Introducing: Thor Espresso Bar, which has “the coolest espresso machine on the planet”
There’s more to making good espresso than having really cool gadgets. That’s why Patrick Tu—who opened Thor Espresso Bar on Wednesday with his partner Tom Junek—is pretty excited that the company roasting his beans is Richmond Hill’s Social Coffee and Tea Co. The folks there helped Thor come up with its house blend, a mixture of beans from Brazil, Panama and Ethiopia. Still, Tu, a former IT professional who taught himself how to pull espresso shots on a machine at home, does have some pretty great tools on hand. He can’t help but show off his Versalab M3 grinder, which produces an impossibly fluffy, fine grind, and the Slayer, once dubbed “the coolest espresso machine on the planet.”
Tu’s been holed up for the past three months becoming intimately acquainted with his new toy, which allows the barista to manually control pressure throughout the pull. He has it down to a science, and says it’s not something a barista would want to play with during the morning rush. A hand-operated paddle adjusts the pressure from one to nine (a standard espresso machine exerts level-nine pressure continuously). For a shot at Thor, Tu will typically start the extraction at a three, ramp it up to a full nine about halfway, then ease it back to three near the end.
“Starting it off low, you’re almost massaging the beans,” Tu says. “You’re giving it time to absorb the water and release the essences and play up some of those subtleties that you don’t get when you go, wham, full nine.” Easing the pressure at the end of the shot, he tells us, can help reduce bitterness. He’s as meticulous as any career barista could be: if the shot doesn’t look great coming out, the customer’s going to have to wait for a better one.
Patrons have the option of choosing between the house blend ($2.25 per shot) or the featured blend (this week, it’s the low-yielding Esmeralda Special Geisha at $4 per shot). Thor also offers 10 types of tea, as well as French press coffee ($1.75), all within a minimalist setting in which a mural of Thor wielding a tamper stands out smartly. Pastries from Circles and Squares Bakery are also available.
Owners say that customers have been ordering espresso-based drinks almost exclusively. After all, condo dwellers and young professionals in the area don’t have many coffee options—when it comes to the art of espresso, the Second Cup and King and Bathurst just doesn’t cut it.
Thor Espresso Bar, 35 Bathurst St., Unit 4, 416-451-8736, thorespressobar.com.