To those who are part of the burgeoning coffee scene in Toronto, Momiji Kishi (formerly of Dark Horse Espresso Bar and Detour Coffee Roasters) is a force to be reckoned with. She’s been competing at a high level for years, regionally and nationally, in the Canadian Barista Championship, and has put in time managing and training as well. Well-known for her deep coffee knowledge and assured presence, it’s no surprise Kishi would eventually open her own cafe, something she had been working toward for years. Say hello to HotBlack Coffee.
The cafe, located in Toronto’s West Queen West (touted by Vogue Magazine as one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world), is a partnership between Kishi (acting as general manager and partner) and president and partner Jimson Bienenstock (former general manager of Soho House and Montecito). The pair, who were introduced by a mutual friend, clicked over their shared passion and philosophies toward coffee, hospitality, and experience. “It’s not easy to open a coffee shop by yourself and do it right,” Kishi says. “But Jimson and I met, and I felt like he was the right person.” Together they created an unpretentious cafe setting where regulars can simply experience a good cup of coffee, with service to match.
“All of the cafes and bakeries [in Toronto] that have opened in the last three months had the same aesthetic,” says Kishi. “We wanted to do something different.” It shows. The team spent months stripping their new space to its bare bones, aiming for a modern and minimalist atmosphere. The cafe, which has red, black, and gray as its dominant color palette, features an oversize community table, skylights, copper pendant lighting from Klaus, red and black stools from Emeco, and a large, red concrete bar. In the coming weeks, HotBlack plans to open an outdoor patio with seating for 30. Finally, they made the bold decision not to offer Wi-Fi and even constructed some of the tables so that they are unable to fit laptops. “The point is,” Bienenstock explains, “we want our customers to talk to one another and bring back the sociability of coffee.”
Since opening, Kishi has spent considerable time honing HotBlack’s coffee. Exclusively using Detour beans (Punch Buggy and Brazil Sitio Serra for espresso, and El Vendaval from Costa Rica and Bottle Neck—Detour’s signature blend—for filter), HotBlack has also gotten the opportunity to be an exclusive carrier and user of Detour’s micro-lot coffees (four batches throughout the year), including their Rosalba Tunja from Colombia. Looking to serve what Bienenstock describes as “competition-quality coffee—quickly and consistently,” the bar is outfitted with several Nuova Simonelli Clima-Pro grinders and a three-group Modbar espresso system. The shop has a Mahlkönig EK 43 used for their batch brew and soon-to-come Chemex and pour-over options. To pair with their drinks, the shop is working exclusively with the Dark Horse Espresso Bar bakery, Foodbenders, and Forno Cultura for sandwiches, salads, cookies, and bars.
With summer approaching, Kishi and her team have created an appealing seasonal menu, including a coffee-cherry tea (cascara) using Detour’s single-origin from Costa Rica, and the unique Orancicle: an espresso shot over ice with house-made vanilla syrup, organic cold-pressed orange juice, and a touch of cream. Kishi explains that throughout the summer, HotBlack’s goal is to connect with more local producers to create seasonal and natural drinks. One such drink is the Coffee Jelly Latte, a coffee jello over crushed ice served with your choice of milk.
As the shop continues to grow its customer base and team of collaborators, Bienenstock believes that Toronto will be receptive to HotBlack’s global and expansive world of coffee.
Amanda Scriver (@amascriver) is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. Read more Amanda Scriver on Sprudge.
Photos courtesy of Britney Townsend.