Back in December, we told you about Sam James’ plans to launch a third location in that downtown warren of chain coffee shops, the Path. This Monday, his new Sam James Coffee Bar opened up shop under the Sun Life Financial Building at 150 King Street West, just steps from the St. Andrew subway station, bringing the financial district a rare break from the near-total Starbucks-Timmies-Timothy’s-Second Cup domination. “Until now, people in and around the Path just haven’t had another option,” says James.
The location, in true Path fashion, is open from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. In true Sam James fashion, the shop is strictly grab-and-go, with no seating. The location is serviced by a pair of La Marzocco Linea espresso machines with all the personal customizations that James is known for: laser-cut baskets, drip screens to ensure even water distribution and minute pump pressure calibrations for optimal flavour extraction. The space was designed by architect Michal Gorczyca and designer Jeremy Jansen, who helped with some artwork elements, including the splattered menu blackboard. Light wooden fencing along the walls creates a bit of warmth in the otherwise dungeon-like Path, while an ivy plant, just beginning to grow, will create a canopy above the space for an organic feel.
The list of drinks is characteristically simple: espressos and Americanos ($2.82), macchiatos ($3.10), and cappuccinos, lattes, vanilla lattes and mocha lattes (small, $3.58, large, $3.99). There’s also drip coffee and decaf, and for non-coffee drinkers, hot chocolate and chai (small, $3.33, large, $3.80). James is also serving pastries ($2.62), sandwiches and salads ($7.50) from Delica Kitchen and croissants from J.P. Challet. As for any criticism that the arch-indie coffee man is “selling out” by going downtown, James laughs: “I’m just trying to do smart business, and there’s a lot of great traffic here. Business people need to drink coffee, too!” Already in their first week, they’ve been turning over twice as many orders daily as at their Harbord location.
Sam James Coffee Bar, 150 King St. W. (in the Path under the Sun Life building), 647-341-2572, samjamescoffeebar.com