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Te Aro in Leslieville - another coffee shop

I noticed a new coffee shop in Leslieville over the weekend. They had a cute patio out front and people were taking advantage of the nice mother's day weather. I was curious if anyone has been - what do they specialize in, do they serve food, how does it compare to dark horse and mecury?

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  1. Is this the place on the south side that's recessed a bit from the curb? I walked past it this week-end (while drinking my Dark Horse latte) - it looked quite nice.

    1. Word on the street is it's the folks behind Baby on the Hip, Kids on the Hip, etc. They poached at least one barista from the Mercury. And I know for sure they serve paninis, dunno what else. Space is gorgeous, though.

      1 Reply
      1. re: childofthestorm

        Wow, that's quite an expansion they've got going on. I was in the new Kids on the Hip this week-end - great looking store, very cool stuff.

      2. te aro is wonderful. I didn't know about the Baby On The Hip connection. The people inside were friendly, a big plus when you have some culinary coffee baristas out there intimidating customers who don't read their minds before asking for their drinks so as to know how to ask for the right things. I hear Bulldog is that way. I found Manic to be a little like that, but that might have been just one fellow there. There were three dudes behind the bar at this hopping joint. One barista - pulling the shots - was perfectly friendly with me and overall they weren't too bad.

        I would say that the good thing about having an encounter with culinary coffee snobs is that it becomes a 'note to self' about how not to run a coffee shop or espresso bar should one ever get to do it. I'd like to do it.

        te aro doesn't pass off dog food as snacks, a big plus. They aren't cheap though, although I didn't spend a lot of time checking those out. The space is indeed gorgeous. It looks like a converted garage. If so, Wow! There's nothing garagy about it now. The espresso machine and counter are spiffy as all get out. And any place that roasts it's own beans is already on the top of the heap. That's how you do it, if you can.

        A gentleman there joined me to ask me how my espresso was and tell me a bit about their roaster which sits there for all to see and marvel at. Yes! People who are actually interested in the products and services they are selling you! In my view, That's the BEST advertizing in the world and it doesn't cost a penny.

        I'm not so sure about the home espresso machines they have for sale there though. I grabbed a glossy pamphlet on offer which I thought was going to be about air roasting - which you can read up about online regardless. The pamphlet was mostly about Jura coffee machines. I didn't notice whether the Juras do both pods (not a fan) and ground coffee, but they certainly do ground coffee. The pamphlet was horribly done up in some respects. If the folks who did the text use English as a first language, then there's a problem. It's dreadfully written.

        I was surprised to see this shop open at this location. Apologies to those who live in the area, but it's not an attractive nabe at all. Still, It's in between my home and my job and I will be stopping again. Queen East is really coming to life with genuine coffee shops! Between Coxwell and where I work across the Don Valley, there's now Savoury Grounds (psuedo high end but still okay and great people), Dark Horse, Red Rocket, Ideal and now te aro. Te aro and Dark Horse are the best of those spots.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Aarby

          Ah, but it is is a great nabe, which is why all these places are appearing here. It was the slums ten years ago, but it sure isn't now.

          1. re: embee

            Yeah Aarby, you really need to explore Leslieville a bit further. It's probably the second-hottest stretch of road in town after the Ossington strip. Thanks for the Te Aro review though, very detailed!

            1. re: embee

              I have been a loyal Mercury customer since it opened, but the other morning I waited at least ten minutes for my coffee! They really need to speed it up, especially on week days. Dark Horse makes a very decent coffee in less than half the time.

              1. re: Montrachet

                Leslieville just isn't my type of nabe. I think until they lose a few of the major skank magnets, it will never rise, no matter how many trendy eateries they set up there. The anchor of the village is Jilly's, a skanky strip bar. That's my opinion. I know Leslieville well. Otherwise, Yes, it's hopping and I wouldn't mind checking out some of the spots - if I had money.

                I didn't mention The Merchants Of Green Beans. Out of sight means out of mind, as they say. It's just around the corner on Carroll St and a stone's throw north. Matilda is the little side street that goes down to toward the DVP and curves and goes back to Queen. Those folks are wonderful. The cafe inside has only been up and running for less than a year. And they will do a personal cup for you. You pick your beans from a limited selection. Then they roast them right there and grind and brew them. I don't know whether they use enough beans though. My coffee was so weak I couldn't even taste it. Espressos are good though.

