This walking tour highlights Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood and its culture of coffee connoisseurs, including our many unique and independent businesses specializing in fair trade and sustainable practices, coffee education, and a coffee tasting experience of the highest quality. Get ready to walk or wheel to explore Riverside’s coffee culture:
STOP 1: Merchants of Green Coffee
(2 Matilda St)
Merchants of Green Coffee – located at the junction of Davies Ave and Matilda St, just north of Queen St East and the DVP – specializes in green coffee beans with their signature ‘Cafe Solar’, along with sustainable and fair trade business practices such as solar powered-coffee processing and restorative farming. Their building was originally an industrial jam factory in 1909, housing Imperial Extract produced by Shirriff Marmalade, along with two wine businesses. In 1995, the 18,000 sq ft space, a tall warehouse with exposed brick and wood beams, became the ‘Merchants of Green Coffee’ and called the ‘Cafe & Jam Factory’ to recognize its roots. It is filled with antique wares and rustic furniture made with recycled materials by their in-house metal-worker/artist. It’s a throwback to the original 80s style coffee house. Besides running their incredible cafe, Merchants of Green Coffee hosts coffee education workshops (e.g. Green Beans 101, Art of Roasting) events, and special projects year-round.
STOP 2: Dark Horse Espresso Bar
(630 Queen St E)
With six locations in Toronto, this local mini-chain coffee empire has its roots in Riverside going back 10+ years. Originally in their 682 Queen St E location (their original shop), they relocated a couple blocks west in 2014 to new digs with a spacious outdoor patio in 630 Queen E (Queen E/Carroll). The first thing you’ll notice when walking in is their huge wooden communal table, which moved from their old spot to their new one, and encourages ‘talking to strangers in an intimate setting’. Their claim to fame is to provide the most delicious balanced espresso Toronto has to offer and with their uber-cool events such as Adult colouring nights to hosting Motosocial (socials for motorcyclists), they have certainly racked up a cult following.
STOP 3: The Cannonball Coffee & Bar
(641 Queen St E)
Coffee, great beer on draft, sandwiches made to order, breakfast bagels, fresh-baked cookies and muffins. All that good stuff and some Wi-Fi. Formerly known as F’Coffee, this long-time Riverside spot reinvented itself as Cannonball Coffee, a fully licensed café and bar. It’s one of the most low-key, under-the-radar coffee spots on the east side, and even includes a secluded and leafy back patio which hosts live music in summer and is dog-friendly. This quirky, cozy and eclectic cafe, attracts a very artsy crowd. At Cannonball you’ll find a mix of mid-century modern tables and chairs, “tacky souvenirs” from 1940s to 1960s passed down from owner Rob’s grandparents, and Value Village – all a reflection of things he likes. Go in for a coffee, stay for a beer and meet new friends.
STOP 4: Boxcar Social
(4 Boulton Ave)
The Riverside location is Boxcar Social’s second shop, established in May 2015, and they have since grown to five locations in Toronto. The building they are in at 4 Boulton Ave was originally the Toronto Public Library’s ‘Eastern Branch’ (1888 to 1910), its first branch east of the Don River. Thanks to the high ceilings, Boxcar Social was able to build in a separate slow bar, floor to ceiling wine racks and a full draught beer system. The concept at Boxcar Social is “Do what we love, do it with our friends, and do it really well”. Their beverage program sources coffee from the world’s top roasters. They strive to create the most unique tasting experience for customers including guided tastings with their coffee directors and educational workshops.