When a latte is required for your caffeine-fix or to stay warm during the long winter, there are multiple options in the area. Reviewing five cafés to help you make your decision.
by Cassandre Cadieux
scottsnyde, sxc.hu, 2007.
There are at least a dozen coffee shops in the East York area. In order to make it easier to decide where to get your next caffeine fix, I tested five vanilla lattes and compared them in terms of espresso, foam, temperature, taste, and price. Here are, in no particular order, the results:
Crema: Danforth (508 Danforth Avenue)
Crema has four locations throughout Toronto, but it nevertheless has an independent coffee shop feel. Unlike most baristas these days, this café’s employees use a lot of old-school techniques, including tamping espresso by hand and testing steamed milk by touch instead of using a thermometer. The result is quite amazing: a deliciously equal combination of fresh espresso, real vanilla, and foamy steamed milk. The latte was hot, without being undrinkable, meaning it was perfect from the first sip. It also meant that it had to be drunk right away in order to keep its temperature. At $5.03 for a double-shot latte, it is at a higher price range, but it is one of the best in the area. Crema also does latte art, which distinguishes it from chain coffee shops; I’m pretty sure my latte had the silhouette of a woman’s head in the foam, something I’ve never seen in my coffee before.
McDonald’s McCafe (1045 Pape Avenue)
Grabbing a latte from McDonald’s is a different experience than at any other coffee shop since the customer has no interaction with the barista at all. The latte is made behind the counter, and its contents are a mystery. With the initial sip, the espresso seemed really strong and slightly burnt or stale. Though as I kept drinking, it faded into the background and it seemed like I was drinking vanilla steamed milk. McDonald’s vanilla syrup was definitely the strongest taste in the latte. It tasted slightly artificial, but the temperature was perfect and stayed hot for quite a long time. It was definitely not the most personalized latte experience, but at $3.35 you can’t beat the price!
Broadview Espresso (817 Broadview Avenue)
This café features a vintage-looking espresso machine, but everything is automated except for the temperature, which is controlled by the barista who uses a thermometer. The latte was beautiful with a nice, thick foam and the shape of a heart delicately drawn in the coffee. The espresso was fresh and subtle, and while the vanilla syrup was slightly overpowering, it didn’t taste artificial. The latte’s temperature was nice and hot, drinkable from the first sip, and stayed warm for quite some time. Broadview Espresso competes with both Starbucks and Crema, but it is the most inexpensive of the three, priced at $4. It would be the perfect stop on the way to or from Broadview subway station.
Starbucks (604 Danforth Avenue)
Starbucks thrives on the fact that their entire process is automated or controlled, and therefore they can produce the same latte every time. Their milk, espresso, and vanilla combination is almost perfect with nice, thick foam. The espresso is slightly stronger than any other latte I’ve tested, but since the coffee is fresh, the taste does not distract from the rest of the latte. Starbucks’ vanilla syrup is quite popular, but tastes a little more artificial than both Crema and Broadview Espresso. Although they do not make latte art, the temperature is perfect for drinking and stays hot until the last drop. Consistency is key for Starbucks, and at the same price as Crema ($5.03), they are definitely comparable.
Coffee Lime Deli (160 Floyd Avenue)
Although Coffee Lime considers itself more of a deli than a coffee shop, serving sandwiches and baked goods, they do offer lattes (original, no vanilla) on their menu. After asking for the drink, the barista turned the machine on, informing me that it would take about five minutes to warm up. After tamping the espresso by hand and steaming the milk with a thermometer, the result was slightly disappointing. There was an airy foam that disintegrated within thirty seconds of leaving the café, and the taste of espresso was stale and overpowering. It was about the same price as McDonald’s but not comparable in my opinion. Since the barista machine was manual, there may be an entirely different experience for a customer served by another employee. Coffee Lime is a great place to go for a fresh sandwich, an extra large doughnut, or soft serve ice cream, but perhaps a latte should be sought out elsewhere.