Te Aro Roasted

Location: 682 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON


Although I had a roaster visit story about Te Aro Roasted when I started the blog, people continue to ask me my thoughts about them since I do not have a review. Since it is the closest roaster to my house, and I visit on average once per month, I have been meaning to write something for a long time, but every time I start writing my feelings are mixed.

Before getting into details, let’s look at what has progressed in the last two years at Te Aro Roasted.

  • Roasting has remained on site in their Leslieville Café, but the Sivetz air roaster has been replaced by a Diedrich drum roaster.
  • A second small cafe was opened in the west end focusing on different brew methods named Crafted which I visited once. The coffee I was served was far inferior than anything I had in Leslieville. Readers have mentioned similar unimpressive experiences at Crafted
  • Many local cafes of varying quality have picked up Te Aro Roasted as their roaster. Fahrenheit is an example of a place that is doing a great job.
  • The equipment in Leslieville has slightly changed as the machine is a La Marzocco GB5 that has two Mahlkonig Twin K30 paired along with a Mazzer Robur that is sometimes filled as well.

Before describing a particular visit in detail, let us start with some of the things I like about Te Aro Roasted:

  • Top staff are passionate about coffee, are always looking to expand their knowledge, and make for some good cafe visits and discussions
  • They have developed and put in place measurement systems to train their staff to produce coffee consistently within prescribed parameters.
  • Drip coffee that I have tasted has been consistently well extracted
  • Side of sparkling water served with the espresso

On the other side, here are some things that create the mixed feelings:

  • The Big Bro Blend is generally chocolate and spice based with earthy or woody dirtiness and occasional burnt caramel astringency. The body is big with just a touch of acidity and some sweetness. I usually don’t drink milk drinks in cafes, but whenever I mention that it is not my style of espresso, they find it surprising and then mention that it works well in milk drinks.
  • Inconsistency in the other espresso offerings. Since there are up to 5 hoppers that can be filled, there is usually some other espresso offerings for choice in addition to the Big Bro. The Elevens blend is usually one of the offerings, and some of my best shots at Te Aro have come from this blend which aims to be crispier and cleaner. My favorite shots of it had clean orange citrus on top of sweet white chocolate. At times there are other coffees also available, but every time that I have veered to one of these selections, I have been disappointed as the coffee was not dialed in, or I felt the coffee or roast had flaws. Not sure if it is because of the experimental nature of this offering.
  • Variability in the coffee offerings creates unpredictability. For drip, I have had some very nice cups such as the Colombian Primavera, but also several disappointments such as the flat washed Yirgacheffe that I had on my last visit.

The Coffee my Last Visit

I usually get a cup of drip when I visit, and I have found the extractions to usually taste bang on. As to the featured coffees, I have enjoyed some cups that taste full flavored and balanced, conversely some coffee choices have come up a bit flat and lacking flavor. During my last visit, I tried their Yirgacheffe which was somewhere in the middle. The aroma was very light with lemon citrus and florals gently emerging. The main cup opened up with tea base overlaid with very light lemon citrus acidity. Chocolates emerged in the cup especially towards a short finish. Although this genre and origin of coffee is generally light and subtle, I felt that the cup could have had more flavour and acidity.

The Shot my Last Visit

As I have been recently doing, I opted for the Elevens blend rather than the Big Bro. Smoky notes combining with woodiness and some some wine like natural hints surprised me as this blend used to be fruitier. I found the taste of the cup to be dominated by a caramel astringency with a bit of bitterness that balanced with some pleasant sweetness. The mouthfeel was creamy and silky with a bit of citrus acidity to add some juiciness. Ending was turning into some chocolate and then tobacco ashiness. In terms of extractions, it seemed balanced and complete towards a longer ratio of around 65%, but for me the coffee was not as impressive as previous iterations.

Conclusions: In a Pinch

The coffee during my last visit was not something that I was raving about, but I have found this trend to be usually the case lately during my Saturday visits. Well executed preparation, but coffee that is underwhelming, particularly the caramel astringency that appears in enough shots and sometimes ashy aftertastes. When I have bought the coffee home to pull, similar taste are also confirmed. This for me is frustrating as I have occasionally had some very nice shots of Te Aro Roasted single origin coffee in Leslieville as well as at Fahrenheit over the last year, but the frequency is not great. For this reason, I tend to visit Mercury Espresso Bar more often which is very close by. Mercury has also has quite consistently good preparation and the espresso offerings are much more often towards my taste, especially in terms of cleanliness, lacking bitterness, woodiness, and dirtiness.

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