Vintage Coffee Roasters 977 King Street East
Bricks, Baked Goods and Melon Mojitos
By Ciara McCann
Since Vintage Coffee Roasters opened about a month ago, I haven’t stopped hearing about the east-end coffee shop.
A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and made a dead stop when I saw a photo of a tall, icy beverage filled with diced watermelon and mint. My taste buds perked up when I came across another photo of a tray of scones bursting with fresh berries. A few of my foodie friends told me I must go. There’s even buzz about the shop outside of the Hammer.
During a recent trip to Montreal, my husband and I were dining at a quaint, Southern Italian restaurant, Nora Gray, and the bartender asked where we were from. His eyes lit up when we proudly said, “Hamilton.” He proceeded to tell us that his friend had just opened up Vintage Coffee Roasters in the up-and-coming Sherman Hub area. I knew in that moment that a visit was long overdue.
On a recent sunny afternoon, I made my way to the roastery — located on the traffic-heavy corner of King Street East and Barnesdale Avenue, near Tim Hortons Field. The area is in the midst of a transformation of sorts, as young families and new Hamiltonians continue to move into affordable homes with ample space, not far from the future LRT line.
I felt a sense of warmth upon entering — natural light poured into the shop, highlighting a long wall of exposed brown brick and rich, dark hardwood flooring. Old wooden crates were neatly arranged on the wall and contained charming antique figurines, potted plants and paper bags brimming with coffee beans. There was also a cute vintage bicycle parked right in front of the counter, offering a comfortable, casual neighbourhood vibe.
I immediately noticed a variety of seating options — a cozy window nook with an assortment of plush pillows and a pile of books for the classic café dreamer; bar stools at the counter for chatty regulars; an intimate dinette table for two; and a long wooden bench flanked by couple of cushioned stools, perfect for mid-sized groups.
Jesslyn Collins, the owner, greeted me with a smile and told me more about her new business. She said even though the shop has only been open for a month, her mornings have been busy with a growing number of local regulars. She said afternoons tend to be slow, but I was glad to have the opportunity to chat with Jesslyn while she wasn’t too busy.
Vintage Coffee Roasters uses high-quality, organic beans for their coffee. The menu is short and concise, written on a gold-framed chalkboard behind the counter and highlighting a list of hot and cold beverages. The hot list has every coffee-lover’s favourites — drip coffee, Americano, latte, cappuccino, macchiato, espresso and flat white. Guests can also order hot tea. The cold menu contains some tantalizing surprises. Jesslyn was a former bartender, and that experience is clearly reflected in her cold drink selection — with colourful names such as Melon Mojito, Ruby Red, Blueberry-Ade and Raspy Iced T. She makes her own syrups for the cold drinks, and the love and expertise she puts into them is evident after your first sip.
Prices range from $2 for a standard cup of coffee to $4 for an ice-cold brew — fair for the quality ingredients, dynamic flavours and genuine care that goes into each beverage.
Since I couldn’t stop thinking about the Instagram photo of the Melon Mojito, I knew I had to try it. The blend of limejuice, mint and watermelon is a thirst-quenching cure-all — the perfect balance of tart and sweet, and ideal for a hot summer day.
Jesslyn is well connected with other business owners in the Hamilton community. She receives fresh donuts every morning from Donut Monster — an exciting new start-up based in The Kitchen Collective, a co-op kitchen space located right down the street from Vintage Coffee Roasters.
In addition to banana-nut and raspberry donuts offered from Donut Monster, there are brownies accented by sliced peaches made by Jesslyn’s baker friend from Grimsby, as well as rich and savoury bacon-cheddar and sweet berry scones and banana bread baked by Jesslyn. I went with the banana-nut donut and devoured the soft and sticky treat in seconds.
Patrons can also browse local art and jewelry while waiting for an order to be filled. Jesslyn showcases jewelry from The Wandering Eye, a vintage clothing shop located in Shine studio and boutique on Colbourne Street near James Street North. A couple of bright watercolour paintings from Toronto artist Chanel Markus also caught my eye. I couldn’t resist adding a pair of cherry-red flower Lana Betty earrings to my purchase.
With a varied menu, and so many interesting antiques and vintage finds to look at, I couldn’t believe I left without trying the coffee. This just means I have to make my way to the east end again when I’m craving a caffeine kick.
Every thriving neighbourhood needs a good independent coffee shop, and I’m glad to see the Sherman Hub finally has theirs. Vintage Coffee Roasters will no doubt attract other business owners and entrepreneurs to the area and I’m excited to see what happens next.