Better Coffee is the Product of Straightforward Education

Beyond the great coffee; beyond the charming atmosphere and interesting patrons; beyond the beautiful architecture and tantalizing aroma of fresh-roasted beans—lies the heart of Merchants of Green Coffee’s pursuit: Coffee education for enlightened coffee lovers.

Co-founder Derek Zavislake’s coffee workshops are among the city’s finest food-related seminars. Hardly taking a breath between well-researched facts, interesting tidbits and little-known history, Derek provides a coffee lover’s retreat and an interruption of the mundane in his Riverdale café’s coffee workshops. Simply put, it’s Toronto’s ultimate coffee break.

I first visited MGC in 2015 and instantly felt I was a regular-in-waiting. I wondered to myself, where has this coffee shop—filled with artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and the smell of fresh coffee and cookies—been all my life?’ This, my dear readers, is why I write to you today.

While MGC is a bit off the beaten trail of its Queen East neighbourhood, you can easily access it by car, transit and bicycle, and it’s primarily neighboured by parks, galleries, independent eateries and quiet residences. Often, the only sound you hear while sipping your coffee is the well-curated background music and the page-turning of a nearby book.

As for the workshops, Derek is modest when he says he’s interested in providing a way to home-brew coffee to ensure freshness at every step. Much more than that, Derek and the staff at MGC provide the best way to enjoy fair-trade, ethically sourced, specialty coffee at home or at their uniquely eccentric café.

Dubbed the “Coffee School Series,” these workshops have three separate focuses—bean sourcing, roasting, and brewing—and ends in a delightful culmination of knowledge to bear while ‘cupping’ coffee with Derek and other like-minded, fresh-coffee supporters.

Green Beans 101 is the series’ take on the history of coffee and green bean sourcing, and does well dispelling coffee myths and assumptions while informing us about what we coffee lovers tend to be ignorant to in coffee production. Derek’s passion for environmentally sound sourcing, fair trade farming and sustainability is extraordinarily informative and well-presented—without the pretence sometimes associated with companies poised to do such environmental good.

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The Art of Roasting workshop takes the process of coffee roasting away from the high-impact, consumer-driven corporations and puts it where it belongs; in the hands of the household that’s consuming it. So, what’s the benefit to you? Your coffee is noticeably fresher, more healthful and even costs less to consume—both financially and socially.

The Alchemy of Brewing workshop combines your new-found knowledge of green bean sourcing and home roasting competency, and provides you with the freshest, cleanest and most informed cup of coffee you’ve ever enjoyed—while using equipment you probably already have in your home. 

To me, it's obvious—Merchants of Green Coffee is playing a game where everyone wins.

So, if you’ve gotten this far I have a challenge for you: visit Merchants of Green coffee, order your favourite specialty coffee or tea, and take a well-deserved break from the humdrum coffee experience so easily available on every street corner. And if you happen to find a favourite chair and get lost in the experience for an entire afternoon—don’t say I didn’t warn you.


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