Top 5 Kingston Coffee Houses
Kingston is a fantastic city for a coffee lover. The place is overflowing with coffee shops of all varieties. Of course, some are good and others are not so good. But some are so good that they deserve a spot on this hallowed list:
#5 – Sipps Dessert Bar
The selection is fairly broad and the quality is unremarkable. They often have a flavoured coffee of the week/month which is typically uninteresting. Sipps’ most popular blend, the sunrise blend, is a lighter coffee with a very mild flavour. This reviewer prefers coffee with a bit more substance, and this blend came off as more watery than coffee-flavoured. Having said that, the coffee failed to revive me. Which leaves the perennial question – what is the point of all of this?!
The baked goods are exceptional and come in a variety of decadent bars, cakes and cookies. Not matter what sweet thing you order (especially if it is the cheesecake) – you will not be disappointed. The baked goods are made in-house or ordered from a local Kingston bakery. This coffee shop also serves ice cream in the warmer months! However, the sandwich, wrap and salad selection is lacking and is comprised of mostly simple fare.
The atmosphere is quaint and great for some reading or for grabbing a coffee with a friend. This café has a relaxed and simple, charming, country vibe. But be warned: Sipps only has access to the public wifi network, which can be unreliable. However, this means that it is usually not as busy as other cafés during exam time and can be a good place for some quiet reading or revision.
The charming and simple country vibe is what makes Sipps special. The staff are very warm and friendly. The patio looks out onto town hall and Springer Square, providing a great view into the enchanting and historical heart of Kingston. In the summer you can often observe RMC battalions practicing their formations and marches. As far as providing the most Kingston-centric café experience, this coffee shop wins the European vibe score big time.
#4 – Coffeeco
It is excellent. You want your coffee to fill you with immediate warmth and satisfaction, and that is exactly what a cup from Coffeeco delivers. They have a good selection of specialty coffees as well – for the impurists. A nitpicky fault is that their coffee cups are not very good at insulating your hand from the heat. Holding a cup for prolonged periods requires all forms of hand-holding gymnastics.
This is the one place where Coffeeco falls flat. The baked goods selection is severely lacking. Often you can find two or three items at the bar, but it’s nothing extraordinary – just your usual spread of brownies, cookies, and muffins. They have also recently introduced a lunch package. But other than that, offerings are fairly sparse. A good cup of coffee needs a partner in food, but the lack of availability at Coffeeco leaves us incomplete.
The downtown location overlooks Springer Market Square. There are big windows, exposed brick, high ceilings, and a big wooden workbench. Yet at the same time the shop is cozy and intimate, making it an extremely comfortable place on any day and at any time of the year.
Coffeeco’s biggest selling point is its hipsterness. If you are ever a bearded mess during exam season, wearing skinny jeans and a plaid shirt, then shuffle on over to Coffeeco and you’ll be right at home. The vibe certainly sets you very much against the mainstream. You’re transported to a time when coffee was not in vogue and exposed brick was just uncouth.
#3 – The Common Market
The coffee at the Common Market is great. Their regular drip coffee has the right amount of kick and flavour, and they have a very large selection of speciality coffee – usually presented with amazing latte artwork.
They have a good selection of sandwiches available, as well as frittatas and soups. During the winter months they also offer chili made with local beef, which is incredibly warming and filling. They also have a decent selection of baked goods.
What makes the Common Market special is its location and ambiance. The coffee house is in a heritage building next to Lake Ontario. It’s small and cozy with some tables, a bench, a cozy corner, and bar seats. This is a great place to quietly study with little distraction. They also have a small groceries section where you can pick up bread, milk, cheeses and chocolates.
The coziness of this discrete coffee house is what makes it special. In winter, you can sit next to the window and survey the blustery weather outside, all the while sipping a coffee or tucking into a filling bowl of chili. It is heaven.
#2 – Crave Coffee House & Bakery
As you first walk into Crave, a massive coffee-roasting machine greets you. Yes, this place roasts its own coffee. But despite the high expectations this novelty might raise, the coffee at Crave is unfortunately its weakest asset. It’s not bad – just ordinary. To be fair, the coffee has improved since they first opened, and we hope that it can continue to improve. In particular, the Peruvian blend has a delicate flavour with a light and spicy aftertaste which appeals to some coffee connoisseurs – but not all.
The selection at Crave is simply outstanding. They make fresh sandwiches and salads everyday, and the selection is exceptional. As you make your way to the cashier, you walk past mountains of baked goods – from brownies to cheesecakes to cookies to Danish pastries. At the zenith of the bar is the piéce de résistance of this hallway of deliciousness: hot fresh cinnamon rolls of every variety you can imagine.
If you’re a picky sitter, then Crave caters to your ilk. It has long bench seating, regular table seats, armchairs, and a long common worktable with plenty of outlets. A fireplace and plenty of artwork makes for a very pleasant environment. But as the popularity of Crave continues to grow, it can get very crowded during peak-times.
There is something about the spread of this coffee house – both architectural and culinary – that just works. As you enter through the doors you go on a journey through the savoury, the sweet, the caffeinated, and the devouring. The ride brightens up your day.
#1 – Balzacs Roasters
Balzacs has, hands down, the best coffee in Kingston. Their regular drip coffee comes in a variety of flavours, all of which are incredible. They hit just the right notes of smell, flavour, and strength. Their speciality coffees are equally excellent.
Balzacs’s food spread is good, but it’s not great. They have a large selection of brownies, cookies, tarts, and oatmeal. But that’s about it. The food is fantastic, but having a selection of sandwiches or cakes would propel this coffee house to the very top.
The shop is b-e-a-utiful. They have done a fantastic job of preserving the heritage elements, with exposed brick and exposed original floor tiles. The furniture pays homage to the early 20th century and all the countertops are marble. The place is classy and comfortable. Just what a coffee house should be.
Balzacs seems to be purposefully designed to be a cut above the other coffee houses of Kingston. And it pulls it off. The entire shop has a special vibe to it that allows you to escape the bustle of Princess Street to a serene, comfortable exclave with the sweet smell of coffee.
Adnan Subzwari (3L) is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Juris Diction. Erin Crochetiere (3L) is a contributor for Juris Diction.