Balzac's Coffee Roasters
We've been to Balzac's Coffee Roasters multiple times in different areas of the city – you can't really avoid the café when it's practically in every part of Toronto worth visiting. With 8 locations from Stratford to the Distillery District to Niagara-on-the-Lake, it's almost as if they get first dibs on any prime real estate in Toronto.
The one location we frequent the most is at the Ryerson Image Arts Centre and so that's where this review is based on. Balzac's never falters from their four cornerstones (natural, sustainable, local, and artisanal) and it's clear in everything they do, especially their coffee. Roasts are created in single 20 pound batches by micro-roasting Arabica beans, following the philosophy of the Slow Food movement ("slow food prepared quickly, not fast food").
During the fall, we tried their seasonal Toasted Almond Latte ($4.25), a blend that was so toasty, it was on the verge of being smoky which was alright for the first few sips but made difficult to down a whole glass. We also ordered the Coconut Chocolate Chip Blondie ($3.90), a little pastry with a lot packed into it. There were a lot of flavours that blended together seamlessly, topped with toasted coconut and chocolate chips that complimented the fall drink well (for as long as we could drink it at least).
Left to right: Toasted Almond Latte ($4.25), Coconut Chocolate Chip Blondie ($3.90)
On a more recent visit, we ordered a regular Latte ($4) which proved to be nothing special, although we were a little surprised that a small came to $4 which seemed like much but made sense once the drink was prepared and delivered in a surprisingly hefty cup. To eat, we also got a Tomato and Brie Brioche ($3), a more savoury pastry with perfectly moist bread that together with brie made for heavenly bites. Alas, the centre of the brioche with tomato made the bread soggy, leaving us eating around the middle instead.
Left to right: Latte ($4), Tomato and Brie Brioche ($3)
To us, the real star of the coffee shop is not their espresso-based drinks but the brewed drip coffee, particularly the amber roasts such as the Atwood Blend (containing caramel and cocoa notes). Always smooth and with noticeable notes of caramel and cocoa, we'll take it over a regular latte any day.
As masters of real estate, interior design, and coffee roasts, Balzac's delivers on their promise of a "(kind of) exceptional product in a beautiful environment".