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Merchants of Green Coffee

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on May 5, 2011

Merchants of Green TorontoMerchants of Green knows coffee. That fact was made abundantly clear to me half an hour after meeting Merchants' Morgan Yew, as our conversation evolved from Ethiopian coffee rituals to sustainable farming and production.

"There's a disconnect somewhere," he says as we shift to the topic of mainstream coffee consumption. "Many of us drink this every day, without thinking of the conditions in which the beans were grown. Or where they were grown. Or how they got here."

Merchants of Green TorontoYew, however, knows exactly how every bean at the Merchants of Green arrived at its space on Matilda Street, and how to prepare it to best experience its taste.

Merchants of Green Toronto"It all depends on your preference, of course," he says. "Right now, everyone's doing the espresso coffees, where you're pressing oils that really coat the mouth. But I think you can't beat the Ethiopian coffee ceremony."

Merchants of Green TorontoCustomers can experience that ceremony by booking an appointment, or learning more about their beans by signing up for a demo or coffee school. It all happens at this former tannery, now a gathering space for those who share the Merchants' mantra of "Fresh Coffee, Fair Trade, Green Business."

Merchants of Green TorontoThe business was started in 1994 by five friends looking to source and sell green, fair trade coffees. The original model didn't include an espresso bar or café, but Merchants has since evolved to what it is today, hosting readings, live music, special events, and regulars making use of the free WiFi daily.

Merchants of Green Toronto"It's not just the coffee," Yew tells me as we sip cappuccinos ($3.50). "The business itself is green. The espresso bar was built right here using recycled materials. Much of the furniture is used."

The lumpy beige sofa (where café cat Luna is snoozing) just adds to the charm, though, in my opinion. The floors at Merchants sigh that fabulous creak with every stride, and the water cooler by the bar is labeled matter-of-factly with "Toronto Tap Water." The stacks and shelves of books around the space, however, are what really seduce my esteem, a collection made from both staff and customers' personal libraries.

Merchants of Green TorontoMerchants of Green is involved in a variety of new initiatives, including partnering with ING to help with its new downtown cafe, expanding its outdoor space and creating safe storage for bicycles, as well as continuing its collaboration with Evergreen Brick Works. Of course, if you just want an Americano ($3) or a light bite from OMG bakery, they can get you that too.

Merchants of Green TorontoMerchants of Green is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Photos by Dennis Marciniak



Piero / November 11, 2007 at 10:14 pm
Yeah this place is awesome. The Merchants of Green Coffee is an incredible space filled with industrial roasters, eclectic furniture, greenery, and a kitchen/lab space for messing around with coffee blends. Not only do they have some of the most unique organic coffees in the world, they host coffee classes (the supply chain, the alchemy, cupping (lol), etc) and you can roast your own coffee on site. I'm going to join as a member. For $179 I'll get a roaster, access to all classes for free and a lb of green beans. I can drop in at any time and pick up a lb of beans for $9 and have fresh roasted coffee everyday. They're working on an espresso bar area and bringing in local food. They offer their space for FREE to members for events..projector and screen included. The cafe should be in full swing by the new year. I can't wait.
swifty / September 17, 2008 at 09:26 pm
I just came back from the Merchants Cafe and it was such a great experience. They have the freshest coffee around...apparently all of the coffee is roasted locally so it makes for a pretty sweet cup of java. The space is full of life and off the beaten track. I highly recommend this place to anyone who is a true coffee lover.
John / October 31, 2008 at 05:09 am
i have tasted coffee out of one of these popcorn roasters. I think the hype is masking your taste buds. The flavors are underdeveloped and getting a consistent roast is next to impossible. Its like cooking Kobe Beef in a microwave!!
nick_acmond / December 26, 2008 at 03:59 pm
Linus / April 3, 2009 at 05:07 pm
I have to say they have the freshest coffee I've ever taste. Love also how hidden it is, also its collection of national geographics and wifi. Only disadvantage is that it's so far I can only go there once a week.
earthie / April 8, 2009 at 09:45 pm
honestly the best coffee i've ever tasted. the greatest coffee selection in the city. they even have a fair trade from rwawanda! and a solar dried bean from costa rica! i truly believe these people care about running a business with integrity and i'm so happy i found it. i could cozy up in their cafe for hours (and i do!) they never kick you out!
Binkie replying to a comment from John / July 18, 2009 at 09:58 pm
Hi John! Thanks for telling us about having tasted coffee that was roasted by someone who didn't (yet?) know how to get good results using a popcorn popper to roast coffee. Just so you know, you can get great coffee out of a popcorn popper by learning and practicing. You can also spend a bit more and get a proper air roaster, or a lot more and get a drum roaster. But in all cases, learning how to do it makes a difference.

