Sam James/ Stüssy / by Didier Young


In theory, the act of roasting coffee seems quite easy enough to accomplish: green coffee beans are poured into a roaster, where they are slowly roasted to the desired degree and they are then dumped from the roasting chamber and air cooled. While one could attempt the whole procedure simply by looking for a specific colouration to the beans, it takes an expert to understand the subtle calibrations in temperature, smell, colour and sound that result in the finished product that they are aiming to achieve. One such master roaster is the owner and namesake of Sam James Coffee Bars in Toronto and the creator of Cut Coffee.


Opening his first coffee shop on Harbord Street in 2009, Sam James drastically altered the taste buds of the locals and caused coffee pilgrimages to an area where people wouldn’t usually venture to unless they resided in the neighbourhood. Soon after, a second location was opened near Christie station aptly named Pocket due to it’s small size. Fast forward to 2017 and Sam James has now become a recognizable figure to coffee lovers in Toronto, with five stand alone locations in the city’s downtown core and numerous coffee shops using Cut Coffee both in Toronto and in Montreal. Along the way, Sam unfortunately had to bid adieu to two of his locations: Pocket was sold to a loyal customer who kept using the brand’s coffee beans and OZ was closed down along with the Stüssy store on Ossington avenue. The latter caused much controversy when the owner of the building ordered both brands to vacate the premises in favour of a lucrative contract with Detroit brand Shinola. While many hearts were broken at the time, the newest location of the coffee shop will be sure to mend some hearts as it marks a collaborative store between Stüssy and Sam James.


This fifth instalment in the coffee brand’s history sets its roots at 241 Spadina, right in the heart of Chinatown East. Found midway between Dundas and Queen St, this location has the added convenience of a Green Machine two doors down. While this information might seem a tad trivial, it should be noted that Sam James only accepts cash as a means of payment. The new store diverges from what we have grown accustomed to when thinking of a Sam James Coffee Bar. Gone are the soft light shades of wood in exchange for sleek grey metal. After the initial shock has dissipated, one could understand the choice of material as it does bear some similarity in tones to the artworks of Jeremy Jansen, the man who graced each Sam James location with his artistic touch. The new shop includes a long side bench that may accommodate some of the patrons who will gladly sit down among the Zamioculcas Zamifolia and Sansevieria Trifasciata plants to enjoy a well deserve cup of coffee and one of the various treats available.

Past the coffee shop, you will find a selection of Stüssy pieces including an array of shirting made specifically for the Toronto market. Amidst caps in millennial pink and mint, one may find a vintage booklet of the works of famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and other published pieces of the past. The shop’s offerings are sure to please the customers with an affinity for an urban influenced wardrobe and the prices are kept at a reasonable level.

This Sam James outpost is a welcome addition to the area which is devoid of shops curating good coffee and I’ll be sure to stop by all summer long during one of my numerous walk around the city.