I never was a big fan of the steamed milk side of espresso-based drinks; maybe it was because I was more familiar with the “big pile of foam” style of capps than I was the richer sophisticated “microbubble” form that finer baristas are capable of. Sure, when I was in a decent coffee place like Dark Horse or Mercury I’d grab the occasional latte, but I would generally gravitate to straight up double shot or Americano.
When the second Dark Horse opened up on Spadina, I visited on my way to work as often as I could, just enjoying the slow pace that is rare at the shop these days. I had a chance to chat with Sam James, who was one of the guys involved in launching the new location, when I went in, and eventually he asked me why I’d order an Americano all the time (Little did I know that SJ was one of the city’s most lauded “celebrity baristas.” Furthermore, I found out this past September at a friend’s wedding that one of our mutual friends knew Sam from his skater/male model days. Small world).
So I told him that I just felt like I was just drinking a lot of milk whenever I would usually order a latte or some other variation… he said that I must have never had a “really good” cappuccino before, and told me the next time I came in, that he would make me the best capp I would have ever had in my life. So I took him up on his offer… and he was right. A good capp is light, sweet and compliments the espresso in a very delicate way. It’s not meant to be a giant heaping of milk, but just a small amount to almost aerate the espresso into a whole other drink.
Thankfully, SJ is not the only guy who can pour a decent latte: both Dark Horse locations in the city continue to have baristas in their employ that make fantastic drinks, along with folks at Mercury Espresso, Manic and even at Sam’s own “Sam James Coffee Bar” (mostly Sam, but not always). (FYI: His are the best).
And for anyone intimidated by snarky baristas: don’t be. Or at least, don’t go back. For example, despite the reputation of the owners of Bulldog Coffee on Church having a reputation of neighborhood nice-guys, I recently met one of the jerkiest baristas ever one Sunday afternoon. The short of it is, after asking him if there was anything special about the cafe’s signature drink, (the Bulldog), he gave me attitude while demonstrating that it was merely a run of the mill steamed-milk-and-espresso drink that was slightly larger than a cappuccino and slightly smaller than a latte (yeah, their “medium.” Wonderful). So with that said, if it’s not your neighborhood place, I wouldn’t suggest making the trip down to Church for a trip to the Bulldog.
Instead, make a jaunt to either Dark Horse location, or better yet, Sam James’ place. Life is too short to have lousy coffee (or lousy service for that matter).