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So, how do you go from being a Research Analyst to a purveyor of some of Toronto’s finest espresso? In Heran Choi’s case, it had a lot to do with Tim Horton’s.

The owner of Seven Grams Espresso had been working for the School Board in Hamilton, surrounded by only the ubiquitous Timmy Ho’s and found herself longing for the coffee of her native Seoul and the cafés of Europe. She picked up and moved to Toronto, where, in 2011, she made her longtime dream of owning an espresso bar and art gallery a reality. Now, at the corner of Av and Dav you can get yourself an expertly pulled shot of Te Aro espresso and peruse the work of local artists at Seven Grams. We love partnering with Heran to caffeinate the Yorkville ‘hood, because she’s dedicated to making top-shelf coffee and her shop’s got class.

Unlike a lot of café owners in the city, Heran didn’t start off as a barista—but she is no newbie to the scene. While living in South Korea, where she says cafés practically double as living rooms, she spent years drinking coffee made by some of the world’s most serious baristas. She wanted to bring that level of quality and attentiveness to her shop’s coffee and quickly set to work training herself. She attended the incredibly rigorous training to become a Q Grader, passing all the tests except for one, which is pretty darn good considering there is only a small handful of certified Q Graders in the country (Te Aro’s Andy Wilkin being one of them). She then studied with pourover masters in Seoul, where manual brewing methods are a huge part of the coffee world, and they take their barista training seriously with two levels of certification earned only after intense study.

When Heran embarked on the journey of conceptualizing and creating Seven Grams, she knew she wanted to go beyond espresso, and offer Torontonians the full range of the coffee experience she’d had overseas. So she stocked the bar with pourovers, cold drip, and the rare Trifecta (a sophisticated brewer that allows the barista to control and customize the brewing parameters to make a totally unique, individualized cup with a completely uniform extraction, to get a little tech-y on you). Heran herself is a lover of the pourover, for its delicate, clean tea-like quality, and one made with Te Aro’s Ethiopian Sidama is her idea of a perfect drink.

The sophistication present in the coffee at Seven Grams extends to the physical space. Heran sees ambience and environment as being just as important as the quality of the drinks. She modeled her espresso bar after what she’d experienced in Asia and Europe, where the café is a social hub and cornerstone of culture. She was sure to include a communal table to facilitate those beautiful chance meetings that are less common in North America, where people aren’t as quick to strike up conversations with strangers in a café. She also adorns the walls with the work of local artists, combining her love of art and aesthetics with her passion for coffee.

The name, Seven Grams, refers to the traditional Italian measurement for the amount of coffee in one espresso shot, and is an homage to the European espresso tradition. Seven is also a lucky number, and judging by the bustle of the café and its devout customers, it seems to be working. But it’s not just luck, Heran is dedicated to her café and it shows. Like she says, “it’s my baby.”

Check out Seven Grams at 131 Avenue Road, or online at http://www.sevengrams.ca

We are looking for someone to provides support to our roasting/wholesale operations 4-5 days per week for 6 hours a day.  This will be Monday – Friday, 7:30am – 1:30pm.  You must be able to work these specific hours on 4 or 5 of these days.

This job will be bagging freshly roasted coffee, weighing out green beans for roasting, lugging and moving around coffee bags, filling tins of tea, prepping online orders to go out, prepping wholesale orders going out, printing labels for bags and tins, keeping the back tidy and clean, and other logistical support.

This is a physically demanding job and you must be able to lift big tubs of coffee beans.

You must also have a strong attention to detail – there is no room for error in this job, and you must be able to work on your own and at a quick pace.  It is also repetitive work, but you can drink as much coffee as you want, and listen to your own music 🙂

Please email your resume to jessie@te-aro.ca or drop it by Te Aro, at 983 Queen St East.

ImageThere is a whole world out there beyond espresso and drip coffee. It’s a place where the coffee tastes amazing, barely anything is electric, and all the cool kids are hanging out. This is the world of Manual Brewing.

Manual brewing methods emerged onto the coffee scene in the last couple of years, and they’ve caught on like wildfire. Why? These devices uncover and expose our palates to hundreds of flavour compounds we didn’t even know were possible. They’re easy to use once you get the hang of them, and, you know, in this day and age it’s nice to make something by hand without a lot of automatic machinery in the way. They also look cool and science-y and are really fun to play with (sometimes there’s even fire involved!).

