In a rather unsuspecting place nestled amongst the west-end storefronts of St. Clair West sits a king in the jungle. A relative newcomer to the Toronto coffee scene, Lion Coffee is as impressive as its namesake, already rivalling the concentrated collection of coffee shops in the city’s downtown core. Ironically, store owner and barista Hazel Mucio is anything but a rival or competitor. As soon as you walk through the door you feel like a friend, and Hazel’s hospitality surly has much to do with Lion’s early success.
It feels like home in here
If you’ve never been to Lion Coffee before, expect to be asked your name shortly after you’ve walked through the door. Once you’ve introduced yourself, expect your name to have never been forgotten. One of the most loveable qualities of this little shop is the feeling of being cared for and known by your barista. Most days you can find Hazel working the bar by herself, and on weekends you might even have your drink made by her husband Mitch. If you made a stop by de Mello earlier in the week, Mitch could’ve made your drink there too. He’s worked on bar at de Mello for a couple of years and is now their most recent cafe manager.
De Mello Palheta is what’s being served at Lion, with usually two offerings for espresso. You’ll almost always find De Mello’s classic Dancing Goats single origin in the hopper, as well as a rotating seasonal single origin. That’s my drink of choice, and this week it was a Mormora from Ethiopia in my flat white.
The menu is short and sweet, but nothing close to incomplete. In fact, it’s just my kind of menu. You’ll find espresso basics like cortados, flat whites, and cappuccinos, as well as a few specialty lattes. Another notable menu item is the “Giver” option. You can choose to pay it forward to the next customer, consistent with Lion’s evident values of kindness and hospitality.
Hazel’s business partner Kata Ambrus runs Chocolate de Kat chocolates out of the store as well. You may have seen her artfully designed and handmade chocolates in shops around the city. Although I haven’t had the chance to try the chocolates yet, if they taste in any way as good as they look, I’m sure I’ll be in for a treat.
My kind of shop
Hazel and Mitch and Lion Coffee are the personification of the kind of shops I love to see popping up around the city. Young, zealous entrepreneurs who have a passion for coffee and people. Partnering with a seasoned and established roaster like de Mello Palheta is a pathway not only to success, but also sustainability. Sustainability for Lion Coffee? I sure hope so! But also sustainability for the coffee industry. Hazel and Mitch clearly care deeply about coffee, and you’ll leave their shop knowing that they also care about you too.