When I first came to Canada, I did not come prepared. There are many things I wish I had known back then, such as: summer is unbearably hot even for a Brazilian, buying alcohol involves a lot of logistics, and most importantly, good coffee is hard to find.
For you see, I’m not just a coffee addict, I am a Brazilian coffee addict. A huge part of our culture is connected to coffee. In the early 20th century, our entire economy depended on the “black gold,” as it was called. A huge wave of Italian immigrants came to the country just to work in this industry, and later we made innumerable novelas about them (not to be confused with Spanish telenovelas).
My point being, I know coffee. I love coffee. Before I came to Canada, my sister had warned me about the watery “coffee” she had to endure in the States, but I still had hope. At the very least, I knew Canada had its own coffee chain with locations on every corner! But then I actually tried Tim Horton’s and… I was not impressed. Yeah, I said it. Come at me, you know Tim Horton’s coffee is not the greatest. Sure it’ll do in a pinch, and sometimes, it’s the only answer, but I’ve heard Canadians describe it as “terrible but necessary fuel” and “once in awhile it can be okay,” so I know I’m not alone.
The truth is, there is really good coffee in London. Actually, there is amazing coffee here. It just takes a little longer to find it than it would in most Brazilian cities. It took some wandering around with a fellow coffee addict to find these spots, but now that I have, I cannot live without them.
HasBeans is perfect and I’ll hear no criticism. It hits all the right spots: it’s an old London family business, the coffee is fair trade and organic and it’s roasted and shipped by the company to all 10 Canadian provinces. Location helps too: you’ll find Hasbeans in the Covent Garden Market, so you can pair it with your favourite market food. They rotate their “flavour of the day”, so you can try each of their delicious varieties of coffee. Finally, the great customer service at HasBeans cannot be overlooked.
The company has so many different coffee beans that you’ll have to check them out for yourself. I love dark roasted and flavoured coffee, so my two HasBeans staples are Chocolate Raspberry and Creme Brulé. Bonus personal points: they also have Brazilian coffee from Santos, where I lived as a child.
It was a tough choice between Fire Roasted and The Root Cellar for second place, but ultimately Fire Roasted wins major points for convenience. Unlike many coffee shops around the city, it does not close at 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon (why do you hate me, London coffee shops?), it has wifi, comfortable seating, and most important of all, great coffee.
Like HasBeans, they are a local Fair Trade Certified Coffee Company. They have over 30 coffee beans for sale if you want to brew your coffee at home, and many other options if you want to hang around. Their hot chocolate is perfection on a cold winter day, and for the tea lovers, they also make a mean London Fog.
Hitting all the right spots in the convenience category, they have four locations in London: 136 Wortley Road, 630 Dundas Street, 900 King Street and 105 King Street. This last one has earned my love: it’s open on Sundays and it’s right by The Early Bird, one of my favourite restaurants in London (but routinely breaks my heart by not having good coffee). So before heading to The Early Bird for breakfast, a stop at Fire Roasted for coffee is mandatory.
I know this is a coffee list, but if you’ll bear with me for a second here, I’d like to address The Early Bird real quick:
Listen, The Early Bird, I love you. I love your food, I love your music, I love telling people that “they smoke their own meat!” But you’re killing me with your bad diner coffee. Maybe you could partner up with Fire Roasted? It’s right there. Please? Also, maybe get wifi? Otherwise, you’re perfect.
Ok, we’re back to coffee now.
Is there anyone who doesn’t love The Root Cellar? If so, I haven’t yet met this mythical creature. Not only did they have a hand in creating one of London’s microbreweries, they also sell amazing organic and locally grown food – and the same goes for coffee! This means The Root Cellar combines two things that should always go together: great food and great coffee.
The only beef I have with The Root Cellar is the fact that they don’t open on Sundays. I’m sure that there’s a very good reason for that – and I shouldn’t be complaining about their hours when they’re open until 10 pm, but still. I’d be there every Sunday for breakfast if they were open. And I’d be drinking their gingersnaps latte, hands down the best latte I’ve ever had.
Ah, Locomotive. I don’t visit you as often as I should. In my defence, you’re a little out of the way for me. Also, your open hours are… not entirely plentiful. It pains me to say this, considering how much I love your flat white coffee. Plus, you have actual espresso! I’m not sure if early closing for coffee shops is a London or a Canada thing, but I hate it anyway. I have given up on the battle of proper meal times (lunch after 12 is NOT lunch, Canada!), but you will not take away my mid-afternoon coffee. Coffee or death! Preferably with food. People tell me there’s great food at Locomotive too. Unfortunately, I can never make it time for food, so I’ll trust other Londoners on that.
What I do know is that Locomotive has great coffee that comes directly from Toronto’s Pilot Coffee Roasters, and that they also have a great atmosphere, ample seating and even board games. If you like to get an early head start to the day, I cannot recommend it enough.
What’s on your list?
It was only after living here for a while and venturing out a bit further away from the university that I was able to find London’s coffee gems. This list has my go-to’s, my life savers, but I know they’re not the only great coffee shops in town. If your favourite is not here, be sure to let me know in the comments, I’ll happily check them out! Coffee tour of London, anyone?
Feature photo via Facebook / LocomotiveEspresso