Cakes, Co-Working and Cold Brews: 19 Great Cafés in Toronto

Neo Coffee Bar is one of many excellent cafés in Toronto
Neo Coffee Bar is one of many excellent cafés in Toronto | © Neo Coffee Bar

Whether you’re into Instagrammable creations or bold espressos, Toronto has a buzzing coffee scene where you’ll find everything from locally roasted single-origin beans to creamy cold brews.

With such a vibrant café culture in Toronto, there’s no shortage of blended roasts, drips, cold brews and pour-overs. The Ontario capital is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and it only makes sense that the café scene reflects this. These are the best coffee shops in Toronto.

1. Taste roasts from around the world at De Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Interior at De Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters
© De Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters

From its humble micro-roastery origins, De Mello Palheta has transformed into a specialty roaster whose beans are used by some of the city’s most popular cafés, bolstered by a collection of awards. All of its coffees are sourced by sustainable and ethical means from a variety of countries. They’re then hand-roasted to bring out the natural flavors of each batch, reflecting the beans’ various regions. Find De Mello Palheta at Yonge-Eglinton, and pair your expertly roasted coffee with a freshly baked pastry.

2. Down a cold brew at Pilot Coffee Roasters

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Pilot Coffee Roasters is all about farm to cup, visiting the countries its coffees are produced in and purchasing most of the beans directly from farmers. Pilot’s dedication to quality and responsibly sourced coffees won it Roast Magazine’s 2014 Micro Roaster of the Year. Be sure to taste one of its rich and creamy cold brews (on tap or in a can) at its sleek and modern Ossington café or one of its other locations.

3. Keep it classic at Sam James Coffee Bar

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Sam James Coffee Bar has always been about top-notch quality, and after a few years of gathering a loyal following in the city, it started roasting its own under the name Cut Coffee. The menu is pared back, and prices are reasonable. Its Park location on Queen West stays true to its minimalist ethos, with grab-and-go service, save from a few seats, and a clean, open concept design and large windows. It also has a few other locations across different neighborhoods to help you get your caffeine fix. Make sure to take cash with you.

4. Taste the seasons at Arvo Coffee

Coffee Shop, Dessert

Interior of Arvo Coffee
© Johanna Taylor / Arvo Coffee

To Arvo, coffee is a seasonal fruit, and this multi-roaster and café offers single-origin batches that change with the seasons. Make a brunch out of your coffee break, and feast on Arvo’s charcuterie or ricotta and jam toast, all made on organic sourdough from local Blackbird Baking Co. Its Distillery District location hosts public coffee tastings twice a week and live music events every month.

5. Enjoy a sustainable brew at Propeller Coffee Co.

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Propeller Coffee Co. is a small-batch, specialty roaster that sources and roasts the best beans from around the world, buying only from the most experienced and knowledgeable farmers. Every single batch of coffee undergoes its cupping process, to analyze and observe the quality, tastes and aromas. It’s also fully committed to sustainability, using renewable energy in its roastery and bio-diesel fuel for transportation, which helped Propeller to win the title of Roast Magazine’s Micro Roaster of the Year back in 2016. Grab a cup of sustainable java at its spacious, warehouse-like café with shared tables in the Junction.

6. Go green at Merchants of Green Coffee

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Inside Merchants of Green Coffee
© Merchants of Green Coffee

For over two decades, Merchants of Green Coffee has specialized in sourcing eco-friendly and organic coffee beans – it was actually the first licensed importer of Fairtrade coffee in North America. It’s passionate about sustainability in every step of its process, from packaging its coffees in biodegradable bags to using reusable organic cotton filters. Sip on a fresh, organic brew at its rustic, cozy café in Riverside.

7. Take your coffee Irish at Boxcar Social

Cafe, Wine Bar, Contemporary

Café-bar Boxcar Social hosts a rotating selection of beans, pairing them with a revolving cast of roasters chosen to bring out the flavors of the coffee’s origin. As the café puts it, coffee is a “window into regions to which we cannot always travel, and into the lives of people we cannot always meet.” The Harbourfront branch has the best views, but the other locations in Summerhill, Financial District and Riverside serve the same delicious brews.

8. Hang out at Jimmy’s Coffee

Cafe, Dessert

Known for its vintage furnishings and signature yellow cup lids, Jimmy’s Coffee has won the hearts of Torontonians. The company sources its beans from micro-lot growers, meaning the farmers pick out the most top-notch beans and produce them separately at a small scale. Enjoy a locally roasted cup in traditional Italian style at its flagship Portland location, or visit its sister café across the street for nitro cold brew on tap and affogato ice cream. It also has seven other locations around the city, each with its own individual appeal.

9. Indulge in Japanese roll cakes at Neo Coffee Bar

Coffee Shop, Coffee, Pastries, Japanese

Japanese inspired Neo Coffee Bar
© Neo Coffee Bar

Neo Coffee Bar partners with De Mello Palheta to create its own one-of-a-kind, handcrafted single-origin beans. However, where this café really shines is in its decadent home-made Japanese pastries, prepared every day from scratch. Former competitive barista Bruce Ly and pastry chef Masashi Nakagome, this café’s formidable co-founders, are adamant about creating a sense of community, enforcing laptop- and tablet-free afternoons on weekends and during statutory holidays. The Old Town location features concrete walls and minimal wooden fixtures, a style inspired by coffee shops in Japan.