                Mercury, which I've been into a few times, sure isn't perfect. I wish them well, but they are so tiny and so busy it doesn't surprise me that they have challenges. Although they need to think about the basics, like customer service. I asked for a single, long and got a single short. They were busy. I wasn't freaked. But I just happened to mention it to the girl who passed me the drink. She didn't pull the shot. Her only response was "He pulled the shot." That's not cool. Business doesn't excuse such an attitude. That might have been that one server. I found the people to be perfectly friendly the only other time I went in.

                1. re: Aarby

                  Mercury has always been friendly, but not especially personal. One of their recent blog postings sums things up nicely: "I understand very well that it's my job to deal with people but don't expect me to force it".

                  Their customer service is, to say it nicely, laid back. If five people are ahead of you in the lineup, expect a twenty minute wait. "Don't like it? Go to Starbucks." Things seem to be as they want things to be. I've had some very good espresso drinks there.

                  I've lived in this area for a very long time. While "skank magnets" once dominated this area, few remain. I doubt that these few will remain for much longer. There were rumours of Jilly's becoming a "Gladstone/Drake East" kind of place. It didn't happen and likely won't in the current economy, but I rather have Jilly's than see that beautiful building replaced by condos.

                  1. re: embee

                    I would argue that Jilly's is in Riverside and not Leslieville, but of course that is splitting hairs. And there are enough Tasty Chicken House-types of establishments in Leslieville proper for me to understand where Aarby is coming from.

                    My wife is a fierce Mercury loyalist but was very impressed by Te Aro as well, so I'd have to say it'll probably do well as she is a coffee obsessive. Me, I never even acquired the taste for the stuff. But I will say that the Starbucks could very well be in trouble if this keeps up.

                    1. re: childofthestorm

                      I know exactly where Aarby is coming from. Very few of these places are still open - I can only think of four, with Teddy's Sports Bar topping the list.

                      Yes, Jilly's is technically in Riverside and, yes, you are splitting hairs. Newell's Cafe, one of the stalwart dives, is now Table 17. Jimmy's just closed.

                      When I first moved here, I was afraid to walk along the park to Queen after dark. It's lovely there now.

                      1. re: embee

                        Riverside or Riverdale??? Technically, I still feel Jilly's is more Leslieville. However, I believe the street sign says "Queen & Broadview Village". I'll double check and when I pass by the street again later today. ;)

          2. Where is this place of which you speak?

            1 Reply
            1. re: thenurse

              Te Aro is on the south side of Queen between Carlaw and Pape. Set back a bit from the street, but they have tables set up in their "courtyard" so you can't miss it.

            2. Te Aro is fantastic. I was in on the weekend and had a chance to talk with the owners. They are a young and very friendly couple. They just moved here from New Zealand (she is from Toronto originally) and are diving into the bean roasting biz. The coffee was great and the food was just as good. They could use some more selection, but I am sure that will come with time. As mentioned, the place is gorgeous looking.

              Go and check it out.

              1. We decided to try it today.
                Its clear that people who want more of a Starbucks experience will gladly choose Te Aro versus Mercury. It has a much different atmosphere.
                As far as espresso goes, Mercury wins hands down. Much better bean (Te Aro was bitter and almost over roasted...latte left a horrible aftertaste in our mouths) and a better drawn shot for lattes. Lattes were also a little small.
                Staff was ok but not that much nicer than Mercury's mercurial staff.
                Patio was there, but its just an asphault patio. nothing spectacular about it. maybe a little nicer (and more sun exposed) than Mercury.

                Also, at Mercury, you have featured beans and the regular espresso beans. i like trying the feature beans to get some variety.

                We thought we would try the new guys in town, but Mercury is still our favourite. and we have no problems waiting 5 minutes for our latte, since the lattes are quite great.

                2 Replies
                1. re: atomeyes

                  Completely agree.

                  I've been going to Mercury almost daily since it opened. I quite like the owners and get treated well (save by a new hire, once, who was quickly scolded by the manager). I used to work from Jet Fuel 3 days a week and the Mercury guys are customer service experts by comparison.

                  I enjoy Te Aro, as well, but only go there when (i) I'm with someone that I think will want a more staid atmosphere than Mercury or (ii) I have my daughter in her stroller. They are very accommodating to children and it's helping their business.

                  That said, the coffee doesn't compare.

                  1. re: Taliesan

                    plus i just picked up some Ethiopian espresso beans from Mercury....while they don't roast their own beans, they still get an excellent variety of yummy espresso beans. and the Ethiopian they get is amazing (even at home I can draw a shot and get the hints of blueberry).

