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Truly best espresso in 2013

What are some of the best, say top 5, places for straight, current-generation espresso in Toronto? Not cappuccinos/lattes/americanos. Not espresso brewed by an 80 year old Italian woman in a metal pot. Not espresso judged with any amount of sugar, honey or mixing. I hereby disqualify anybody who judges their coffee with any of these variables from commenting.

I've tried a bunch of them that come "recommended" and they are mostly sub-par, maybe 1-2 out of 5 if 0 is a from a vending machine in a gas station.

I've had decent at Dark horse and Crema and one other I can't recall the name of.

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  1. Fahrenheit (Jarvis & Lombard) is my go to.

    6 Replies
        1. re: fatpersonpersony

          They often have a few single origin options to choose from.

          1. re: JonasBrand

            i should have specified, 'whose' beans do they use

      1. re: JonasBrand

        Aside from those mentioned, I also like Cherry Bomb, Good neighbour and Ezra's.

      2. This is extremely subjective, there is no "truly best" of any food or beverage.

        Personally, I strongly second JonasBrand's recommendation of Fahrenheit. In terms of taking their espresso very seriously while also being very cool and non-pretentious Sameer and company are the clear winners.

        I enjoy the coffee and ambiance at both locations of the Rooster Coffee House. The Black Canary at Sherbourne & Adelaide makes very consistent and drinkable espresso (although I almost always get Americanos there, I drink them black, and I have tried their espressos a few times.)

        When I'm in Leslieville I like Mercury Espresso.

        When I'm inside the St. Lawrence Market I like Pasta Mia (on the lower level, south-east corner).

        When I'm in the west end, I like Jimmy's on Portland St.

        When I'm in Kensington Market I like Moonbean.

        I personally have not enjoyed most of the coffees I've tried from Dark Horse (neither the Spadina, John St. or Riverdale locations), Sam James in the PATH (acrid a la Starbucks), the new Academy Coffee on the Esplanade (weirdly vegetal/sour and never the same twice), or Dineen Coffee at Yonge & Temperance (all style, no substance). But others name these as their go-to spots, so who am I to judge?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Gary

          I was wondering about Dineen- good to know your thoughts.
          I actually tend to get chain espresso at Aroma when I'm within a 10 minute walk of the Eaton Centre. I like Aroma's espresso more than many of the indie espressos around town.

          1. re: prima

            I would say it is worth going to Dineen even if just for the flash! From what I recall I enjoyed my espresso there but it has been a while since I went.

        2. Kazaar from Nespresso tasting booth in The Bay store :)

          Ha, actually, it is very good in my books and we have a machine at work. I liked the Espresso from Thor that I have had. I will try to remember some of the other off the beaten path spots and post back but will definitely keep an eye out on this thread.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ylsf

            Why pay for a hot nespresso at the new nespresso Yorkville cafe, when you can get it FREE at The Bay on Queen/Yonge AND Yorkdale Mall?!?!

          2. I realize you're new on the Board, but just so you know, people will comment regardless of whether you've disqualified them or not.

            I like 7 Grams and Broadview Espresso, but I order cappucino before 11 am, and espresso after 11 am, so you might want to take what I say with a grain of salt. It also doesn't bother me the barista is 80 years old and Italian. Actually, I prefer Italian baristas with Italian accents. (For those who also like Italian baristas, ZaZa has Italian baristas that greet people in Italian, but serves standard Italian style espresso)

            Nespresso on Cumberland (in addition to the one ylsf mentioned, that is located in the Bay) has several different espressos, if you'd like to compare espressos from different beans. I find them to be good, but overpriced.

            Manic also has good espresso.

            3 Replies
            1. re: prima

              I haven't been to the Yorkville shop yet. Do they just have a cafe or do they still have a tasting bar for Nespresso members?

              I think what OP was referring to with regards to the 80 year old Italian lady and the pot was a "moka pot".. I.e. Stove top "espresso" vs. an actual espresso .

              1. re: ylsf

                Ya, I know that the OP was referring to the moka pot type. Have you even seen any Italian coffee shops in TO use a moka commercially? The Italian-run shops always have an espresso machine, in my experience. I get the impression OP might pay more for an espresso pulled by a hipster of non-Italian origin. :) LOL.

                There's a cafe in the front of the space, and a boutique at the back, which used to be the Cumberland 4 theatre. RIP the Cumberland 4. The cafe has a host, and table service. I'm guessing they take reservations. One latte and one cappuccino came to around $12 before tip. Lots of people on dates, the afternoon I went. Limited food menu compared to the Nespresso cafe in Montreal, almost no pastries offered, yet they have at least 3 desserts requiring a spoon. This place is for people who like wide open cafes, and creme brulee with their coffee. Not my scene. Thought it was funny that our server asked if we were members, which is Nestletalk for "do you own a Nespresso machine?". My friend was a member, but we didn't get any member discount, afaik, so what's the point of labelling customers members if they don't get a discount at the coffee shop? Even AGO members get a discount of coffee purchased in the AGO's espresso bar and restaurants.

                1. re: prima

                  Wow from 6 dollars for a coffee to having to hang out in a nestle branded good times cafe this literally sounds like the shittiest thing I can imagine, I have noticed those places around in the last few months but never bothered to look in to it, gross

            2. I have taken many suggestions but have yet to find an exceptional espresso in Toronto. I've been going to Lit on College, but it is only ok. I would like to find a spot that is similar to Cafe Myriade in Montreal, that takes care in curating their bean collection - rather than simply going by the motto that locally roasted is best. Surely there must be a good spot in this city. I've had 10 people suggest Dark Horse or Ideal Coffee which are mediocre at best. I am also not looking for a traditional european style espresso.

