Sumach Espresso

Sitting down to work

This is my coffice space review of Sumach Espresso. Listen to it on Patreon (and then subscribe to help pay my coffee bills).

Sumach Espresso is a neighbourhood espresso joint. Many of the customers are on first-name basis with the baristas. It’s on a side-street corner at Sumach and Shuter, and your odds of happening on it by chance are pretty low. That doesn’t mean it’s unfriendly or somehow exclusive – it’s not. It does mean you’re unlikely to get blitzed by scads of passing suits or crowded out by goggling tourists.

It’s also not a Starbucks and could not be mistaken for one. One long wall is white tiles, the other is flat grey, and the menus are written in careful marker on butcher paper. The floor wants to assure you that it’s wood, no, really, it is (it’s not). There are three little round marble tables inside and four more outside and there are long counters facing the windows. There’s seating inside for a dozen and a half on stools and a half dozen on normal chairs and a bench, and seating outside for, um, some more people. You won’t be driven outside by excessive air conditioning, but maybe if you don’t like dish clanking. The music is for people who like Tom Petty and the Rolling Stones and the Doobie Brothers and all those seventies groups that are as comfy to people my age as an old weed-smoking couch. There are no steps at the entrance or the washroom. The light is photogenic.

The sign by the door says HIPPIES USE BACKDOOR ⟶

It may bear mentioning that this is the only coffee place where I’ve seen a person with an actual Leica M 240. But don’t take that as meaning this is some super upscale place. It’s not that side of Corktown. Shuter Street here is lined with old slightly tilting row houses on one side and a school on the other. About half the customers in Sumach Espresso have grey hair (half the baristas, too) and about a quarter of the customers have tattoos (maybe more, but I’m only counting ones I can see). I’d guess the denizens average more than one university degree per person, and they wear all sorts of things but almost never business attire. I’m wearing dark jeans and a black short-sleeve button-up and I’m almost overdressed. A table is as likely to have two or three friends chatting as it is to have one person laptopping.

This is not “Oh, yeah, Sumach Espresso.” This is “Oh, hey, you know Sumach Espresso!”

I wouldn’t have known about it either if I hadn’t been told by someone who lives on the block. And it’s just enough out of the way for me that I’ve only been here twice so far.

I’ll be back.

Hippies can’t use this door

2 responses to “Sumach Espresso

  1. Chuck Crawford

    I’m thrilled to find you on Sumach. Years ago I lived near wellseley and Jarvis; my wife was born and raised on Jackman Av (just a catapult’s toss from Sumach), went to Jackman school and then Jarvis Collegiate. So many good memories of Toronto (from Bloor south particularly). Thanks for sharing this. If I have time next visit, I’ll find the Sumach Espresso and tell’em James sent me!
    Warm regards
    Chuck Crawford
    Empire, Michigan

  2. Somehow I missed this post (I was in Scotland at the time and mostly offline). I spend hours in there most days. I find it wonderfully reliable. Glad you liked it too. Maybe we can meet there sometime.

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