You must understand, I am not your typical Starbucks girl, who can’t go a day without her No Fat Soy Iced Caramel Macchiato. Truth to be told, I’m not any Starbucks girl AT ALL. As soon as I developed a taste for good coffee (and by coffee, I mean espresso), there was no turning back.
It all started during my first trip to Italy, when I was 15. I was at a lecture, falling asleep because of the jet lag, and my coach offered me an espresso. But it’s not Starbucks, I thought to myself. How on earth was I going to drink this without any steamed milk, or caramel drizzle? But I did. I drank it, and I enjoyed it, and I became hooked.
So Toronto, here’s where you can get your REAL good-tasting coffee (not the Tim Hortons brown water they provide):
- Aroma Espresso Bar. Originally from Israel, it made its first North American debut in 2006 in New York City, Toronto following in 2007 not too far behind. Today, Toronto has almost 30 locations all across the GTA. Though not Italian, and usually the first choice for coffee addicts, these guys sure have a great tasting espresso. A cappuccino is so naturally sweet from the milk and coffee, that sugar isn’t even needed. Add their tasty alfajore to your order, and you’ve got yourself the perfect 10-minute break.
- Illy Espressamente. Welcome to Yorkdale Mall, probably the nicest mall in Toronto. You can find any store, any pair of shoes, any possible materialistic desire you may have. And just halfway up to the food court, you can find good coffee. I would have to say Illy is my favourite, as it is the real Italian deal. Many believe this place is more expensive than Starbucks, but looking at the bigger picture, you are getting something of better quality (just without the caramel drizzle) for the same price. There is another Illy location in Vaughan, up north at Dufferin and Major Mackenzie, located inside Yummy Market.
- Balzac’s Coffee Roasters. I don’t go here often, but when I do, it’s because it’s the middle of winter and I’m running to a Ryerson lecture. There is also a location at Liberty Village, and another at the Distillery District, all three of which are pretty convenient. It’s your typical little hipster coffee shop with just enough tiling to make the experience feel like you’re the girl-next-door (or boy) heroine in a movie. Needless to say, their coffee is also quite exquisite, and much higher on the taste scale than Starbucks.
As you may have understood by now, I am very protective of my coffee, and I am also appalled by people who claim Tim Hortons is the best thing they ever drank. With all due Canadian pride, I will never touch a cup of Tim Hortons coffee in my life, especially when I can have one of the three earlier mentioned coffees just around the corner. So if you ever find yourself in Italy, keep in mind that “one coffee please” will be understood as espresso. And that will be the best espresso of your life.
Dear Torontian, where else may I find a tasty cappuccino?