Today I was in much need of some inspiration so I decided to take a quick trip to one of my “happy places” in Toronto – First Canadian Place. I remember first stumbling across this mall that exists in the concourse and main levels of the Bank of Montreal (BMO) tower in downtown Toronto. Boasting a collection of stores that cater to the business crowd during the working day, it is one of my favourite places to window shop (and people watch). If you ever want to experience a real life fashion show, I suggest that you stop by this place on any given working day.
Well, today I was in for a delightful surprise (which had nothing to do with the shopping). On my way to First Canadian Place, I saw a place called “SJCB” at the end of the tunnel that connects the St. Andrew subway station to First Canadian Place. The place is a simple coffee bar kiosk with espresso machines situated at each end of the counter. A simple chalkboard menu lists espresso based drinks and their prices on the wall. Can it be? Is this the elusive Sam James Coffee Bar in the financial district that I failed to find all these months? It’s been under my nose the entire time (well, since June when they opened). A small group of people were convening around the counter waiting for their perfectly pulled espressos. Even when I walked past it again, on my way back to catch the subway, there was still a group in front. This place seems to have a steady stream of people (ah, it’s so nice to know that Torontonians know a good espresso when they taste one).
Of course I had to take the opportunity to order a latte. Although I didn’t have the good fortune to have my drink made by the man himself (it would probably be a rarity these days) it’s obvious that he did a good job training/hiring his staff. The espresso in my latte was smooth, without any bitter notes, and I didn’t have to add any sugar (my gold standard when it comes to a good latte). And the latte art was perfectly done as well (which is the norm at SJCB). Thank you Sam James! Way to bring great espresso to the financial district. It’s so nice to see a good independent coffee place make their way to the mainstream/commercial market. I find it to be a nice alternative to the indie/underground vibe at other great coffee places which are slightly off the grid. It’s nice to know that a perfectly pulled espresso is just a short subway ride away (in a shiny, bright building at the financial district).