With ‘cultural mosaic’ as part of Toronto’s identity, I teamed up with youtuber and coffee expert Brodie Vissers to explore some of the best coffee shops in Toronto, all featuring a cultural connection. Toronto is a hub for harbouring many different cultures in one place. Sometimes it feels as if you have traveled the world after spending just a day on the streets of Toronto. Diversity is truly part of Toronto’s charm as is evident in its festivals, restaurants, and events. An open mind helps to appreciate the value of the variety of cultures that make Toronto. One of my favourite ways to spend time in the city is by enjoying some of the best coffee shops in Toronto.
One of the most unique coffee shops in Toronto, Fika Cafe is situated in the heart of ultra trendy Kensington Market. Fika Cafe is as cool as it gets! The term ‘Fika’ originates from Swedish roots. It means to have a break, often for coffee, and it is considered a social institution in Sweden. The vibe of this Café is relaxed and comfortable, you know, somewhere you could come to chill in a hammock and read a book all while enjoying super unique coffee drinks. The atmosphere of the café along with the energy of ultra bohemian Kensington Market truly embodies the idea of Fika…not to mention it has some seriously instagram worthy spots.
During our visit, we had the chance to try the Fika Iced Coffee, a fresh coffee drink flavoured with cardamom bitters, oat milk, simple syrup and espresso…you see what I mean by unique? We also tasted the espresso lemonade with rose water, espresso and elder flower, a perfect caffeinated summer time drink. With the addition of Scandinavian baked goods, Fika Cafe is definitely one of the best coffee shops in Toronto.
You can find Rustle and Still Cafe in Toronto’s Korea Town, near the ever popular Annex and right above my favourite restaurant in the city (another reason to go there). The authenticity of Rustle and Still is what makes it one of the best coffee shops in Toronto. Rustle and Still is a Vietnamese cafe owned by a sweet Vietnamese couple who use their voice to promote fair trade coffee and environmental respect.
The coffee beans used at Rustle and Still come from www.filanthrope.org, a fair trade not for profit organization which works to benefit the farmers and people of Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Laos. Through a method of gifting, filanthrope.org trades coffee from minority and indigenous peoples for things like infrastructure and money. The goal of the program is to empower the indigenous communities in order to help develop them from within. The café also solely uses metal straws in an effort to minimize their environmental footprint.
While at Rustle and Still we had the opportunity to try the arabica coffee from filanthrope.org brewed through the V60 method. This gave us the opportunity to taste the delicious coffee as it was meant to be. We also had the chance to taste the Vietnamese iced coffee…which you can see from the video below was my favourite. I am a sucker for sweet things so mixing coffee with condensed milk is always going to be a winner for me. Finally we had the opportunity to try their Pandan latte which involved mixing Pandan syrup (a leafy green) with soy milk and espresso…delicious. For the conscientious traveler, and for those interested in philanthropic opportunities, a visit to Rustle and Still is an ideal stop and one of the best ways to spend time in Toronto. Did I mention they make a terrific Bahn Mi?
Hailed Coffee has to be one of the most unique coffee shops in Toronto. Serving Arabic style coffee on the border of East Chinatown, Hailed attempts to use coffee to fuse Eastern and Western cultures. The owner, an architect, has been influenced by the minimalism of Scandinavia and thus carefully designed a cafe that is almost too cool.
The coffee at Hailed is of the most unique I have ever experienced, having taken a variety of coffee tours in South America. It is golden roasted, meaning when ground it almost looks like sand as opposed to the dark brown colour we are so commonly used to seeing. This golden roasted coffee is mixed with saffron and cardamom spices and brewed so lightly it almost tastes like tea…a highly caffeinated tea. Hailed Coffee does have a collection of Dallah’s, which are traditional middle eastern coffee pots but because it can take 20 minutes to brew this way, they have designed a steaming method which takes only a few minutes. Served in tiny handle-less cups, this Arabic (not to be confused with Turkish) coffee serves a real kick.
