We are celebrating world coffee day today, and what better way to celebrate it than with a coffee story of a beloved coffee roaster all of Toronto has grown to love.
If you have never heard of RUFINO - you probably have tasted their coffee. They are the roasters behind house brands like Jimmy’s coffee and Forno Cultura and also supply such restaurants as Richmond Station and Pizzeria Libretto. We could name more, but that list is over 200 names long, not including retail locations.
RUFINO started in 1974 when John Rufino started roasting coffee in Toronto. After arriving from Italy, he ran a bakery in Toronto and decided that if the coffee being served wasn't good enough, which it wasn't, he would have to create it himself - and that's just what he did. He began testing something like 30 espressos a day - after all, in Italy, coffee was a way of life, and in Canada, if you can't find the good stuff, you better just do it yourself!
As his reputation for good beans grew, he began selling his beans wholesale to clients across the city, working 7 days a week to fulfill the orders as word on the street grew. When the bakery sold, and after he completed his post-secondary education, he missed the coffee business so by 1986 the RUFINO business as we currently know it truly started.
Almost 50 years later, John can still be found roasting and cupping coffee at the facility in Vaughan, and more recently alongside an amazing and innovative new roasting system. The system includes a highly sensitive modulating flame in the roaster that allows the temperature to be adjusted, along with a self-cleaning vacuum to transport the coffee throughout the facility. A computer is now the most consistent way of roasting beans and allows for no mistakes, thus helping eliminate any potential waste.
Many of these said 200 restaurants can attest to this quality including Richmond Station:
“I tasted Rufino/Classic Gourmet's coffee for the first time about 10 years ago and was immediately blown away by how it was easily a step above the rest when it comes to quality. When we opened Richmond Station, it was an easy choice when deciding which coffee supplier to partner with. Since we started working with their team, I have been equally as impressed with the quality of service we have received over the years. The team at Rufino/Classic Gourmet are quick to invite our staff up to their roastery for tours, come to our restaurant for staff training, deliver to downtown Toronto, and always answer the call if we are having calibration issues. I'll never work with another coffee company.”
It is not just John Rufino in the business - the Rufino enterprise is indeed a real family affair. John's wife Irma works in the office helping with operations, and while one of his sons is a teacher, he also helps with all the online / website / IT side of things. His daughter too, may be a makeup artist but she helps with all the marketing and communications like launching the company into social media. It is Pat however, his eldest son, who has really embraced being part of the business.
As early as he could remember, Pat loved the smell and taste of coffee and always wanted to drink it and go to work with his dad. At 14 he started working in the summer at the facility and John taught him how to roast and prepare samples for cupping, which they still do together to this day. As soon as he was done school it organically grew into a full-time gig for him. As you can imagine, for a big Italian family, there are many family meals, and during those meals, they do on occasion talk shop.
“Coffee is a ritual” says Pat, “today many places use 18 to 20 grams of coffee to produce a shot of espresso, but traditionally 7 grams is all that is used. Having said that, I am proud to be part of a city like Toronto which now has a great variety of quality coffee to choose from.”
Pat’s son Gio, at age four, is proud to come on our zoom chat to say hi. I ask him if he will one day want to work with his dad and grandad at the warehouse and he exclaims proudly – “I already do!”
Rufino will be offering complimentary espresso beverages at the Toronto Food Film Fest's in-person events at Spadina Museum between Oct 1-3, 2021.
Also check out Rufino's Caramel Apple Latte recipe in our "Cozy Fall Drinks to Celebrate the Season" blog.