Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Cut Coffee can be found in multiple cafés throughout Toronto and is the wholesale side of Sam James Coffee Bars; there are fi ve Sam James in different locations throughout city. They're all great (I can report from experience), but the fl agship Harbord location, opened in 2009, is my personal favorite. Anyone reading this magazine knows all too well that when you spend days on end drinking coffee, you have to mix it up a bit. I was intrigued by a line of wellness tea lattes I had read and heard about being served up at Versus Coffee located in the Financial District. The bright, airy café is a multiroaster shop, and during my visit was serving Toronto staples Hale Coffee and De Mello Palheta. I highly recommend Hale's Colombian and its Brazilian Santo Antonio, and De Mello Palheta's Anfi teatro from Costa Rica. Versus gets many things right. In addition to a killer roaster lineup, the shop features nice bites that fi t every dietary restriction. Owned by Zeid and Anthony Ayachi, Versus makes all of their tea latte components in house. As I sampled my order of their three wellness lattes, I was surprised I liked them all. These weren't just drinkable Easter eggs— they were tasty, as well. My favorite was the beetroot and lavender latte meant for detox. I also enjoyed the blue algae and gin- ger latte, and the turmeric latte with just a touch of coconut sugar. Intrigued by my col- orful table of lattes, some fellow customers stopped to ask what I was up to, and all of a sudden, we were all enjoying an impromptu tasting session. Ah, Canadians—they're so friendly! Given his thorough understanding of the Toronto coffee community, I texted Grant for some recommendations. "Siarhei Strange Love," read his cryptic response. That's it. So with my phone map leading the way, I headed to the nearest StrangeLove shop. I soon found out that the café opened about 18 months earlier on the high-traffic area of Spadina Avenue, and is owned by David Tran and Chris Nguyen. Side note: When I go on coffee adventures, I never tell anyone until later that I am writing for Barista Magazine, nor do I call in ad- vance. I want to experience a shop as any other person would. I showed Chris the text from Grant, and he chuckled and said, "Oh, that's Siarhei [pronounced SIR-gai] Laurenau—he's our head barista." Originally from Belarus, Siarhei has been in Toronto since 2005 and curates StrangeLove's coffee program. I found him at StrangeLove's newest shop, which opened the week before my arrival and is housed inside a tattoo parlor. The crema of StrangeLove's training barista corps offer sensory labs to enthusiastic consumers that include tastings, palate development, and theory classes. As luck would have it, Siarhei was working on curricula for one at the time of my visit, and he pulled me into a coffee tasting he was conduct- ing with two fellow baristas. This was not your average cupping. When I noted Meyer lemon in one of the cups, Siarhei launched into an agricultural history les- son on the fruit. I learned all about StrangeLove's coffee program including their housemade Tonka syrup, the mocktail program, and the roasters they choose to highlight. It wasn't surprising to fi nd the celebrated Calgary-based Phil + Sebastian, Toronto's Pilot Coffee, or microroaster Seth Taylor: Coffee by Design. Yes, I tried them all. Standouts included Phil + Seb's (as the locals call them) Honduran Elder Chavez, and Pilot's Fairview Peaber- ry Kenya as well as its Monte Verde from El Salvador. I also had the opportunity later to try Pilot's shelf-stable cold brew in a can, 37 www.baristamagazine.com

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