The Coffee Lab might be a hard spot to find, occupying only 52 square feet inside the Annex’s Willow Books, but the search is well worth it – this spot is home to some of the best coffee in Toronto!
Upon entering the store, guests are greeted by a straightforward menu is written on the chalkboard wall, offering Black (espresso, $2.75; Americano, $3), White (latte, $3.75), Filter (pour-over, $3.50) and Signature Drinks; The 6 and Drop. Other offerings are also available including batch brew coffee, loose leaf, and macchiatos, cappuccinos.
The small space resembles more of a chemistry lab than a coffee shop, reminding guests that good coffee is a precise science. Water and espresso are served through beakers while the back wall is lined with test tubes containing coffee beans and Erlenmeyer flasks filled with loose leaf teas.
Owner Joshua Campos worked in several different industries before opening The Coffee Lab. “I always wanted to open my own coffee shop and after working here and there kind of got tired of walking about it and just went for it.” Campos went to Portland, Oregon for Barista training and from there went on to work at Rufino Coffee Roasters where he learned more about the business of roasting.
Campos can be found meticulously crafting coffee here every day; most days it’s a one-man show, with Campos putting his skills to the test and serving customers perfectly crafted cups on his own. One thing for sure – he certainly has a deep-rooted passion for coffee that shows in every cup served.
New guests to The Coffee Lab will have the opportunity to conduct their own “smell test” of a variety of available coffees in test tubes to smell the difference before deciding on how they would like their roast to be brewed.
Campos recommends that first-time guests order what they normally have so that they can distinguish the difference in quality from their normal coffee shop.
Serious coffee connoisseurs can ask about the “Cup of Excellence” menu, which features the world’s highest graded coffees, needing a score of 85 or above from The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) in ordered to be featured. These are served black only.
Campos says his dream for the coffee shop is to have the world’s best coffee and become the first Michelin star coffee shop.
This dream isn’t that far off from a reality; every detail of the coffee process is done with the utmost attention to detail and the highest quality, from the coffee bean itself to the cup its poured in, and the quality of the milk.
I had the opportunity to enjoy a fresh espresso during my visit and can honestly say it was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. As someone who usually drinks 3-4 cups of coffee throughout a busy day, my trip to The Coffee Lab gave me the chance to really identify the unique flavors and enjoy the act of sipping an espresso.
Though The Coffee Lab is hidden on Bloor St. it’s in the perfect little spot for University of Toronto students and commuters, sitting right next to the St. George subway station.
Frequent Coffee Lab customer Alex says she loves that the coffee shop is squished next to campus, “it’s like a little crack that’s natural to slip in and out of”.
Students can also show their discount at The Coffee Lab to receive a discount on their cup of joe.
The Coffee Lab proves to be one of the hottest spots in the Annex and just goes to show that good things come in small packages.