The capital of the Canadian province of Ontario and the most populous city in the country, Toronto is a diverse metropolitan area that is simply oozing with pride and culture. With its population of roughly 2.8 million permanent residents in the city proper, Toronto is the fourth-most populous city in North America (after Mexico City, New York City and Los Angeles), and easily one of the most ethnically, culturally and linguistically varied, hosting people from all corners of the earth.
As a prime and significant center of culture and commerce, Toronto has, as you might expect, an amazing number of independent coffee houses within its borders—mom and pop shops that provide the morning energy for millions of hard-working residents and busy students. These coffee houses, which include names like Balzac’s Coffee, Bulldog Coffee, the Rooster Coffee House and the Jet Fuel Coffee Shop Inc., offer an incredible variety of espressos, cappuccinos, lattes and other caffeine-fueled treats, and each has its own character and vibe.
In the following piece we will highlight just a few of the best and most popular indie coffee shops in Toronto, and describe some of the characteristics, amenities, beverages and food choices that are putting these coffee houses on the map.
The café known as Balzac’s Coffee in Toronto has become one of the trendiest spots in the neighborhood for the 20-30-something crowd, sporting an almost bar like atmosphere in which young people get together to chat and take advantage of the spot’s free Wi-Fi access. In some respects, coffee has become the new beer for the younger hipster crowd in Toronto, and at Balzac’s Coffee they can actually order both, as the café offers an impressive roster of locally-brewed craft beer to go along with their fabulous selections of caffeine-heavy coffees, espressos and tasty pastries, made on site and served warm and fresh.
Located at 675 Tradewind Drive in Toronto’s Distillery District and Liberty Village, the coffee house has a very rustic feel, with wood floors an oaken coffee bar and mismatched, yet cozy furnishings to accommodate its many loyal regular patrons. The crowd here ranges from students to young professionals to retirees, with a few artsy types working on the next great novel or screenplay.
As for the beverages at Balzac’s Coffee, the shop uses locally-sourced beans and modern brew methods to produce some of the most delicious espresso and roasted pour-over blends in the community. Those looking for something sweeter can sip on one of the many flavored lattes offered here; and their chocolate mocha is so scrumptious it should be a new food group.
Balzac’s Coffee is open seven days a week from 5:30 AM until 10:00 PM.
Jet Fuel Coffee Shop Inc.
Located in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Toronto, the Jet Fuel Coffee Shop Inc. is a high-energy coffee shop with a loyal following of regulars. As you approach this frenzied and often chaotic café you are likely to hear, from the parking lot, the rock and roll tunes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones or Springsteen blaring from the shop’s state-of-the-art sound system, making the coffee house seem more like a nightclub than a neighborhood café.
This high-energy is also reflected in their drink menu. Serving espressos and a delicious pour-over blend made from the finest local beans, all of the caffeine-laden drinks at Jet Fuel Coffee Shop Inc. are served in pint glasses with a malt-shop like spoon. Although all of your regular coffee drinks are available here, none of them are loaded with the frills and flavors you might see at other coffee shops—just good hot coffee that will truly get your motor running.
You may also notice the giant lemon squeezer perched on the back bar area of the Jet Fuel Coffee Shop Inc., which is used to make ice-cold lemonade and ginger and lemon-infused hot and cold teas.
Rooster Coffee House
If espresso is your beverage of choice, make your way to Toronto’s Rooster Coffee House—a café that makes the smoothest and most flavorful espresso in the city. Housed in a shop that overlooks Riverdale Park in the city’s Eastside, the café is very rustic and welcoming, with massive black and white leather chairs scattered throughout the space and a communal table made from an actual tree trunk placed smack dab in the middle of the room.
Whether you’re looking for a quick espresso or roasted coffee on the go, or a sweet latte and pastry while you take advantage of the shop’s free Wi-Fi service, the Rooster Coffee House will always make you feel like a regular customer.
Bulldog Coffee, although not large by any means, is spacious enough to host nearly 3 dozen coffee lovers at any given time, and the speedy, friendly and capable baristas have no problem handling their orders and the hundreds of “to-go” coffees they serve each morning, giving commuters a much needed shot of get-up-and-go to get their morning started on the right foot.
Bulldog Coffee boasts an ultra-clean, shined chrome back bar area with state-of-the-art brewing machines roasting only the best espresso, cappuccino, lattes and pour-over varieties. Their lattes come in a variety of flavors, and the espresso, while bold, is very flavorful. Flavored creams and syrups enable customers to tailor their caffeine drinks to their particular tastes, and the many different kinds of teas, juices and iced coffee beverages round out a drink menu that is as extensive as it is delicious.
If you’re in the mood for a snack with your morning cup of Joe, Bulldog Coffee has a great selection of warm, flaky croissants and other sweets, and if you happen to visit in the afternoon or evening, the salads, sandwiches and limited selection of craft beer will truly hot the spot.
Bulldog Coffee’s white and black tiled floors and black leather sofas and stools create both a modern and comfy feel, and the free Wi-Fi access and live acoustic music on the weekends may cause you to stay longer than you originally intended.