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Introducing: The Primal Grind, a sugar- and dairy-free café in a crossfit gym (no, really)

The Primal Grind sits inside the Academy of Lions crossfit gym (Image: Gizelle Lau)

Toronto’s independent coffee scene has boomed in the past year. With that rapid growth has come new levels of coffee snobbery. First, the new breed waved goodbye to the humble drip. More recently, hardcore baristas have done away with decaf, with one even calling it “the devil’s blend.” Now, The Primal Grind, a new café on Dundas West, is taking coffee purism to a new level: no milk, no sugar.

Opened March 1, The Primal Grind is located just inside the Academy of Lions crossfit gym. Behind the counter are Freya Ravensbergen, a self-described coffee snob, and crossfit trainer and her partner Clinton Pontes, an actor. Both hail from Montreal and both have done their time pumping out lattes at big chain coffee shops. At The Primal Grind, says Ravensbergen, “it’s all about the art of coffee.”

Ravensbergen and Pontes pull espressos ($2.25) and americanos ($2.50) with Intelligentsia’s Black Cat espresso blend on a shiny Nuova Simonelli espresso machine. If you really need your latte fix, they’ll make you an almond ($4) or coconut milk latte ($5). Instead of refined sugar, local raw honey by Bees Universe is on hand if you need a sweetener. Also on the menu is tea ($2.50) from Tealish, as well as Earl Grey and spicy chai lattes ($4) made with almond milk.

Going dairy and sugar free is not just part of Freya and Clinton’s purist coffee ethic. It’s also got to do with their paleo food diet, better known as “the caveman” diet.  Basically, dairy and processed foods are out, which is supposed to help boost health and optimize physical performance when exercising.

For snacks, sister company Primal Indulgence is creating sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free items like apricot nut balls ($1.75), cookies ($2.25), lemon squares ($2.50) and chocolate zucchini spice loaf ($3). Other selections include 100 per cent pure unsweetened chocolate bars from Soma, kale chips from Live Organic Food Bar and, Clinton’s favourite, beef jerky from Beretta Organic Farms.

Being located in a gym, The Primal Grind is best experienced at one of the two café tables during a high-intensity crossfit session, where, if you’re so inclined, you can watch people flip giant tractor tires and throw hammers.

The Primal Grind, 1245 Dundas St. W. (inside the Academy of Lions gym), 647-219-4672, theprimalgrind.com.

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