A new study conducted by BBC Radio declared Toronto to be one of the world’s most multicultural cities. In wandering the streets, you’ll find everything from French bistros to Irish pubs to Japanese izakayas to Portuguese bakeries. But right now, Toronto is having a moment with the Australian-style, service-focused cafe. Case in point, Baddies which opened in August, and now Arvo Coffee, which also opened in August, and has found its home in Toronto’s Distillery District.
While the two cafes differ somewhat in approach (you'll find no avocado toast here), Arvo owner Justin Carriere, a Toronto coffee veteran (formerly of M Square Coffee Company and Lit Espresso Bar) holds Australia’s penchant for coffee and its cafe philosophies near and dear to him after living there during university. “Australia is not only a beautiful place but it's a country that is always innovating and creating new brewing methods,” he says. “I've tried to capture that heartbeat and incorporate a few new elements in my approach to service.”
Alongside his business partner, Edward Kuo, Carriere created Arvo Coffee—a cafe space that is built on good coffee and community. They have incorporated small touches of the Australian ethos to the cafe setting, like incorporating a shop selling fresh flowers and floral arrangements on-site. The cafe also features a nod to its inspiration country with a large map hung above the milk and sugar station.
Behind the bar, Arvo is one of the first Toronto cafes to feature the Yama Silverton pour-over system on its bar. Carriere explains, “For a long time, North-American-style cafes have been very drip coffee focused. Most cafes in Australia only serve espresso-based drinks or have a pour-over bar.” For Carriere, the pour-over bar at Arvo allows him and the other baristas to get up close and personal with their customers and provide a simple moment of education and understanding for those who want to know more about the coffee they are indulging in that day. This kind of attention is something he remembers well from his time in Australia and remembers it being a magical moment.
The cafe itself has plenty of old-school charm with lots of thought put into the details. The 700-square-foot space features 200-year-old exposed brick, a 1920s-era marble countertop refurbished from the King Edward Hotel, a tin backsplash repurposed from a mid-century home in Toronto’s High Park neighborhood, and a hidden nook. The build-out, done by Carriere and Kuo, took five weeks but resulted in a space with a lot of character and soul.
Behind the bar, two La Marzocco GS3 espresso machines are used for espresso, allowing the team flexibility to move these smaller machines around for mobile events and patio service on weekends. Also behind the bar sit two Nuova Simonelli Mythos One Clima-Pro grinders for espresso, and a Mahlkönig EK43 for drip and pour-over options. For batch drip coffee, they have a FETCO CBS-2131XTS brewer and for their nitro cold brew, a three-faucet Kegerator. Operating as a multi-roaster cafe, their primary roaster is Calgary's Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters for both espresso and filter roasts, with Transcend Coffee from Edmonton as their secondary roaster. All of their beverages and foods are then plated on ceramics by local artist Patrick Yeung. Ever-changing feature drinks include a recent nitro cold brew float with organic vanilla bean ice cream, and a sticky chai from Australia with the profile of raw honey.
While Arvo Coffee is still in its infancy, Carriere has high hopes for the cafe, hoping to create a space in the Distillery District where customers (new and old) can come together in an approachable new setting for good coffee and good vibes.
Photos courtesy of Britney Townsend.