We’ve had the Siphon, Chemex, Aeropress and V60 Pourover on the menu for some time now at Crafted, but we know they’re a little foreign and intimidating and some of you are a little suspicious of those beakers and butane burners. So, to bring this beautiful world of manual brewing to the masses, we’re starting up Brew Method Demos every second Thursday at Te Aro. You can watch your talented and delightful baristas prepare different brews step-by-step, and you can sample all the variations of body, flavour, and acidity uniquely highlighted by each different method.

If you really want to take your coffee know-how to another level, you can also come to Te Aro on alternate Thursdays for coffee cupping sessions led by the venerable Chris, one of our expert roasters, who can teach you how to evaluate body, aroma, acidity, and balance in our single origin beans, and how to talk about coffee like a legit connoisseur.

The next Brew Methods Demo will be led by Kyle at Te Aro on Thursday Feb 9th at 12:30pm.  No need to sign up!

We are looking for an experienced barista (that means previous experience dialing in a grinder, pulling shots, pouring latte art, etc….) to start at our Queen East location immediately.
You must be as interested in coffee as we are, able to multitask (previous experience in a busy environment), and be extremely customer focused.
The shifts fall on weekdays and weekends, so you must have a flexible schedule.

Send your resume to jessie@te-aro.ca or drop it off at 983 Queen St East.  Thanks!

Parts 1,2,3

Okay, there was no commotion, other than the sounds of the mill. Had you going though, didn’t I?

Now to the guns. At another part of the Serben compound we got to see their cupping lab. Inside were two vintage Probat roasters that looked awesome and steampunk. In this lab the staff roast, grind and cup the various coffees they receive in order to determine cup characteristics and potential defects. Just before we left I learned why there is so much security, though it should have been obvious by now: coffee is a hot commodity, especially in locations where a lot of it is concentrated, like a dry mill. It is not entirely uncommon for tractor trailers flush with bags of coffee to be hijacked by bandits brandishing assault rifles, the drivers shot and tossed by the side of the road. That stolen coffee ends up sold on the black market. In order to prevent such attacks, or at least to reduce them, mill owners have had to spend a lot on security. Now a lot of trucks are equipped with GPS, and if they are immobile for more than 60 seconds, the mill calls the drivers to inquire why. They travel in convoys of at least 3 trucks to better their chances of arriving at port alive. In response, the bandits (which some believe actually have the support of corrupt local police) have upped the ante and have started to raid the dry mill in the middle of the night, killing guards and stealing tons of coffee. This is why the mill looks like a maximum security prison from the outside; but rather than trying to prevent escape, they are trying to prevent people from getting in.

The final full day in Guatemala we visited the HQ of ANACAFE for an awesome lunch and a tour of their state of the art cupping facilities. Then we were off to one of Unitrade’s retail cafes for a pick-me-up, during which a short woman with a green t-shirt rubbed up against me and stole my camera (I was under the impression that I was hot stuff, but really it was just theft. Meh.). Not to be discouraged because everyone else on the trip has pictures, we departed to Unitrade’s offices for a tour and a cupping of regional coffees from Guatemala. For some reason there was some kind of caged owl in their parking lot.

And thus ends the overly verbose account of our trip to origin. Minus the theft, I would recommend an origin trip to pretty much anyone – not just coffee professionals. It is an altogether different and I think more enriching experience than a resort trip. With the dynamic locations, and dust, and coffee pulp, and wildlife, and education, and the kids, and the beer, and not to forget the discussions with our tripmates, I have grown and learned more than I thought possible; I also am hungry to learn even more and to continue to expand my horizons. The main thing I think I will take away from this trip? To not allow strange women rub up against me, in public at least. Kidding! It is the awareness that in coffee, and in specialty coffee in particular, we are all linked in a chain from seedling to cup; that we all, for the moment, occupy certain links in that chain; and that by increasing dialogue and education we can strengthen these links and even begin to transcend them – coffee drinkers, roasters and baristas become farmers, farmers become cuppers, roasters and coffee drinkers.  We are all partners in the process.

My how time flies.  2010 was huge for us here at Te Aro. 2011 is going to be even bigger; it’s only one week in and we can already feel it. We’d like to take a minute to reminisce about the good times, to give some shout-outs, to look back at how far we’ve come and forward to where we’re headed. Buckle up, here we go.

2010

First off, the beans. Coffee Review, the leading coffee-buying guide, sampled and evaluated four of Te Aro’s coffees. Our Mocha Java, Kenya, El Salvador Finca Alaska, and Ethiopia Sidama all scored in the 90s, which is no small feat. In December, Te Aro also took the top spot on the Best Coffee Roasters in Toronto poll, as voted by you, our lovely fans. We’re incredibly proud of our superstar roasting team, and appreciate them hugely for working tirelessly to perfect our beans.

