I’ve been to many cafes in Toronto. This one takes the crown.
Big statement from me, I know. But this place has been tried and tested by the people I trust and care about most. It’s become the barometer against which to measure my many out-of-town guests: the people who truly love me also tend to love this cafe and want to visit it multiple times. Okay, so that might not hold up 100% of the time in the future, but in the short time that I’ve lived near it, it’s been the setting for a few important scenes in my life.
I discovered Tango Palace when walking back from the theatre one afternoon, as I was like to do much of this past year. I was enjoying the sunshine when their sign called me inside with the promise of two bags of loose leaf tea for $5 . . . I brought my herbal tisane and decaffeinated black tea home with a grin on my face and a promise to return and taste the in-store offerings.
When I visited next, I was in dire need of a studying pick-me-up. Near the end of the winter semester, I was burnt out from moving apartments, resettling, and writing final papers for my graduate courses. I only had two assignments left, the best two: a complete revision of my adapted play and a 10-page paper for my independent study exploring the question “Why adapt for the stage?” But I was tired and even though my new rented room was inviting with its window and sunny yellow walls, I couldn’t find the right motivation there. But in Tango Palace with its free wi-fi, cushy seats, and quiet yet friendly atmosphere, I could sip on my very large vanilla rooibos tea and crank out the final pages. I did–and then allowed myself to re-discover the joys of Netflix and Spotify now that the summer had officially begun.
When my family came to visit, I pointed out Tango Palace Coffee Company to them on the first day. As we walked up and down Queen Street East the rest of the week, it suddenly became the place to stop whenever we needed a break for iced tea and a bit of a breeze. Together we discovered the back patio, a fenced in area shaded and surrounded by large trees that still looked out over the busy nearby park. When I said I was running out of coffee at home, they bought me a great dark roast from Tango Palace’s large selection of ground coffee. My dad even made a point of stopping in later in the week to snap a picture of their old-school, metallic espresso machine.
And then my best friend came to visit. We were hungry on the first day and walking around the neighborhood when I vaguely recalled that Tango Palace carried a good selection of gluten-free goodies in addition to the normal pastries and cakes (gluten-free being a very important requirement from my friend). The moment she saw the gluten-free carrot cake sitting in the display case, my friend was sold on the entire place. She loved how the back patio gave us quiet space to catch up, but also allowed us to enjoy the gorgeous Toronto summer weather–much balmier than the humid swamp lands of Washington DC right now. When she felt swamped by work for her summer course, that’s where we returned to spend an entire afternoon together sipping tea and coffee, reading, writing, and generally feeling relaxed and productive at the same time. Little did I know she had never been so productive in a cafe before.
How often does that happen? How often do you come across a space that can simultaneously foster both semi-silent studies and friendly conversation in its tiny cafe atmosphere? From my wanderings in Oxford, Houston, and the rest of Toronto, I can safely say that it doesn’t happen often. When it does, it’s worth the trek outside in whatever weather to make it to that little caffeinated sanctuary.
I’m not sure where I’ll be living in the fall or beyond the end of this summer, but I hope it’s not too far away from this, my official favorite cafe in Toronto.