Review: Dark Horse Espresso, Toronto

Background: Located in Toronto's diverse Chinatown neighborhood, Dark Horse Espresso is one of two locations of this popular native-Toronto indie coffee bar known for its communal seating, one-size-only beverages, and top-notch latte art. Smart options include standing and sipping espresso by the counter, sitting at one of two large communal tables (laptop central) at the front of the store, or resting in comfy chairs with low tables in the upper "lounge" area.

Flavor: I stayed right across the street (a joyous coincidence) and went straight there every morning I was in town. I sampled the plain espresso, cappuccino, and the Canadian version (if there is one) of the London Fog-- which uses Earl Grey, milk, and vanilla syrup. The espresso was rich on the tongue and more floral and sweet than the citrus/toast flavors I'm used to with our shop. Combined with milk in the cappuccino, it was smooth and very aromatic. The Earl Grey tea in the London fog was also very fragrant and floral, with just a hint of bergamot.

Source: The coffee comes from 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters, located in British Columbia. According to their website, they have a "direct relationship program" with their coffee farmers. In addition, each farm's name, producer, size, and landscape details are listed. The tea is provided by David's Tea, a fairly new company with locations in Toronto, Quebec, and Vancouver, whose motto is "Premium tea for all".

Rating: A true test to a barista's skill isn't latte art, it's the temperature and texture of the milk. One should not have to blow repeatedly over a drink before sipping, nor should the cup be too hot to hold in your hand. And if you can't get a nice full sip of milk froth and espresso all over your tongue without burning it, then why drink it at all? You might as well just order a cup of boiling water. Every time I got a cappuccino at Dark Horse, it was the perfect temperature and texture. And I'm not sure what's in the food that those Canadian cows are eating, but the milk also had a grassy, sweet flavor that surely would have been killed by overheating (or the addition of sugar). Cheers to Dark Horse Espresso!

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