Now then, do you happen to have anything to tell us about the Merchants of Green? That's actually what we're commenting on here.

John / September 6, 2009 at 06:33 pm
I'd passed by this place a couple of times, so I decided to check it out. I bought some of their "Ethiopia Yirgacheffe", brought it home, ground it fresh, brewed up a pot for myself and a couple of friends...and, boy, was I surprised! It was simply some of the WORST coffee I'd ever had! Yup, genuine 100% pure crap! (And I have the witnesses to prove it if anyone wants to make an issue out of it!) I will NEVER go back!
My watch is from roots / October 8, 2009 at 10:00 pm
This place is awesome. Had an Americano made by the guy who dresses like a pirate- and it was very good :). Really interesting set up too- I think the only place that might be in a better setting on this list is Balzac's.
Leslieville resident / February 7, 2010 at 01:01 pm
What a fun and educational coffee experience! This is a really great find tucked away in the east-end that most locals do not know is here. I found out that the coffee shop opened to serve their existing customers - high-end restaurants, speciality food stores and coffee shops across the city. The atmosphere and staff make this a really enjoying and relaxing experience. If you are looking to relax in a comfy chair and enjoy one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had, well this is a great find. I also heard some of the top chefs in the city are using Merchants beans and they run their retail coffee programs. The commitment to fair trade, organic and the environment are parts of this community. The cafe holds events for local green businesses, artists and coffee lovers.
a / March 15, 2010 at 05:25 pm
walked it to the cafe, it was deserted with no staff in sight, the room was dark and dirty looking, and i walked right out again. went to f'coffee instead.
matt replying to a comment from a / May 17, 2010 at 03:57 pm
In response to a, the cafe is actually closed on Mondays (March 15 when you wrote you note). Please come back on a day when we are open (any day but Monday). F'Coffee is great as well though!
coffee guru replying to a comment from John / May 20, 2010 at 12:48 pm
That's a good way to go in life. Try one thing out of say 100 options and if it isn't what you expect, condemn everything. Glad you aren't coming back.
will / September 2, 2010 at 11:35 pm
To the person who walked in for a few seconds May 15, how dare you spend more time condemning them than you spent in the cafe.
Will / September 2, 2010 at 11:36 pm
To the person who walked in on May 15th: How dare you spend more time condemning the place than the time you spent inside it.
Moxie / January 12, 2011 at 11:34 am
where is this place? It sounds right up my alley! can't wait to check it out and spread the news
milverton / March 14, 2011 at 09:09 pm
Do they have baked goods here?
Morgan / April 5, 2011 at 01:41 pm
We're now open 7 days a week. Mon-Fri, 9-6pm. Sat-Sun: 10-6. Most Sunday afternoons include live music, from classical to jazz, and monthly reading series.

For those who've been customers for years, it's obvious the business has changed immensely. Reviews in a perfect world would be updated regularly.

We have baked goods, a range of green beans from around the world, and staff committed to the educational component of MGCs mission.

I hope to see future readers, and once-perturbed customers, one of these days. Say hi if you do!

CaitCoffee replying to a comment from John / May 9, 2011 at 06:00 pm
To John.
What about the "crap" ethiopian coffee did you not enjoy? Maybe that bean wasnt for you. Maybe the way you made your coffee at home was not the exact way to make coffee? There are some better ways then others.
Hope that you will take a chance to learn how to make a good cup and maybe try to learn about different types of beans.

Noel / May 10, 2011 at 12:41 am
I love the enthusiasm of the owner who I have talked to a few times. However, the rest of the staff, especially the staff at the coffee bar dont know the first thing about customer service. They are distant, unhelpful and often rude. The green coffee beans they sell are all priced the same per pound, which makes no sense and the variety is limited.

As for the green coffee beans, Greenbeanery (whose staff isn't much better) has far better selection and cheaper price and the pricing depends on which beans you are buying.

