What's does "CC" mean?
Subject: Balzac's Coffee
Location visited: Toronto, ON
(Distillery District location)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]
Naming a business after a historic figure seems like a gamble. Obviously, there can be disputes of trademark and copyright but do historical figures have constituents to watch out for that kind of stuff? For example, what if you decide to name a seedy bar Harriet Tubman's Bungalow? Or a big & tall store Napolean Bonaparte? And even if people complain, does anyone really have the right to legally dispute?
What conjured up this thinking was the simple fact that I've been to a number of places named after founding fathers, Greek philosophers and the like. Some good experiences and other leaving much to be desired. My most recent example is a place called Balzac's Coffee, named after the French novelist, playwright and coffee nut Honore' de Balzac. Granted, their website shows that it has some decent popularity amidst the publications of Toronto but much of the praise did little to show the actual quality of the coffee.
Naturally, a visit to the location in the Distillery District (a neat historical spot, though a bit overrated for all the hype) helped clarify. The cafe sits in an rejuvenated warehouse-ish building, beautifully restored on the outside with a lovely open stone patio. Inside, the cafe relays stunning decor, with a huge chandelier and a loft behind the coffee counter complete with a small balcony overlooking the lower level (where you can sit!).
Balzac roasts their own coffee, having a fair selection of blends and single origins. I had a Peruvian single origin that proved smooth yet a bit charred, and as it had been definitely sitting, proved pretty stale. I found the espresso pulled long, sweet with hints of chocolate but also a tad cardboardy; not horrible or wonderful. The tea is of the bagged variety, though I did not note the brand.
In my reflections back, I would have to say that it would be a toss up of whether Balzac would appreciate his name used for this cafe. On one hand, Balzac was known more for his excessive coffee consumption (the man practically lived on it) so therefore, I would think he would care more of the hours of the cafes versus the quality of the beans. But then again, Balzac lived in a different age; had he lived today I think he would demand a higher quality for his name.
However you look at it, I think that Balzac's Coffee has a lot of the right groundwork laid and has but a few quality tweakings to be made in order to best honor the old Frenchman. If you're a fan of Balzac or you happen to be sequestered to the Distillery District, give Balzac's Coffee a whirl.