Introducing: Sense Appeal, a cafe with a “director of coffee extraction”
With an undeniable indie cafe explosion taking place, it’s only a matter of time before Toronto’s coffee scene enters the realm of molecular gastronomy. With Sense Appeal Coffee Roasters, which opened near the corner of Spadina and Adelaide last month, we’re getting closer. Head barista Sameer Mohamed, for example, only half-jokingly refers to himself as “the director of coffee extraction.” He argues that coffee is more complex than wine, but far less explored. “There are 1,000 volatile compounds in coffee that contribute to aroma and taste,” he says. “We have the capacity to manipulate 33 of those. With wine, there’s 200 compounds, and you can manipulate 15.” We’ll take his word for it.
This is the first location for the Nobleton-based company—it’s been selling mostly to hotels for the past four years. Mohamed and co-owners Peter Adamo and Roberto Rota see roasting and extracting a cup of coffee as an excruciatingly intricate and precise affair. Once a coffee bean has been sourced, Mohamed and Adamo begin a process of experimentation, wherein the coffee is roasted at different temperatures and then sampled. After an ideal temperature has been agreed upon (the two have been known to squabble over differences of one degree), the process begins again with roasting duration, and then again with air flow. Then there’s the method of extracting the coffee (they use a Dalla Corte machine), but that’s a different story altogether.
The goal, Adamo says, is to create a sensation rather than a specific taste. The former sommelier, whose interest in coffee was piqued when he was asked to pair a dish with it a few years ago, recalls recently micro-tuning a particular coffee: “the bitterness was pushing toward a part of the tongue that we wanted to move forward,” he says. “We actually moved it forward by one half of a centimetre.”
For all of that effort, prices remain reasonable. An espresso is $2.25, taxes in, and a cappuccino is $3.25. A small selection of pastries is made in-house, and a lunch menu is coming soon—experiments to properly pair the food with espresso are underway. A dedicated siphon coffee bar, with its own barista, is also in the works. While Sam James offers the labour-intensive alternative to drip at off-peak hours, Sense Appeal wants to provide it at the same speed as a latte.
As for setting up shop in the midst of a cafe boom, Mohamed is optimistic. “Toronto needs competition,” he says. “I want more cafes to open up, because the only thing that’s going to do is make everyone’s coffee better.”
Sense Appeal Coffee Roasters, 96 Spadina Ave., 416-907-8524, senseappeal.ca.
11 thoughts on “Introducing: Sense Appeal, a cafe with a “director of coffee extraction””
Lovely I’m sure but it’s pretty far from Molecular Gastronomy, there’s no treatment of the coffee with chemicals or agents to modify it’s shape or texture.
this is a small, but great place! there chai lattes, and lattes in general are pretty tastey!
Oh, how exciting! Its about time good coffee comes to Toronto. I am looking forward to trying it out!
Im from Sydney Australia where starbucks closed down due to lack of business…. Im loving new places like Sense Appeal. Wont be long and starbuck will hopefully experience a similar fate here.
these guys make a much better tasting, less expensive coffee than starbucks or le gourmand (both on the next block).
as long my best man Mr.Sameer works for any any coffe shop around the world, that coffe shop will be success and will be serve the best quality in coffe…
The perfect cuppa, $2600 hookers,Victoria Secret,cold weather alerts for the homeless, etc. adds to our image as a world class city.
Nice to see a cool coffee joint with fantastic coffee and nice smiling staff who genuinely want to make your experience a great one! It seems as though good coffee in Toronto often comes with miserable unfriendly staff who act like they are doing you a favor. Nice work in bucking that trend Sense Appeal! I will spread the word!
With coffee being as complex as wine it is about time someone took this seriously. Senseappeals roasting is second to none. If you are a real coffee aficiondo there is nowhere else you will go. Great stuff!
This is great! More entrepreneurs = more variety = less Tim Horton’s and Starbucks – less corporate crap! Now, let’s get rid of the LCBO and Brewers Retail (artifacts of a bygone age) and open up the playing field to the wine/liquor/beer industry!!! After a nice afternoon “Ristretto”, I would like to drop into my local grocer and by whatever beer or wine I like as I pick up my groceries…
Glad I found this article because I’ll pop in tomorrow.
I read about Manic on College selling coffee for $15 a cup and thought oh dear me I’m looking for an independant roastery, I’m scared to ask what the coffee beans are for a pound, maybe I should pop into the bank for a loan first.
I am hoping to get a wee bit of coffee advice too because I’m shopping for a decent burr grinder.
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