by Linda Benson

A few years ago, before Covid, isolations and closures, I was a regular customer of the Emerald Coffee Co. The owner, at that time, was an exceptionally kind, open, honest and caring individual. After my retirement, I ventured out almost every day to have my cup of java at this wonderful Barton Street gem.  I remember the day that this wonderful café opened its doors for the very first time.  I couldn’t believe the amount of renovations that had been done. The owner at that time certainly had a flair for artistic expression.  It instantly felt cozy, comfortable and peaceful every morning.  My morning ritual, of a Flat White & bran muffin, were waiting for me. I would sit at the side table, with my laptop open, using their free Wi-Fi, and write my stories.  At that time I was writing for the Barton Village BIA and of course, trying to work on my own book. I got to know many regulars, including staff of the HGH, Paramedics and the occasional police officer.  I would often meet up with another couple of regulars to simply shoot the breeze and enjoy time spent together over our coffee.

I truly enjoyed my visits to this café. It was less than a ten-minute walk from my home, the coffee was excellent, the service was amazing, and the overall ambiance was calming and peaceful. I felt this was a good start to my retirement, never getting bored or lonely and never seeming out of place. The “Emerald” took on a life of its own, fast becoming the number one coffee shop in the area with people visiting from all parts of Hamilton, and beyond.  Many came because of the owner, his capacity to bring you into the community and for his joviality and light banter. The “Emerald” became known as a “safe space”, inviting all walks of people in, no matter how they identified themselves. His pride flag flew tall and resplendent on his front exterior wall.  I loved this coffee shop and vowed I would never leave as long as this amazing owner, with a true vision of Barton Street remained.

Then Covid hit and it seemed that overnight all of our Barton street stores and eateries were closed to indoor visitors.  After so much work and fighting to hold it together, the “Emerald” as I knew it, was sold to new owners.  It seemed a long time before the “Emerald” re-opened its doors again, but when it did, I could not bring myself to visit it.

Almost 2 years had gone by before I decided to venture inside. I had a good look around and noticed that minor changes had been done, the staff had changed, the menu had been extended and an open concept kitchen had been designed. There are now drink coolers and shelves containing teas, coffees, honey, candles, and antiques.

The current owner has joined in partnership with the Royal Flush, also on Barton Street, an antique and repurposed store.  You will see some wonderful glasses, teapots, coffee pots (of which I have never seen), teacups, and vintage wine glasses, and decanters being displayed for purchase.

They now have a much bigger and fuller showcase for their abundant sandwiches, pastries, and homemade goodies.  During the winter months they offered soups and more warm sandwiches and wraps.

It has taken me a further 6 months to become a “true” customer of the new, revamped, and revitalized Emerald Coffee Co. I no longer feel as though I am judging, comparing or being disloyal to the original owner and his vision. I have gotten to know the wonderful baristas, at least three of them anyway, Amy, Jordan and Alex. I couldn’t ask for nicer people. I have yet to meet Lauren, but if the other gals are anything to go by, she will also be amazing, I’m sure.

You will find the pride flag attached to the inside of the large front window. Unfortunately, the large flag, which hung on a pole outside, was stolen. I was really shocked when I heard that. The current owner maintains a safe space for everyone. He continues to sell T-shirts’, in wonderful bright colours.

The Emerald Coffee Co is now a licensed establishment, although much of their wine comes from a Niagara wine region, Pillitteri Estates, you can also find personalized labels on many of their bottles. There is a variety of red and white wines, in smaller size bottles, 375 ml as well as the regular size, 750 ml bottles.  And they also offer beer!

I have not tried any of their sandwiches, but have seen them being made. You can find egg salad on sour dough bread, and beef on onion buns. These sandwiches look amazing, and truly filling.  I hear they are known for their grilled cheese sandwiches, (ooh tomato soup & grilled cheese!) which I must try one of these days. So far the menu has been dedicated to sandwiches, however Robert has a vision of expanding the menu once his outside patio is open. Hopefully the patio will be open between June and July.  It will be a walled in patio at the back of the café, off the alley way.  I tried to gain access to it from the alley, but it was not possible. It will be accessible only through the back door of the café itself, which keeps it ultra-private. The washroom is also by the back door, which is ideal. Oh, and I have to say, you will see our reigning Monarch, Queen Elizabeth 11 as you enter the toilet area. Courtesy of our former owner whom I will always remember as I take a seat on the throne!

As the patio opens, you may be able to order finger foods and salads with possibly extended sandwich variations.
Most of the sandwiches and pastries that are wheat derived; however, after talking with a couple of the staff, I understand that there could be more non gluten free meals offered, possibly even vegan choices as the menu expands. I certainly hope this is the case as there are many of us who are gluten sensitive. I am sure this will happen as they grow with the community. They already offer alternate milk choices.  My favorite is the oat milk, especially in the lattes; it is so creamy and forms a nice froth.

While I was visiting, to complete this story, one of the baristas, Jordan, had just made a gluten free, (oat & blueberry) dessert. I was her official guinea pig so to speak, and I can say it was so delicious. I am hoping this will become a permanent addition to their pastries and treats, although I know they like to change things up from time to time. I personally don’t eat cookies, but I bought a pack of their home baked cookies for a friend, and he was so appreciative of them saying how chewy, and delicious they were.

The Emerald Coffee Co is fast growing on me, and I seem to be going there on a more regular basis now. A couple of the baristas already know my coffee preferences, which I truly appreciate, however, I like to throw them a curve ball now and again by changing things up and keeping them on their toes, which they do with such grace and aplomb.
The Emerald Coffee Co is on the #2 Barton bus route, with a stop right outside their front door.  They are open 7 days a week, currently from 8am – 3pm, and as the evenings become longer, their intention is to extend their closing times to 6pm.

They are situated opposite the Barton Lettuce, featured in last month’s edition, and next door to the Hello Baked store (another very unique addition to our Barton Village community).
You will find them on instagram@emeraldcoffeeco.

340 Barton St E, Hamilton, ON L8L 2X7
(289) 426-2449