I wish Merchants could get their act together with the staff, expand their selection and work on their pricing as I feel that the owner really has his heart in the business.
chris / May 12, 2011 at 02:46 pm
I got an Indie Coffee Passport for Christmas (Merchants was one of the participants). I used it as an excuse to travel and spend some alone time on Sundays.

On the barista's suggestion, I got a steeped and strained coffee - I don't know the bean particulars. It was easily the highlight of my passport tour; excellently balanced flavour that stayed with me for ages after I'd finished it. Made me very happy.

It's a pity they're so far from me, I'd be a regular for sure.
Monty / May 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm
I've been to Merchants twice in the past two weeks, and plan to visit again next week. I love the airiness of the space, the creaking floors, the comfy chairs and sofa, the eclectic selection of books, the music that does not overpower a conversation, the resident cat.
It's off the beaten track, therefore it has never been crowded, no one was breathing down my neck to leave so that they could sit down.
I've found the staff to be friendly and helpful.
And the coffee can't be beat!

cher / June 26, 2011 at 09:38 pm
hi, i am interested in the green beans and roast it myself but don't know how to begin, is there book you could sell or lessons you provide for home roasting?

Thank you
Morgan / June 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm
@Cher, I'm happy to teach you how to roast coffee at home. We don't sell any books at the moment but can definitely recommend some. We also offer classes and private demonstrations if you email
John / September 8, 2011 at 07:50 pm
(I haven't checked this page for a while, but I'm glad I did. The response from the Merchants of Green Coffee people is completely in line with the crappy coffee they sold me.)

My Reply:

Yes, I realize that you may have better stuff there...and lot's of it...but you sold me crap, and you did it with a smile on. Then you have the gall to say things like "Glad you aren't coming back," (that makes two of us) and "Maybe the way you made your coffee at home was not the exact way to make coffee?" Hah! (Have you ever thought that you may not know how to buy it and/or roast it?) So that's the way you treat customers, right? No apology whatsoever. And who am I to expect one? A paying customer dumbasses--and one who knows enough about coffee, customer service, and "win-win or no deal" to never give you another dime! :P
Morgan replying to a comment from John / September 8, 2011 at 08:21 pm
John, I can see you have a point to make going back as far as 2009. I don't know who was helping you. It might even have been me, as I smile now and again just like anyone. Plain as I can tell, your point is valid but I don't think you need to puff your chest up about it.

I hear you. That's a customer service thing, no? Please take this note as a sign that someone does in fact care about culpability and public perception. I do everything I can with limited time and resources to communicate culture and coffee and make "win-win" situations happen on a daily basis. It's not a liveable goal to communicate or sell falsely. So if you can, accept my apology for whatever happened to you before I got involved in the business. Your comment is noted. Time to move on?
For the love of beans / September 8, 2011 at 08:33 pm
Love MGC. It's really a place to experience for yourself and let your own experience guide you to good coffee. It's a great coffee shop to go on a cold day and enjoy an amazing hot cup a coffee.
John / September 9, 2011 at 12:40 am
First you say "Your point is valid but I don't think you need to puff your chest up about it." Then you "apologize" while dodging any responsibility because, as you put it, it was "before you got involved in the business" (although you say that you might have been the one who served me, which I believe most people would consider "being involved"), and then you follow up by saying it's time to move on.

My reply:

1) As a paying customer (albeit a former one in your case), I reserve the right to "puff up my chest" and/or do whatever the hell else I want. Live with it, or get the hell out of customer service. That said, I don't think my honest comments fit the "chest-puffing" category, however much they may have bruised someone's ego. You haven't seen me contradicting the positive reviews here, have you? I wasn't there, so why would I? (For all I know, they might all be friends of yours--but I don't accuse people of stuff without proof.)

2) As for moving on, I did that a long time ago. I was merely checking back to see if your reviews had gotten better or worse, and whether or not anyone from your end had bothered to reply. They had, and they were both rude and patronizing, which made me feel compelled to respond. I criticized the CRAPPY COFFEE you sold me, which I realize now I should've returned to you and made your entire staff drink instead of just tossing it in the bin, but I did not criticize your staff. Your people were the ones who decided to get personal. The service was fine, but the "coffee" sold to me was undrinkable--and I'll go for Tim Horton's or MacDonald's in a pinch, so I'm not just saying that. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make sure that nothing so crappy ever gets sold by your business again--not even by accident.

