Yum Yum: Toronto’s Best Coffee

On the fourth floor we pride ourselves
on being bright eyed (and never bushy tailed!) for every occasion –
whether that be an early morning segment or a late night with a client event. It goes without saying that we’ve drunk our fair share
of coffee along the way and determined our favourite shops to stop in
for craft espresso long ago.

We’re not chronic over-caffeinators; we’re coffee aficionados. We were surprised when Fahrenheit, a place we hadn’t visited, won the title of
Best Specialty Coffee Shop in NOW’s Best of City 2012. We realized
we might be missing something by sticking to favourites, like NOW’s runner-up Sam James, and decided to head out on the town. Here are the places we’re really digging:

Sam James

Still our favourite spot to stop in for an espresso or cappuccino, Sam James never compromises quality for speed. He has been known to dump espressos multiple times if necessary to get a perfect pull. The espresso here is the richest and creamiest in the city with a crema unparalleled by competitors and complex flavour profiles. The rest of the shop’s offerings stand out as well: remarkably sweet cappuccinos, exciting alternatives like siphon coffee and pastries from Yonge Street’s Delica Kitchen.

Sam James Coffee Bar: 297 Harbord Street,  688a Bloor Street West and 150 King Street West (PATH).

Our runner-up is located in the heart of Kensington Market with a big personality and a community vibe. Owner Pouria Lotfi pulls rich creamy espressos and often has two varieties available. A large back patio and free Wi-Fi make the café a great hang out spot. 
Café  Pamenar: 307 Augusta Ave.

Popping in at Lit is always a treat. The staff is friendly and the beverages are always crafted with care. Also, the snacks are delicious! We particularly love the sea salt brownie, from Circles and Squares.

Lit Espresso Bar: 810 College St. and 221 Roncesvalles Ave.

We took a trip across town to check out NOW’s 2012 fave Fahrenheit. We had tried owner Sameer Mohamad’s coffee previously when he was involved with Sense Appeal and appreciated his dedication to the craft then so were excited for another taste. The service was great, the barista easily explained the flavour profiles of the two beans available, and the espresso was good, but a bit watery and acidic for our tastes.

Fahrenheit Coffee: 120 Lombard St.

Dark Horse is a staple. It may not offer the most craft coffee, but it is reliable and responsibly sourced. With a growing number of locations we’ve come to count on it as a convenient place to pop in for a quality beverage and a panini. Ample seating also makes it a great place to catch up with friends.

Dark Horse: 125 John St., 684 Queen St. West, 682 Queen St. East and 215 Spadina Ave.

Yum, yum: Hot chocolate

While we personally recommend layers of cashmere, there is another way to stay warm this winter. Pair your Vince sweaters with hot chocolate, and you’ll stay fashionably hot in even the coldest of Canadian winters. From Dark Horse Espresso to Cloud Espresso Bar and Aroma Espresso Bar, here are some of the city’s best cups of cocoa.
Dedicated to improving Toronto’s coffee scene one latte at a time. With its third location, Dark Horse Espresso is changing the way Queen Street does hot chocolate. Prepared with cocoa powder-based syrup made in-house, the hot chocolate from this super popular Queen Street coffee joint is skillfully blended. Heavy on the milk side, with just the right amount of slightly sweet cocoa, this Dark Horse Espresso specialty drink strikes the perfect balance of milk to chocolate.

Cloud Espresso Bar
Just steps away from the new Oliver Spencer store, Cloud Espresso Bar is churning out fresh pressed paninis and cups of creamy hot chocolate. A hot spot for the creative crowd, former Bonjour Brioche chef, Vladimir Martinez, is the culinary brains behind this inspired menu. You can order with skim or one per cent milk, but any way you have it, Cloud Espresso Bar’s hot chocolate is the stuff of foodie dreams.
From one of our favourite lunch spots in the city comes one of the sweetest hot chocolates in town. Aroma Espresso Bar is famous for its Israeli salads, exotic fruit juices and mint lemonade, but it’s their hot chocolate that keeps us coming back for more. 
In true DIY fashion, drinkers will mix together their own bowl of steaming hot milk with bars of chocolate. Calling all die-hard chocolate lovers – this is one serious cup of choco made just for you.
Pile on those layers and drink up. Where’s your favourite ho-cho spot? Tweet us @rockitpromo!

Rave: Coffee & Baked Treats

If you are anything like us, your morning does not begin until you’ve had a cup of coffee. We are cranky without it. While you can never start your day off wrong with a latte, coffee goes best with baked goods. Really, what doesn’t go best paired with something sugary, flaky and full of fat? Mmmm…

Back to coffee. There are a ton of great cafés in Toronto, so choosing a favourite is tough. We are known to indulge in the occasional cup from Canada’s favourite hockey-player-turned-coffee-guru chain for the quick hit of caffeine needed for work. But when we really want to sit down and wrap our hands around a steaming hot mug of java, these are our first picks.

It may be famous amongst the Queen Street crowd for its chocolate chip walnut cookies, but trust us: its scones are just as good. Arrive early in the a.m. before they are all sold out, and choose from butterscotch, cranberry and blueberry flavours. For a quick caffeine fix, try one of their cappuccinos, a perfect blend of espresso and milk. Le Gourmand has delicious scones and super cappuccinos; need we say more?

Donuts are back in a big way. Let’s just say that this season they are to baked goods what Proenza Schouler is to fashion. Since you would never say no to a bag by Proenza Schouler, you really could never turn down a donut from Little Nicky’s Coffee. Hit up this recently opened coffee hot spot, and watch as mini donuts come fresh off the conveyor belt. 

The donuts are then tossed in cinnamon and sugar, and into a paper bag for easy eating. Wash them down with Little Nicky’s special blend of espresso, which is a house blend made especially for them. 

When you think about it, muffins are really morning cupcakes. And who doesn’t love cupcakes? But if you need a healthier take on the icing-topped mini cakes, muffins are the answer to sweet tooth cravings before noon. Check out Cherry Bomb for a daily selection of mixed-berry and almond muffins. 

On weekends, try their special banana espresso chocolate chip variety. A great joint for take-away coffee, choose between the ultimate in lattes or some of city’s best hot chocolate. 

Lit just opened their third location on the first floor of the Burroughes building (danger alert!). Yes, delicious espresso, French-press coffee and lattes are now just downstairs from the fourth floor. Like we said, danger.

Lit Espresso Bar carries Stumptown Coffee Roasters, based out of Oregon, who pioneered direct trade coffee. This tastes great and makes you feel good.

To make things even more dangerous, Lit carries baked goods from Circles & Squares bakery. Their banana bread is amazing. We now have access to coffee practically 24/7. Yikes.

Tip: When buying baked goods, it’s best to buy in bulk. Pick up enough for your office, and you’ll instantly become the most popular coworker. Ever.