I love spending time in cafes. There’s something about the smell of roasted beans and the hustle and bustle of a good cafe that makes me feel at home. Every saturday Alan and I go to either Louie’s at Kensington Market or Manic Coffee. We never fail to meet interesting people in both places and love it they although we only go there once a week, the staff knows what we like and we know them by name. Although I enjoy going back to my favourite places, I also particularly enjoy discovering new places so every once in a while we’ll check out a new cafe. Yesterday we ended up at Te Aro, a new place in Leslieville, at the recommendation of Thiago, the Brazilian barista that used to work at La Merceria (Sam James, one of the most famous baristas in Toronto told us to go check out Thiago’s work at La Merceria) and who now is learning roasting at Te Aro. If you are around Leslieville, you should definitely check it out! Click on the picture below to see a slideshow. And in addition to the official site linked above, check out Te Aro’s own blog.
I don’t think there are enough words to explain how great it is to be able to order coffee the way I like it without having to go through lengthy explanations of how I want it done. In France, all I had to do is ask for a café noisette and here in Spain I ask for a cortado (or tallat in Catalan). No eyebrows get raised and back they come with exactly what I wanted: a long espresso with a bit of hot milk. In Toronto I always have to explain that I want an espresso with a bit of hot milk. “You mean, a latte?” In North America, a latte is usually a short espresso with at least a cup of hot milk added to it making it more of a coffee-flavoured milk than a real coffee. So I have to say, “No, it’s not a latte. It’s an espresso, made in an espresso cup, with hot milk to the top”. In some places I can make myself understood by saying it’s a macchiato with more milk than foam. It’s always a struggle. But for the next month, I don’t have to worry about it. All I say is “un cortado, por favor/ un tallat si us plau”.
When Canadians ask me about Brazil, almost the first thing they ask – after the weather, of course – is about the coffee. “It bet you get really nice coffee there!”, they’d say. When I first arrived in Canada, in the days when the only coffee we had at home was sent by my mother through the mail, I’d probably have said “oh yes, our coffee is great!”. But I have since learned otherwise.
Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer and many experts across the world vouch for the quality of its beans. And while Brazilians are avid coffee drinkers, that does not mean they have access to good coffee. Most of the best beans are reserved for export and what remains on the shelves of the supermarkets is often mixed with other stuff. Most roasters tend to burn the beans, effectively making the coffee too bitter and leading most people to over-sweeten their coffee.
Unlike in Italy, Spain or Portugal, most of our coffee is percolated rather than pulled from an espresso machine. Until a few years ago, it was served already sweetened with loads of sugar.
It was only after moving to Canada, and later traveling to France, Spain and Portugal that I have learned what really good coffee is supposed to taste like. I now know that a good espresso can be drank pure, without sugar, and it won’t taste bitter (unthinkable to any Brazilian). And that a real cappuccino has no chocolate in it. But my mother still gets bewildered whenever I call home and refuse her offers to send me ground coffee from Brazil. I’m happier buying my Brazilian coffee at Casa Açoriana, at Kensington Market.