Merchants of Green Coffee
Merchants 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."
Yew, 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.
"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."
Customers 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."
The 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.
"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 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.
Photos by Dennis Marciniak