Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Coffee & Tea in Toronto

While in Toronto, I made it a point to visit as many coffee and tea (matcha) shops as I could. My sister provided me with a “hipster coffee fund,” so I had a bigger budget and didn’t need need to skimp out of the coffee. YAY.

Since there were simply too many coffee shops in Toronto, I couldn’t visit everything on my list. (My sister gave me a list of recommendations, and I searched for highly rated coffee shops online.) I didn’t realize until I got there that Toronto was so big. Oh well, I guess I just need to keep coming back.

Here are my favorites from the trip:

Arvo

Located in the Distillery District, Arvo Coffee has a nice space and a great brew. Coffee prices aren’t too expensive either. I enjoyed my cup so much that I bought beans to brew at home after.

Goldstruck Coffee

I have loved Goldstruck since I got introduced to it last year. This is my go-to coffee spot in Yorkville. Although the coffee here is on the pricey side, a bag of beans costs pretty much the same as anywhere else—any other specialty coffee shop, I mean. If it’s your first time here, I suggest trying out their regular brewed coffee, and if you decide you’re a fan, buy their beans. I love their beans from Peru and Colombia. The former is nice and light, and the latter tastes like chocolate.

Neo Coffee Bar

Located in St. Lawrence Market, Neo Coffee Bar not only serves coffee but also matcha—and it’s good matcha. (Don’t let the picture fool you; the barista that prepared the drink was still new and didn’t know how to make a pretty latte yet. While the drink wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, it was still very good.) They also serve pastries, some of them seasonal. The cake was so good that I wanted a second slice…

HotBlack Coffee

A cool spot on Queen Street West, HotBlack Coffee didn’t disappoint. Their coffee went down smoothly, and their pastries were delicious. What else do you need? (Oh, no wifi here. And it was a bit crowded when I was there.)

Haute Coffee

Haute Coffee is a cozy local spot in the Annex. When I was there, I noticed that the baristas seemed to know most of their customers, and the customers talked to each other even if they were at different tables. Coffee is good, and this was where I tried my first butter tart. Yum.

Little Pebbles

One of my favorite neighborhoods to visit for food was Kensington Market. Little Pebbles is a very unassuming coffee and matcha shop there. I tried their matcha latte, and it was really good. (Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as one would think to find a place with a good matcha latte.) I would come back.

Piedmont Coffee Bar

I think this was a new spot when I went to Piedmont Coffee Bar. Located in Church-Wellesley Village, this was a nice spot to work and/or unwind. I went here a couple times because it was close enough to Bloor-Yonge, and I could stay in and read my books.

Icha Tea

OK, so I bought bubble tea from Icha Tea, but this shop really specializes in tea. Even their bubble tea was made of freshly brewed tea—using real tea leaves and not those powdered or syrup alternatives—so I fell in love. Since this is high quality tea, even the take out bubble tea is priced at a premium. It’s worth a try though. I am a big fan. Try it if you’re walking along Spadina in Chinatown.

Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Distillery District

Historically a whiskey distillery, the Distillery District is an area that has been converted into a public venue that houses boutique shops, art galleries, and trendy restaurants. I always enjoy trips to the Distillery, which is easily accessible by the King St streetcar.

A national historic site, the Distillery also hosts events and campaigns for causes. In April, the venue supported the Daffodil Campaign against cancer and in June, Pride month.

I love the aesthetic of the Distillery. I’m partial to bricks—maybe it’s the warm colors—so I’m glad the developers didn’t go crazy with a modern look. Plus! There is art all over the Distillery (not just in the galleries), and they change these up from time to time, too.

Walking around is fun. I like entering stores that sell local or one-of-a-kind products, things that will remind me of a certain place or memory, and the shops are like that in the Distillery. There is a big Deciem store here, and it can get overwhelming to look at at all of those skin care products. (Research before entering!) As for food, my favorites are Madrina and Arvo Coffee.

The Distillery is, hands down, my favorite place in Toronto.

Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Casa Loma

It only took four trips to Toronto and numerous occasions of passing by Casa Loma until I finally made it inside. Casa Loma is a castle in midtown Toronto and was previously an affluent family’s residence.

There’s a fee to enter the castle (which I feel is worth it considering the upkeep required for the property), but there’s no time limit nor structure your visit has to abide by. There’s a self-guided audio tour in multiple languages, but all of the rooms in the castle have signs and descriptions in English as well.

The main level rooms are largely for entertaining visitors, except perhaps the study, which has a not-so-secret passageway to the basement and upper levels. The upper-level rooms are bedrooms, and there’s even one dedicated to the Royal Family, should they have ever wanted to visit the castle. The basement houses the wine cellar and the entrance to a tunnel that leads to another part of the property. Wow, #goals.

My two favorite rooms are the library (no surprise there) and the conservatory. The library has walls lined with books, and the conservatory pays homage to plants. I’ve found my wedding peg. (I’m filing Casa Loma as the peg for Plan A.)

Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Toronto, Home Base

In a prior post, I mentioned that I was visiting Toronto for few weeks. It’s a rather odd stopover since I came from the West Coast, which is closer to my final destination, yet I traveled East. But I’m having a great time. Although it’s been raining, I’ve still been able to explore the nearby neighborhoods. (I’ll go farther out when I’m guaranteed more sunlight.)

First impressions from someone spoiled by coming from the San Francisco Bay Area:

  • Toronto’s spring feels like San Francisco’s winter.
  • Public transportation is still reliable even as you venture away from downtown. (I’m guessing this is an East Coast/non-Californian thing altogether. California is definitely a driving state.)
  • Independent bookstores are harder to find here, but there are a lot of vinyl record stores around.
  • The roads are flat (and I’m very thankful for this). I have yet to find a place that makes climbing San Francisco’s steep hills feel easy peasy.

So what have I been doing these past weeks?

I’ve been visiting coffee and tea shops. I actually have a pretty long list of coffee and tea shops to visit—I have gone to 13 of my (still growing) list of 28 coffee and tea shops. Because of this list, I’ve been able to visit different neighborhoods, my current favorites being King West and Kensington Market. I’ve also gone to museums: I viewed the Impression in the Age of Industry exhibit at AGO before it ended; and I visited Casa Loma out of curiosity. I’m waiting for the sun to shine more, and then I’ll explore the beaches and visit some wineries.

Oh, and I’ve been reading, too. My sister suggested I read up on Canadian literature, and I’m honestly surprised I hadn’t thought about it sooner. I binge-watched Kim’s Convenience on (thank you, Netflix) some incredibly cold and rainy days, and I’m about halfway through a nonfiction book I committed myself to reading. OK, next week it’s back to the bookstores!

Top 3 Spots from Toronto Trip #3

So a few weeks ago, I went to Toronto again. It was my third visit in a span of one year. In fact, I spent my Toronto-versary there! Wow, maybe I should just move. Fun fact: people have asked me if I moved to Toronto. I have not, but I do have my favorite spots. Also, I love that Toronto’s not really a touristy city, so I never feel like I have to go to so-and-so place (except for Trattoria Nervosa).

Here’s my top 3 from trip 3:

Continue reading “Top 3 Spots from Toronto Trip #3”