Before I begin, I will state once again that I am no coffee connoisseur. This is partially because I can’t even drink coffee without getting a ridiculous buzz (and not a pleasant one). However, every now and again I like to treat myself to an invariably expensive espresso drink*– usually a decaf cappuccino.
I am all about making my hot drinks at home (like tea…where there is literally no difference between home and elsewhere). However, despite my dutiful use of my handheld milk frother and coffee maker, I just can’t re-create the magic of steamed milk and espresso.
Here are a few places I’ve tried.
Chabichou (Harbord) http://www.chabichou.ca/
Technically a “fine cheese and gourmet food” establishment, Chabichou served me up quite a tasty decaf latte and charcuterie platter. Eating on their tiny patio all alone on a mid-weekday morning, I felt very Parisienne.
Himalayan Java (Yonge and Eglinton) – http://www.himalayanjava.com/
This is a friendly, cozy café north of Yonge and Eglinton. The atmosphere was relaxing and I liked the ambiance. My decaf cappuccino ($3.25) was a bit bland.
La Bohème (Yonge and Eglinton)- http://labohemecafe.ca/
This was one of those disappointing places where looks were deceiving. I got the quiche which was a bit dense, bland, and cold despite a 5-minute wait for it to be heated in the oven. There was also nothing special about my decaf cappuccino ($3.30).
Aroma Espresso Bar (Multiple locations in Toronto)– http://www.aroma.ca/
My partner gave their Americano the thumbs up and I really like a few of their non-espresso drinks (notably the orchid latte in winter and the lemon-mint ice in summer). Their potato burekas are awesome and the have some healthy breakfast and lunch options.
Birds and Beans (Mimico, Etobicoke)- http://www.birdsandbeans.ca/
I don’t know if it’s their organic, bird friendly coffee, but they my favourite decaf latte ever. The service can be iffy/slow and the food overpriced (they do have some really yummy breakfast cookies, though).
Petit Thuet (Rosedale)- http://www.petitethuet.com/
It was a while ago that I went there, but I seem to recall a good decaf latte and a yummy cranberry (?) danish.
Ezra’s Pound– see my full review
*Espresso Drinks– Starbucks and Otherwise
Here is my best understanding of espresso drinks. I will happily take corrections!
Espresso- Espresso is a way of brewing coffee that forces a small amount of hot water through finely ground coffee beans. It is very concentrated. A single shot of espresso is usually 1 fluid ounce.
Caffè americano- Literally “american coffee”. This is a style of coffee where you add hot water to espresso. It has a similar strength to drip coffee (“regular” coffee), but a different flavour. The ratio of water to espresso can vary.
Cappuccino- Made from espresso (1/3), steamed milk (1/3) and foamed milk (1/3) and served with a spoon. It is traditionally consumed at breakfast. Cappuccinos may be smaller than caffè lattes (usually 5-6 ounces) when served in an establishment without standard drink sizes. (At Starbucks, a cappucino is an “espresso with steamed milk, topped with a deep layer of foam”.)
Caffè latte/Café au lait- Literally “milk coffee”. Apparently in Italy this is a breakfast drink and the milk is not foamed, whereas internationally it is made with steamed milk often with a small layer of foam on top. (At Starbucks, it is an “espresso in steamed milk, lightly topped with foam”.)
Caffè macchiato – Literally “marked coffee”. This is usually a shot of espresso “marked” with a little bit of milk. In contrast, a latte macchiato (like Starbucks’ caramel macchiato) is “marked milk”. The steamed milk is “marked” with espresso. At places like Starbucks, it’s a whole shot of espresso whereas at a more traditional cafe you might only get a partial shot of espresso.