When my train pulls into Union Station at 10 am I know exactly what I and ninety percent of the other passengers in the cabin are thinking... "coffee". There is an abundance of Tim Hortons' and Starbucks' within seconds of the Station, but six minutes in any direction can have you sipping a latte or an Americano crafted just for you in one of these phenomenal cafés.

1. Sam James Coffee PATH

(5 minutes from Union Station) tea, beer, coffee
Rachel Dickey

If you're catching the subway across the 6ix, make sure you head underground at Saint Andrew’s station for a quick 'cuppa from the most notorious shop in town. Sam James Coffee Bar has five locations in Toronto. The bar in Saint Andrew’s TTC station, called PATH, is a tiny counter open 7 am to 4 pm with two espresso machines, a variety of treats, and baristas who mean business.

2. Balzac’s UP Express

(0 minutes from Union Station)

If you’ve got less than five minutes to spare and are in desperate need of a great latte, Balzac’s has got your back with a convenient outpost at the Skywalk in the UP Express terminal — just follow the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Serving fresh-baked goodies, local kombucha, and their own roast of beans, Balzac's is a great option for quick layovers between buses, taxis, and subways.

If you're wondering, the name Balzac’s comes from one of history’s many coffee aficionados, Honoré de Balzac, who was known for drinking cups of strong, black coffee through the night. 

#SpoonTip: Balzac’s has another location just a 15 minute walk from Union called Balzac’s in Market Square, in case you fall in love with their coffee but want a nicer atmosphere. 

3. Versus Coffee

(3 minutes from Union Station)

Tucked into a small corner space on Adelaide, Versus is a tiny shop with a large presence. Versus is turning the coffee world on its head with creative spins on the classics; they use food colouring to dye velvety steamed milk and elevate the already-beautiful latte art with greens and pinks.

The modern white space is coupled with mirrors and high ceilings which makes for a big feel in the shop. Head over to Versus on a sunny day to take advantage of the massive patio space with plenty of seating to catch up with a friend over a great flat white. 

4. Quantum Coffee

(6 minutes from Union Station)

cappuccino, espresso, coffee
Rachel Dickey

Quantum’s airy and minimalist environment is a great place to chill out after a long travel day. Baked treats from a triage of local bakeries line a case near the cash at the front of the shop.

Little seating in the café is made up for by a large open area in the back filled with tables and chairs. I devoured a chocolate marshmallow cookie while people-watching out the front window and sipping a single-origin Americano so smooth it didn’t warrant any milk or honey.

5. Neo Coffee Bar

(6 minutes from Union Station)

espresso, tea, coffee
Rachel Dickey

Neo is a bustling hub filled with skilled baristas and bakers, satisfied customers, and swinging jazz music. The busy environment in the shop makes it a great place to pop in a pair of headphones and get some work done at the communal table, or to catch up with a friend in one of the many spacious booths.

Neo brews de Mello Palheta espresso (a custom blend made especially for them), along with traditional Japanese matcha lattes, Sloane tea, and fresh roll cakes in flavours ranging from dark chocolate to Matcha & Aduki (made with Kyoto matcha and organic red beans).

6. Fahrenheit Coffee

(6 minutes from Union Station)

cream, mocha, milk, espresso, cappuccino, coffee
Rachel Dickey

Boasting an impressive collection of Reader’s Choice and Canadian Barista Championship titles, Fahrenheit is a small shop dishing up 3 different espresso blends daily. 

Arriving at 9 am on a Sunday has the benefit of the entire shop smelling like fresh baked croissants and scones – it takes everything in me to not get one. Seating is limited to a bar facing the outside window which is great for a short stay, and the free wifi is a plus.

#SpoonTip: Fahrenheit has an second location at Richmond Street West, just in case you can’t get enough.

Next time you're visiting Canada's most bustling city, try to hold out from the crappy train coffee and get yourself to one of these six shops within 6 minutes of Union Station.