In the 1970's, when you were out and about and craving a coffee, it usually accompanied a glazed donut from Tim Hortons. For the majority of Canadians you purchased this before, or after, taking your kids to hockey practice or figure skating.
Then came The Second Cup and Timothy's who, in the 1980's, brought flavoured coffees like hazelnut and vanilla to the masses, and expanded the selection of baked goods to muffins and carrot cake wrapped in cellophane. Getting fancier, these franchises started to provide a slightly more charming ambiance, like seats with cushions unattached to molded tables.
By the late 80's through the 90's, the popularity of Italian food cultivated the growing thirst for cappucinos and lattes frothed by a barista. Coffee evolved as a 'black two sugar' basic to a complicated beverage. Starbucks grabbed the trend and spread across the Globe just like Coca-Cola, satisfying the jittery cravings of the over-worked.
By the new millennium, paying for the privilege of ordering a 'skinny double-shot light foam vente latte' wasn't unusual for anyone. Starbucks had cleverly converted the proletariat into parting ways with 5 bucks at almost any point in the day, whether it be in an international airport or on one of the corners of your favourite neighbourhood. In the process, Starbucks served as a significant barometer of urban renewal and a cue for imminent gentrification throughout downtown cores.
But as of late, in Toronto, a noteworthy elevated change is in the air. People still crave coffee, but today fans of the libation have become expert aficionados, preferring a specific roasting process or even favoring a particular country's bean. Even the less coffee-savvy consumers have become increasingly discerning, rejecting the formulaic packaging and banal settings that accompany these ubiquitous coffee chains for the one-off entrepreneur. The truly custom coffee shop has arrived, and Torontonians love it!
I realized how fast this growing trend was happening when I took a stroll down Queen Street West, after snapping some photos of our dynamite new listing in Bob Mitchell's converted knitting mill factory located at 676 Richmond Street West. Around the corner and across the street is Quaff, a charming coffee shop that caters to the yakkety yak set seeking the airyness of comfortable design, jazz tunes, free wi-fi and tasty tid-bits like their perfectly executed buttery croissants. Down the street and across from Trinity Bellwoods Park is The White Squirrel Coffee Shop, a sun-drenched little oasis serving fair trade coffee and cream. And between the two is the southern italian pit stop Terroni which makes brilliant sandwiches and lattes (shout out to my pal Norm who works there!), Dufflets bakery with their decent coffee and arguably the city's best chocolate and key lime mousse tarts (a dessert favourite at my dinner parties), and The Red Tea Box which is renown for its deliciously eclectic High Teas (Torontonians are almost equally fascinated with tea) complete with inventive scones, finger sandwiches and pretty tea cakes. Even at the top end of Trinity Bellwoods on Dundas is The Common Mule, with its resident DJ proprietor who spins great tunes, making being juiced on their 'counter-culture coffee' extra easy.
It looks like the explosion of charming coffee shops throughout the City signifies our addiction to coffee, and the wagging tongues required for a good kaffeklatsch, is alive and well. I like it. It's a sign our dynamic city remains vibrant, even if it's only because we're kicking spry on caffeine.