel like venturing as far east, but still crave amazing coffee.
Balzac’s: In all honesty, I’m not the biggest fan of Balzac’s coffee, I find it a little too bitter for my liking. But I can’t help but stop by this coffee shop whenever I’m in the Distillery District as the interior is STUNNING.
Mercury Espresso Bar: No-nonsense, good coffee and yummy sandwiches (and I selfishly appreciate the lack of strollers as compared to nearby Te Aro)
Te Aro: Great, but even better in the summer when the front patio is open. I try to stop in every time I have a meeting in Leslieville.
Bobbette & Belle: More of a patisserie, Bobbette & Belle specializes in delicious macarons, cookies, and bars. They have Sloane Tea on offer as well, which is simply delightful!
Rooster Coffee House: technically not Leslieville, but close enough. I’m in love with this café, which overlooks the city and offers an amazing view of the skyline.
Boxcar Social: Another excellently titled coffee shop. It’s worth venturing north for this stunning two-level café-cum-bar. Take my word for it.
White Squirrel: Trinity Bellwoods’ own White Squirrel has expanded north to Rosedale, and teamed up with Freshii. This location caters to the more corporate crowd, but seems to be doing really well.
Well, those are my favourites. The next time someone asks me which Toronto cafés are my favourite, I’ll refer them to this post. Please let me know in the comments below if you’d like me to do a food and restaurant guide!