              2 Replies
              1. re: fatpersonpersony

                I am fully in agreement with you. I find the standard of espresso in Toronto to be generally low, usually bitter and/or thin. Many cafes have a great vibe, great decor, great food, but mediocre coffee.That includes Sam James and Dark Horse. The one place (actually 4 locations) that I do generally like is Balzac's, though I am lately finding more problems with consistency even there.

                1. re: alvino

                  I agree with your comment regarding atmosphere - but one other point, I've been to a bunch of cool, well decorated places with weirdly shaped, scratched, dirty mugs. Often the barista will spill coffee on the mug and not bother to wipe it. I don't get what's behind the lack of passion.

              2. (1) Zaza espresso bar in yorkville and (2) the Sovereign on davenport near dufferin.

                1 Reply
                1. re: catherine88

                  For pure straight up espresso shots, these two.

                2. My personal list right now for top five in no particular order would be

                  R Squared
                  Sam James (not the PATH)

                  I pretty much always go for the single origin option if it's there at a place. Social is my favourite local coffee roaster followed by Pilot. I keep meaning to check out Olya as well as I've heard great things but their hours keep stopping me.

                  1. Crema, Lit, Te Aro, Fika, Manic... some of my faves.

                    1. so what do you rate a 5?

                      white squirrel
                      r squared
                      bull dog
                      7 grams

                      are my goto places, and

                      dark horse
                      jet fuel

                      are my last resort places

                      many of these places i've tried because they were listed on the indie coffee passport a few years back. too bad the good places don't see the need to re-subscribe to it in following years.

                      1. Mercury and Manic are the closest to Myriad in Montreal. Occasionally other places match, like Dark Horse, but there's no consistency between days/baristas/locations.

                        There is definitely a lot of "locavore" nonsense here and a lot of people are clearly skewed by it.

                        Yes, there's some level of subjectivity to good taste, but only within the confines of actual good taste. The difference between a 4 and a 5 (or the top order of those 5s) could be re-arranged according to bitter/sweet/whatever preference, but giving Nespresso or the like a top-slot is just indicative of - to put it politely - a "lack of sensitivity". Granted this is heresy in a city that loves lobotomizing itself with the 'different-but-equal' dogma.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: whatdoisay

                          "Giving Nespresso or the like a top-slot is just indicative of- to put it politely- 'a lack of sensitivity'"?

                          Is it polite to dismiss the recommendations of other Chowhounds who made an effort to answer your query by suggesting espressos they like?

                          "some level of subjectivity to good taste, but only within the confines of actual good taste"?

                          That doesn't make sense.

                          1. re: prima

                            Yes it does, it means that drinking nestle brand espresso in a nestle brand cafe when there are literally probably one hundred other places to get a shot in Toronto that aren't owned by evil conglomerates bent on privatizing the worlds water supply does not display even a modicum of good taste

                            1. re: disgusti

                              I don't think that's what the OP meant.

                              Maybe TO coffee shops could start enlightening their customers by posting whether their sources for espresso beans are evil or not?

                          2. re: whatdoisay

                            i agree, there's very little consistency between baristas.

                            Mercury has not been the same IMO after the full time baristas left in probably 2010 or so. since then it seemed like a revolving door of espresso machine jockeys.

                          3. Coffee Tree (Bloor West Village)
                            LIT (Roncy)
                            Cherry Bomb (Roncy)
                            Crema (Junction)

                            1. Farenheit

                              Just one man's opinion.

                              1. De Mello Palheta. If you normally take yours with sugar, try De Mello's before adding any - you might like it just like that :)

                                4 Replies
                                  1. re: Doopsylalolic

                                    Tried De Mello's small cappuccino today ($3.50) and a dulce de leche bar ($3.75). My cappuccino was on the very milky, low foam side, tasted more like a latte. I'd add an extra shot if I return. Not sure if it was just a result of the individual who made it, or if they always serve cappuccinos on the weak/milky side.

                                    The dulce de leche bar was tasty and a generous size, basically same idea as a millionaire's bar (shortbread base, dulce de leche instead of caramel, chocolate). Cute place, but $8.19 (including tax) seems a little steep for a small cappuccino and a square.

                                    Their pre-made personal pizzas and a side salad were around 9.99, which I also thought was a little pricey. I'd think you could get a better and more generous slice at Falasca SPQR for 10 bucks.

                                    1. re: prima

                                      Small cappuccino and dulce de leche bar.

                                      1. re: prima

                                        prima: Thanks for the reminder on Falasca SPQR.

                                        I'm bigging up Detour Coffee in Dundas, Ontario, for espresso. Also I bought a bag of their arabica bean/espresso roast in Hamilton at Olive & Kiwi, made them in a steel stovetop maker at home. No sugar added, those were very good cups.

                                  2. I just returned from Via Norte http://www.vianorterest.com/ and after a great dinner we ordered one espresso and one cappuccino. The espresso was definitely the best I've had all year in a restaurant. I didn't see any 80 year old Italian women but there were some AAA waitresses and customers.

                                    1. Cafe Olya on Parliament! Mike knows how to pull the perfect shot. And if you go before noon you will enjoy the freshly baked goodies as well. They offer beans from different roasters, so call in advance if you want to know what hey are using that week. So far I have tried beans from Phil & Sebastian (Calgary), Irving Farm (NY) & 49th Parallel(Vancouver) at the cafe. Mike is the owner and the barista, so shots are always consistently pulled.