Best independent coffee shops in Toronto

With new coffee shops opening in Toronto every year, there are no shortage of options for a great cup of joe. From stellar ambience to the best caffeinated brew to get you through the day, here are some of the top indie coffee shops in the 6. [Latte art at Sam James Coffee Bar. Photo by Jim Bamboulis]

Sam James Coffee Bar

1
297 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M6G 1G7

This Harbord location is the OG of Sam James Coffee Bars. With minimal seating like the other SJCB locales, this coffee shop is more known as a grab and go spot. The interior is moody with lots of character and the espresso is highly praised. It would be an understatement to say Sam James takes coffee seriously – he’s a barista champion. Just try the siphon brew – made in an old school French press “vacuum” machine that looks like an hourglass – you’ll be blown away. The taste impressively differs from hot to cold.

Rooster Coffee House

2
479 Broadview Avenue, Toronto, ON M4K 2N4

If you’ve been on Instagram lately, you must’ve seen this coffee shop’s “Hello Goodbye” #selfeet tiles. This Rooster Coffee House is located at the south-west side corner of Jarvis and Charles. The interior has an industrial vibe with its exposed high-ceiling piping. Head upstairs for the seating area and watch the baristas at work below. There are also window seats downstairs. The beans are local, from TO’s Pilot Coffee Roasters. The lattes are super creamy, including non-espresso based options like matcha and turmeric. This is the only of three locations that serves organic gourmet salads and sandwiches.

Fahrenheit Coffee

3
120 Lombard St, Toronto, ON M5C 3H5

This is the perfect place to grab your morning cup of joe. The baristas at Fahrenheit Coffee are super friendly, which makes it easy to start your day on a positive note. Plus, they know their coffee, so if you’re stuck on what to order, they’ll help you decide. There’s also delicious baked goods like cookies, scones and muffins if you so fancy. And the service here is amazing, so line-ups tend to move fast.

The Coffee Lab

4
333 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1W7

This is the smallest coffee shop in the 6 – taking up 52-square-feet of space inside Annex bookstore Willow Books. And it’s oh-so-charming! The owner designed it like a chemist lab, with coffee beans inside test tubes and loose leaf teas inside Erlenmeyer flasks. Plus, beakers are used to serve espresso, milk and water. You can tell the owner is passionate about coffee down to the science. The Lab is also a few steps from UTSG and opens at 7 am on weekdays – perfect for students and workers in the area to grab their morning coffee.

Early Bird Espresso And Brew Bar

5
613 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2B7

You might have seen the pink eggs benedict and rose-designed avocado toast on Instagram – yeah, this place makes some next level IG-worthy breakfast and brunch. But it’s worth stopping by just for the coffee, too, and a snack. Early Bird has great quality beans to choose from and interesting drinks – have you tried the charcoal cortado yet? You’ll often see people with their laptops here and who could blame them – it’s hard to leave. But if it’s seats you’re looking for, it’s best to get here early. Oh, and there is a sweet patio to boot.

Boxcar Social

6
1208 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4T 1W1

If you’re looking for a cool, casual place to hangout with a few friends, this is it. With ample seating (more room upstairs and on the patio) and a rustic-chic interior, this is epitome of a social coffee shop. This spot offers tasting flights and on top of coffee, there’s wine, beer, whisky and a food menu, if you’re hungry. Boxcar Social has other locations as well.

Fika Café

7
28 Kensington Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2J9

This Swedish café in the heart of Kensington Market is just so charming, you’d be silly not to love this place. Fun fact: “Fika” is Swedish for “coffee break.” Take a break by the wall of books or stay for some productive studying (they have Wi-Fi and a communal table in the back). The beans are sourced from Pilot and Fika bakes Swedish pastries, like lussekatter saffron buns, cinnamon buns unlike any you’ve had before, and semlor buns, in-house. P.S. If you haven’t already, you have to try the lavender hot chocolate!

Tucana Coffee

8
1413 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1Y4

Who could resist a floral coffee shop? The sweet yet edgy Tucana Coffee is another small café, located on Dundas West. The owner, Tenille Clarke, was a barista at Crafted By Te Aro on Ossington for four years before launching her own business. She sources her beans locally from topnotch roasters Pilot. Tucana has quite the menu for its size, with not just coffee, but also a long list of teas and a few flavoured lattes like lavender, matcha and dirty chai, to name a few. There’s also Glory Hole Doughnuts and more vegan treats from places like Sweet Hart Kitchen.

Run and Gun Coffee

9
1541 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6K 1T6

Whether you’re looking to grab a coffee and go, a place to sit and chat or get some work done (there’s Wi-Fi, but get here early – seats are limited), this is where you’ll want to be. The coffee beans here are sourced from Toronto’s de Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters. Though the menu is small, the coffee is good and so is the matcha latte. Plus, there’s delicious baked goodies from The Drake Hotel, which are hard to resist!

Tandem Coffee

10
368 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A 1K9

Missing the greenery during wintertime in the 6? You’ll find it on a wall here – seriously, there’s a plant wall. But that’s not all that makes this place unique. Tandem has black sesame latte, if you want to try something different from the typical espresso drinks, and the cutest maneki-neko shaped shortbread cookies. There’s also lots of seats for a small space, if you want to stay awhile.

Toronto is filled with amazing cafés and new and exciting ones are opening year after year, which makes choosing the best a difficult task. But we managed to narrow it down to the top ones that never disappoint. Each have something special to offer. So, without further ado, here are the cafés in the 6 that will win you over every time. [Photo courtesy of Sorry Coffee Co.]
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