Our cafés also got some amazing recognition last year. We are so honoured to have been awarded the 2010 Krups Cup of Excellence, which recognizes the top indie cafes in 5 major Canadian cities. We were up against seriously stiff competition from awesome TO cafes, but our team at Te Aro really stepped up and impressed the judges. Te Aro also placed 3rd in Eye Weekly’s Top 10 Independent Coffee Houses.

In July, we opened Crafted by Te Aro, our second café, on Ossington. Here we wanted to explore the growing trend of manual brewing methods, like siphons and pourovers, and other nerdy gadgets like cold-extraction coffee makers–while still paying the same attention and care to our beloved espresso, of course. We love our cozy little spot in this awesome West End neighbourhood, our customers have amazing and supportive, and our neighbours so welcoming. We were honoured, flattered, and excited that Crafted was voted Toronto’s best new café by blogTO when it was just a wee 5 months old.

Multiple high fives all around to our stellar baristas, and big love to all our customers who sent in their votes, we couldn’t have done without you!

Speaking of our staff, they were up to some exciting stuff last year too. Andy, Te Aro’s founder and Roastmaster, went through the rigorous training process of becoming a Q-Grader, a certification to assess and grade coffee quality. He passed the 3-day, 22-section exam with flying colours and is one of only seven Q Graders in Canada. Andy also became a Specialty Coffee Association of America Certified Cupping Judge, and in the spring made it down to Guatemala to be an observer in the country’s Cup of Excellence competition. He’s a busy man.

In July, Elena participated in the Eastern Regional Barista Championships. Probably the most nerve-wracking thing she’s done since her junior high debate championship, but she got to watch some incredibly talented baristas perform and definitely learned so much from the experience.

Our roasting team expanded exponentially last year. Thiago Trovo, who worked with us last year before having to return to his native Brazil, made his way back to Te Aro to become a Coffee Roaster. Chris Noseworthy, whom you’ve probably seen pulling shots behind the bar at Te Aro, has also joined the team. From Andy roasting solo late into the night, we now have a trio of skilled and experienced roasters.

If you didn’t know already, I’ll say it again: we love our customers at Crafted and Te Aro, they’re swell. Last year we wanted to spend more quality time with them, and share some of our knowledge. We continued our well-attended cupping sessions at Te Aro, as well as started up a Home Roasting seminar with our roasting team for all you amateur enthusiasts. At Crafted we offered brew demos, showcasing our nifty manual-brewing methods.

2011

Coming up…

Next week we’ll be installing our new roaster, an infrared roaster from Diedrich. Since our wholesale and retail has grown so much, we need to upgrade to a new roaster so that we can keep up with our expansion. Another reason we wanted to make the switch: the catalytic oxidizer on the after-burner is 50-60% more energy efficient than our current afterburner. We can greatly reduce our emissions with this new roaster, not to mention our beans will taste even better. And soon you’ll be able to watch (and smell) your coffee being roasted while you sip your latte!

One of our goals, this year and onwards, is to make more trips to origin countries to build relationships with the coffee growers themselves, and to trade with them directly. Last year, Thiago got to know a farmer in Brazil, which led to Te Aro purchasing an exclusive micro-lot from his crop. This is our biggest contract to date, look for the beans on the shelf soon. At the end of the month, Andy and Chris will be heading to Guatemala, then Andy and Thiago to Brazil to visit more farms and sample lots of coffee.

We have some brilliant coffees coming our way this year, as we’ve worked through 2010 to track down the finest micro-lot green beans. We’ll be developing some new blends and single origin espressos, so keep a look out for our new Espresso Menus at the cafés.

We’ll have lots more events this year, starting with our informal cupping and coffee-talk sessions with Thiago on Friday afternoons at Te Aro. Check back often to find out about upcoming events!

We’ve partnered up with some great Toronto cafes and restaurant to caffeinate our community. We look forward to more collaborations and will continue to offer training and support for wholesale customers and start-up cafes. We’ll also be spiffing up our website so it’s easier for you to use.

Last but not least, thanks again to all our staff, all our partners, and all our customers. You’re the crema on our espresso, we couldn’t have done all this without you.

Cheers to 2010, so long and thanks for all the memories. And here’s to 2011, which we know will be even better.