10. Relish a handcrafted cup at Goldstruck Coffee

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Goldstruck’s coffees are made from Fairtrade-certified beans sourced from small farms and cooperatives. It prepares each coffee according to its own signature recipes and makes espresso-based drinks you won’t find anywhere else in the city, such as its halva and cayenne lattes. Find this warm, industrial basement café tucked away in Yorkville.

11. Savor authentic Vietnamese coffee at Rustle and Still Café

Cafe, Vietnamese, Coffee

Interior of Rustle & Still Café
© Rustle and Still

Rustle and Still Café crafts its Vietnamese coffees and Asian-inspired lattes from sustainably grown arabica beans sourced directly from farmers in Southeast Asia. All of its coffees are made from this one variety, and it’s the only café in the city that offers it. Filled with green plants and wooden tables, the Scandinavian-inspired interior makes this a cozy, inviting spot to linger over lunch. Tuck into its delicious bánh mì options, such as the lemongrass pork sandwich.

12. Take a break at Rooster Coffee House

Cafe, Coffee

Rooster Coffee House has gathered a loyal customer base over the years. Its menu caters to vegans and celiacs, offering gourmet sandwiches from Cinq Foods, organic salad bowls from Village Juicery and baked goods from local bakeries including Dark Horse and Circles & Squares. Non-dairy drinkers will be grateful for the expanded milk selection, which also includes macadamia and oat. Each of its branches in Yorkville, Riverdale and Corktown is different in some way – the Yorkville location imparts a rustic-chic environment with vintage art and subway tiles adorning the walls.

13. Admire Nordic-inspired decor at ODIN Cafe + Bar

Bar, Cafe, Coffee, Beer, Wine

Interior of ODIN Cafe + Bar
© Ryan Fung

ODIN Cafe + Bar serves Pilot coffee blends by day and locally sourced beers and wines by night. This Corktown gem is all about supporting local businesses – it sources its baked goods from Circles & Squares and empanadas from The Empanada Company. The bright and airy Nordic-inspired interior will have you wanting to sip lattes all day long, and craft beers until late. It’s one of the pricier options on the list, but still worth the visit.

14. Be charmed at Tandem Coffee

Cafe, Coffee Shop, Coffee

With mismatched dishware and a vintage aesthetic, Tandem Coffee is a quaint little spot in Corktown. Owned by a barista couple, the café has a revolving line-up of beans from local roasters, including Quietly Coffee and Detour. Notable items on the menu include the black sesame latte and the adorable maneki-neko-shaped shortbread cookies (also known as the lucky cat).

15. Try an eccentric latte at StrangeLove Coffee

Coffee Shop, Dessert

StrangeLove Coffee is a warm and welcoming café based in the Fashion District, where you’ll find a mix of both classic and exotic beans from De Mello Palheta and Calgary-based Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters. One of its most unique drinks is the Lovers Latte, made with its home-made tonka bean syrup. StrangeLove utilizes a special machine that re-engineers and cleans out water for its drinks, in turn imparting a distinct flavor on the coffees. Find its second location in Summerhill.

16. Refuel at Sweat and Soda

Cafe, Coffee

Owned by Yoona Hong (a marathon runner) and her partner Guy Ozery, Sweat and Soda is all about healthy living. This Leslieville hang-out was made for fitness enthusiasts to hydrate and replenish, whether it’s to stop off mid-jog or to fuel up in the middle of the workday. It serves Propeller and Hale coffee blends, as well as a mix of paleo-friendly, gluten-free and vegan dishes. Highlights include the steak and kimchi wrap and sweet potato brownies. Join one of its organized runs, walks and bike rides.

17. Appreciate an Arabic-inspired brew at Hailed Coffee

Coffee Shop, Coffee, Middle Eastern

Arabic-inspired coffee at Hailed Coffee
© Hailed Coffee

Hailed Coffee is a minimalist café with locations in College Park and Riverdale. Its signature offering is the Hailed shot; hail in Arabic is cardamom, a spice that lends a dose of smoothness and aroma. It features a seasonal dates bar and handcrafted artisanal chocolates from local small-batch chocolatiers Shoko Chocolates, all of which go perfectly with a cup of Arabic joe.

18. Get work done at Dark Horse Espresso Bar

Bar, Cafe, Canadian

Dark Horse Espresso Bar is known for its laptop-friendly communal tables and moreish coffees. It features house-made pastries and paninis, and all of its beans come from 49th Parallel and Detour, both Canada-based roasters. The Chinatown location features a wood-and-brick interior, with natural light flooding in through the large windows. Dark Horse has five other locations – all adorned with rustic accents.

19. Sip colorful creations at Versus Coffee

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Another café-bar hybrid in the city, Versus Coffee is more than just colorful and Instagram-worthy lattes. Enjoy dishes infused with Tunisian spices, coffee and tea cocktails, and chai lattes made from scratch. It sources the majority of its beans from De Mello Palheta and serves standard espresso-based coffee drinks, as well as innovative creations such as the Campfire Latte, a delicious blend of espresso and maple syrup topped with torched marshmallows. Pay the café a visit near the Financial District.

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