“Wait, there’s the sign but where’s the coffee shop?” That’s what I thought when I walked up to La Formule Espresso Bar. If, like me, you’ve watched too many gangster movies in your lifetime you’ll have this feeling of walking through a front for a speakeasy gambling back room when, in fact, you’re just walking through a candy store. Nonetheless, the shopkeep nods at you and you nod back almost in a silent acknowledgment that you’re here for the back room activities. I won’t have you indulge my Sopranos fantasies any longer.
Although I was hoping for a smoke filled room, full of gangsters, all I got was a modern, clean open space a few steps above the candy store. The entire space is very well lit which is quite fortunate as natural light is mighty scarce in this space. The dark wooden flooring contrasts well with the white walls and bar counter on which sits a beautiful stainless steel classic La Marzocco espresso machine. The seating is minimal which makes the entire space quite airy. All you really get is a six seat communal table, a coffee table with a couple of chairs and some bar seating. The loftiness is quite appealing as it allows you to enjoy your coffee in peace.
I did say, enjoy your coffee. Make no mistake, La Formule may be located in the back of a candy store but in no way should it be ignored. John, barista and owner, takes great joy and pride in his coffee and transmits the sentiment with his enthusiasm. His skills sure do help in sharing his passion. He uses Pilot Coffee exclusively, a Canadian Roaster out of Toronto. First, I went for my go-to, the espresso. La Formule rotates the beans quite regularly but during my visit John pulled a shot with the Yirgacheffe Zero. It’s called “Zero” because of all the attention that is given to the sorting process, which makes for a coffee with zero defects. This Yirgacheffe is a single origin from Ethiopia. When it came time to tasting my nose and my taste buds were in disagreement. While my nose was telling me: “Hmmm, this sure smells toasty, maybe even burnt.” my taste buds were all like: “Damn, this got flavour.” Seriously now though, this Yirgacheffe is full of floral and jasmine flavours with a heavy dose of natural sweetness. Despite the initial smell being a bit misleading, this is a great coffee that might have just been slightly burnt during the preparation. Thankfully, the flavour was not affected.
Next up, La Formule's specialty - Coffee Shot. This is what they serve instead of Drip coffee and it’s pretty darn interesting. There are some variations on the concept throughout the coffee drinking world but this is my first time ever trying something like this. So what is the Coffee Shot? It’s an espresso shot where you let the water run through the coffee for much, much longer. The result is a mug full of coffee. Unlike an Americano, the water isn’t added to the shot but rather the shot is pulled for longer. I was skeptical at first but more than happy to try it. Just like the espresso, the beans used for the Coffee Shot are also on rotation. In this instance, Pilot’s Kilenso was used and unlike the Yirgacheffe, the coffee beans underwent a Natural process when picked. This means that when the coffee cherries are picked, they are set to dry naturally in the sun with the beans still inside. This provides for a closed environment that can even lead to fermentation, which adds to the flavor profile. Naturally processed beans tend to have lower acidity and more exotic flavor profiles. That was the lesson of the day. Now, where was I with the coffee tasting? Oh yes, so the Kilenso, served as a Coffee Shot, came out swinging with some interesting notes of sweetness mixed with subtle hints of strawberry. On occasion though, some of my taste buds were more actively engaged and the strawberry flavor was quite pronounced. Overall, the Coffee Shot was well balanced and rich in flavor making for a great drip coffee alternative.
La Formule Espresso Bar may be hidden behind a candy store but it really has no reason to remain in hiding. The space is so clean, the coffee is so neat - no speakeasy vibes here. La Formule Espresso Bar is just a good ol’ coffee shop pouring a mean cup of Joe.