Whenever I visit my friend emily in Toronto, our activities revolve around food. When I was there around this time last year, I spent almost a week hanging out with her, and the days went something like this: walk, eat, walk some more, eat again, walk a bit more, eat another treat. It was fantastic.
I visited emily again last week, but this time I could only stay for a few days. Not to worry: we still managed to fit in some good eatin’. It has become a tradition for us to visit the Soma chocolate shop whenever I come to Toronto. I first discovered it about four years ago when I was studying at a chamber music program in nearby Oakville. My group came into the city to see a concert in the Distillery District, a small neighbourhood near downtown where all the distilleries used to be. Full of old, brick buildings and pedestrian cobblestoned streets, it doesn’t feel like you’re in the city. Near the concert hall was this chocolate shop, and my friends and I stopped in. It was incredible. If you like good chocolate and you go to Toronto, Soma is a requisite stop.
Soma is a shop, a cafe, and a mini chocolate factory. It sits in a beautiful Victorian industrial brick building, with high ceilings and a sophisticated, breezy atmosphere. It is what’s known as a bean-to-bar chocolate maker – one of only a few in Canada (including Choklat in Calgary). They buy cocoa beans directly from plantations and make the chocolate themselves. The variety of products they create is astounding, and includes single-origin bars made from beans from the Ivory Coast, Masagascar, Peru and other countries.
They roast the cocoa beans and make all of their chocolate products on-site. There are large glass windows looking from the cafe into the production area so you can watch the chocolate artisans at work. Unfortunately when I was there last week the area was dead, but it was still interesting to look at the machines and wonder what they do. I don’t know if Soma offers tours but I would definitely go on one.
As for the products themselves, whenever I am there I pretty much want to buy everything. Along with their plain bars, they make small bars with added flavours, such as candied lemon and orange peel, almonds, and candied ginger. (I always pick up a ginger bar for J – they’re his favourite). They also create a similar product with large round discs of chocolate. I like the way the flavours are in large chunks or whole nuts and show through the chocolate – it has great visual appeal.
They also make various other sweet treats with combinations of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate, such as chocolate-covered nuts and coffee beans, and many types of cookies.
In the cafe you can order handmade truffles that beckon like jewels from the display case. If you’re in the mood for a hot drink there is a great variety of hot chocolate, including Mayan with spices, Italian hazelnut, “dark side of the mug”, and even a single chocolate shot (emily’s choice).
And to top it all off they make their own gelato. This time around I chose a double scoop of coconut and mango. Both flavours tasted like the essential nature of the ingredient in a cold, creamy package. It was definitely some of the best gelato I’ve ever had.
There is a lot of great chocolate in Edmonton, and Kerstin’s Chocolates is one of my favourite shops in the city. But Soma is something completely different. If you are in Toronto I highly recommend it.
55 Mill St.