                    I don't know...other than looking new and big, not sure what the Te Aro attraction would be. its like a cooler Starbucks. but hey, if both indies can survive and thrive, then that's great

                2. happened by te aro and since a friend is a bit of a caffeine freak we dropped in. he recognized the barista from manic and we got some macciattos that were good but not tops for me... a little too bitter but otherwise good.

                  i just gotta say... they stole my dining room! except i wouldn't have gone all black and wouldn've nixed the plastic seats for wood. quite liked the front "patio" as it afforded more space between tables and gave us a little more privacy in a sense. so i guess i like the place.

                  1. On Te Aros' snack front...

                    The blueberry bran muffins are really good here; light and fluffy without being oily or too sweet.
                    The maple oat scone was maple-y and didn't crumble apart with a decent outer crunch.

                    oh, and while I'm not a coffee drinker, I had a couple sips of an Americano and really enjoyed it!...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chocabot

                      I noticed this beautiful place over the weekend after going to brunch at Toast next door. I wanted to try their coffee but didn't have a clue what to try. There was a nice friendly guy who worked at the counter and suggested that I try a cappacino. It was really nice. It was really smooth and had that roasted almost burnt coffee flavour which I really love. I took it to go as I didn't have time to sit around to enjoy the place. I love the cup that it came in. It was a very earthy kind of cup that looked like it was made out of crinkly cardboard. The lid was the part that I loved the most. The lid was like a sippy cup. I felt silly drinking my coffee from a sippy cup, but it brought me back to my childhood with happy thoughts. It nice to have something different and fun at the same time. Would go back to try something else.

                    2. This place is not connected to Baby on the Hip. It is owned by a couple from New Zealand. It has been gaining alot of popularity among locals, and others as well. They offer a very good espresso blend, as well as some top notch single origin coffees.
                      I go between Te Aro and Dark Horse in that neighbourhood. They are both great places to relax, and serve very good coffee.
                      I particularly like that Te Aro roasts their own beans. I asked one of the baristas about the air roaster that they used, and he gave me a very good explanation.
                      Overall, I think that this place is a great addition to the Toronto coffee scene, and what's even better is that they are offering public coffee cupping sessions! Yes.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: jwhitereview

                        Another good one to try in this area is Broadview Espresso. Pull a really nice shot, and it's a small but comfortable and relaxing place.

                        1. re: jwhitereview

                          Broadview Espresso is hardly in this area. It's north of the Danforth.

                          1. re: Eatertainer

                            Finally got to try TeAro after all this time (still searching for a replacement for Ideal on the east side) but alas, I was rather disappointed. They can't hold a candle to Mercury or Dark Horse in terms of flavour. Too bad. Maybe they spent all their budget on decor.

                            That said, I've noticed a sign in the old Ideal that says "Voulez Vous" Here's hoping!

                            1. re: currycue

                              That's funny, I'd argue that I Deal was a terribly underwhelming place. I'd say that Te Aro has got generally pretty good reviews, certainly not "disappointing". I think it'd be on most peoples shortlist for one of the best cafes in the city.

                              I hope Voulez Vous is better than the old I Deal, the space certainly deserves better, and in my opinion, "maybe they spent all their budget on decor" is a bit of a cheapshot. I like to think that Chowhound is above slights like that.

                              1. re: currycue

                                Currycue - have you tried Broadview Espresso? Interested in what you think of that place...I think the owner pulls a really good shot of espresso.
                                I also think you are being harsh - in fact, I was in Te Aro the other day, and they have scored some pretty high in the coffee review with one of their feature single origins. I think that gives them huge credibility about their beans.

                                1. re: jwhitereview

                                  Actually I've been to Broadview Espresso and I love their coffee. I'd be a regular if I were in the area for sure. I suppose I was being a bit harsh, but in that area chock full of coffee shops, you need to be competitive. I would hope that they have tried their competition and made a comparison for themselves. To be fair, I only tried their (TeAro's) espresso, but wasn't impressed.

                                  1. re: currycue

                                    There are a lot of great cafes in Toronto, and hopefully more on the horizon. I live in the west end so don't make it east very often. Last time I had coffee that way I had a great experience at te aro, and really enjoyed their espresso. It was full of complexity, well balanced and wasn't sour like many others. Keep up the good work te aro.