Another unique feature offered at Hailed Coffee are the luxury dates. Traditional Arabic coffee rituals will have drinkers chewing on bits of sweet dates while enjoying their hot coffees. They act like a natural sweetener, melting in the mouths of the coffee drinker. These dates are unique on their own, finding their luxury name in their method of drying while still on the tree. All of these features are part of what makes Hailed one of the best coffee shops in Toronto.
Norfolk County near Toronto has some amazing coffee shops as well, check them out!
One of the best ways to spend time in Toronto is to enjoy the historical distillery district. The distillery district has to be one of the trendiest places in the city…not to mention it is full of some of the most instagrammable spots. Arvo Coffee, a café which takes it’s vibe…and its toast bar… from the Australian coffee pub culture, can be found right in the heart of the distillery district. This café is as cool as its surroundings, and so are the baristas. Arvo is a location that really emits a sense of welcoming, a place where you can make friends with the baristas and really come to hangout. Arvo is a coffee shop which really focuses on building a community, no one is too cool for coffee here.
Arvo coffee puts a lot of effort into their delicious beverages. The drinks are thoughtfully served with the same cool style as the cafe itself. At Arvo they are all about taking in new types of coffee and experimenting with brewing styles and flavours. They attempt to showcase different roasters world wide and this thoughtfulness is part of why this is one of the best coffee shops in Toronto. We had the chance to try the nitro cold brew which is a carbonated cold brew coffee flavoured by hops. Essentially a cold brew non-alcoholic beer coffee, perfect for summer time. We enjoyed our cold brew on their wonderful patio as we watched the action of the distillery district by day. Arvo coffee is also family friendly, so if you have a little one, bring them by. They make complimentary ‘baby-chinos’ (steamed milk in espresso cups) for the kids.
This Queen West coffee shop exudes coolness with its dark black interior and deep red seating. Unlike many coffee shops this one is open late, has live music and thus becomes a place to actually ‘go out’ making it one of the best ways to spend time in Toronto. This cafe, along with its live rock music, is both a coffee shop and record store, adding to its ambiance.
Antikka Cafe is one of the best coffee shops in Toronto because of its focus on the traditional ways of brewing Armenian coffee. It is important to note that the coffee shop uses coffee from an Armenian roaster in San Francisco, keeping true to its roots. They are the only coffee shop in Canada using this roaster.
So how do you make Armenian coffee? A scoop of ground coffee is poured into already boiling water, from here the mixture gets pushed into a heating plate full of sand. The cup of coffee stays in the heated sand until the coffee blooms and it is ready to drink. They do this because in Armenia the people place the coffee into the hot desert sand to cook. This is Antikka’s way of imitating that practice, making it one of the most unique coffee shops in Toronto.
The cups used at Antikka Cafe are made by women in Armenia to which 100% of the profits benefit them…a unique way of helping the community which inspired the cafe. This coffee shop will also soon be licensed, once again making an excellent choice for a night out. Looking for something non-caffeinated? We also tried the turmeric latte at Antikka which tastes like ginger bread in a cup. Delicious.
Prefer Wine over coffee? Check out Windsor Essex Pelee Island County to explore one of Canada’s best wine regions.
Toronto is a cultural hot-spot. It is part of being Canadian. Through festivals, events, restaurants and as you can see, even cafés, one can experience the cultural mosaic that is Toronto. It is the perfect place for travellers. If you are in the city, exploring these cafés can be one of the best ways to spend time in Toronto. Each one of these cafés enjoys a unique take on a different culture. One could almost travel the world through the coffee community in Toronto. If you are spending time in Toronto, you should definitely check out these cafés as they are some of the best coffee shops in Toronto.
Interested in learning more? Watch the youtube video of our day exploring some of the best coffee shops in Toronto.
5 BEST COFFEE SHOPS IN TORONTO WITH CULTURAL COFFEE DRINKS
Want more from Brodie? Find him here!
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