3) A weak and qualified apology is better than no apology at all, and it's the first one I've had from anyone at your end, so I will accept it. And I sincerely hope you 1) stop blaming customers for your screw-ups, 2) work diligently to prevent future screw-ups, and 3) use "whatever happened to me" as a way to improve you business. After all, taking care of customers is the only way to "Live long and prosper," which I hope you do.
jenny replying to a comment from Noel / October 7, 2011 at 10:07 am
The owner of Greenbeanery is the biggest hypocrite. No wonder his staff is no better. He is the owner of a non-profit group trying to promote socially conscious coffee but then drives his Range Rover to work. Doesn't look like this is making any sense.....
Stephanie / January 7, 2012 at 01:49 pm
Cannot sing the praises of this place enough... delicious espresso-based drinks (my boyfriend has had inconsistency on the quality of drip coffee though...). Hands down the best place to sit and relax with a cup of wonderful. The large "warehouse-like" cafe boasts tall ceiling and wooden rafters, with enough windows to let in a crapload of natural light (which is good for long hours studying). Such a flowy, airy, comfortable space! There are couch options for those who crave comfort, lots and lots of little tables with chairs for the laptop-donning students, and a large communal table perfect for playing one of the boardgames they have lying around. There are lots and lots of reading materials available, piled around the perimeter of the space, as well as stacks of old National Geographic Mags (which are always fun to look through!). Plenty of outlets available to stay plugged, free wi-fi, and very friendly staff. This place is always semi-empty (when I go), so you aren't awkwardly fighting for a spot to sit. It's generally a quiet place, and their music choices are awesome (I usually end up writing down a few new artists to check out while I am there listening). And there is a friendly cat who wanders the place, and may cuddle up beside you on the couch!

Like I said, can't sing the praises of the atmosphere MoG fosters enough!
Robert / August 13, 2012 at 02:52 pm
I visisted Merchants of Green Coffee this past Sunday and boy was I glad I did. There are very few cafes that can leave me speachless and this was one of them. Merchants of Green Coffee was easily one of the best places who latte left an everlasting impression on me. Simply one of the best. The latte was sweet, smooth and balanced and once I was done I wanted another. A must try place.
Aurora / August 4, 2013 at 10:34 am
I am a person interested in the properties of your product, it would be nice to visit you one day my name is aurora and would like to learn more
Devon / August 24, 2013 at 05:00 pm
Wonderful service. Chill vibe and atmosphere. Great Americanos, very rich espresso flavor. And not too far from the core. Definitely stopping back in!
Amanda / January 1, 2014 at 06:00 pm
Here's an exchange between a Merchant of Green Coffee staff and myself on Facebook. Their attitude continues to be questionable.

Me: Waited over 2 minutes unacknowledged in front of the counter where 2-3 staff members were chatting and then working. At least one of the staff glanced our way when we approached the counter so we knew they are aware of our presence. No smiles or hellos. We were smiling and were thrilled to try the coffee, as our friend highly recommended it. I have waited enough by then and audibly asked the 2 staff members who were making coffee if I can please make an order but was ignored and unacknowledged. We waited another minute before I called out to them again with the same request, and this time the staff responded curtly and said "I'm making a few orders right now, I have to remember them, can you wait a few minutes?". No apology whatsoever. I waited a little longer before I decided I will not have the mood for their coffee today, or any other day, for that matter, if this is how their staff does customer service. A simple greeting and keeping customers aware of wait times can make or break impressions.

Staff response: We apologize for your wait time of 3 minutes. Unfortunately, our barista was in the middle of a rush while training a new barista and there were people ahead of you whose drinks were being made. We're glad you at least made good use of our free wifi for 3 hours.

My response: We would've promptly left if we weren't there to meet with friends who have already settled in - I have unlimited wifi at home too. What peeved us the most was the lack of any acknowledgement on your part with waiting customers. There wasn't physically a lineup in front of us so the least you could do is smile and say hi. Sure great coffee takes time to brew and training a new barista with how to make coffee is important, but so is setting an example on how to serve customers with courtesy and respect.

They totally miss the point of why they drive customers away. There are plenty of other places in Toronto to get excellent coffee without having to put up with this kind of attitude.
kate / March 4, 2014 at 07:19 pm
The place was really bad...I ordered latte, but amount was really few...and She was not friendly..I will not go there anymore.

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