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A Second Cup

Do you love coffee? Toronto has finally moved beyond a dependence on cookie-cutter chain coffee shops and is embracing a full-on barista movement. It seems every week there's a new spot opening up. Here's a very short list of some of the best, but ask around; there's likely a great cafe just around the corner, where the espresso is dynamite and the owner can talk beans all day. Note: most of these spots, Euro-style, open early and close before suppertime.

Balzac's Coffee Roastery. Building 60, 55 Mill St. (tel. 416/207-1709). The airy cafe invites lounging upstairs in the loft living room or downstairs near the roaster. Beans are fresh-roasted and then micro-roasted on the premises for super-freshness.

Dark Horse Espresso Bar. 682 Queen St. E. (tel. 647/436-3460); 215 Spadina Ave. (tel. 416/979-1200). Is it the caffeine? Everyone here buzzes -- happily. Pleasant vibe, good pastries, lots of free newspapers and magazines, Wi-Fi for all . . . oh, and consistently excellent (fair-trade) joe. Who could ask for anything more?

Ella's Uncle. 916 Dundas St. W. (tel. 416/703-8881). There are two great things about this little, mostly take-out spot: Great brews from local roaster Classic Coffee (bonus: the roaster is eco-friendly), plus the yummy baked goods made in the dollhouse kitchen behind the bar. Really nice staff, too.

Ezra's Pound. 238 Dupont St. (tel. 416/929-4400); 913 Dundas St. W. (tel. 647/346-8448). You can sit down to warm croissants, a light lunch, or just plain great coffee -- organic and fair-trade -- where free Wi-Fi invites lingering in the pretty space. More tranquil than most coffee bars.

Sam James Coffee Bar. 297 Harbord St. (tel. 647/341-2572). Some claim this tiny spot, named for the owner/award-winning barista, serves the best brew in town. To be sure, the crema would make a mamma cry. The siphon coffee -- you have to see it to understand -- is a work of art. A Montreal roaster, Toi, Moi e Café, supplies the beans. Lovely pastries come from top chef J.P. Challet's catering company.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.