Pinecone Coffee Co.

175 John St. S.

edit--IMG_7924 Pinecone is the youngest addition, only opening its doors two months ago, and is already offering a fresh set of unique practices to set itself apart. This Corktown cafe offers the increasingly popular Aeropress as a brew method for your choice of Phil and Sebastian roasted coffees, Spanish lattes, and some unique seasonal beverages. These items pair perfectly with the spaces’ bright, clean, modern white interior crossed with wooden cabin accents, a charming back alley “patio” and large open windows complete with stained glass.

Originally hailing from Victoria Island, owner Denise Higginson has taken her love of coffee around the continent, and cites some of the cafes in the larger scenes as a source of inspiration and aspiration, “I think every neighbourhood in Hamilton should have a great coffee shop. A lot of cities have that and it would be great if Hamilton could have that too. In Vancouver, one block could have two really good coffee shops but they’ll have their own flavour.”

Having its own flavour seems to be a prevalent theme for Pinecone, whose cool marble and light wooden interior, set it apart from the more rustic décor that local cafes have often gravitated towards. Pinecone is a breath of fresh air, and the community of office workers and residents have visibly embraced this charming and bustling space. Students should take note: come September, this atmosphere is perfect for those in need of a break from crowded libraries.

As excellent as Pinecone currently is, it is still very much a café in its infancy that has already successfully set itself apart in terms of service and aesthetic, and they are certainly worth keeping an eye moving forward. If the new coffee shops expected to open in town have the passion, friendliness and innovative spirit that Pinecone Coffee Co. has, Hamilton will become a coffee hotspot in no time.

Finch Espresso Bar

601 Upper James Street

While residents of the downtown core are no longer strangers to a fair share of independent coffees, the Hamilton mountain area has remained largely a coffee dead zone. Unlike downtown, which has underedit--IMG_7969standably been the centre of the coffee scenes growth, the mountain has been a challenging area due to busy roads and an overwhelming amount of drivers instead of cyclists, walkers and commuters that have allowed downtown businesses to enjoy a more consistent set of foot traffic.

Finch, which opened its doors in April 2014, breaks the coffee dry spell in a big way, finally providing a space for mountain residents to get expertly crafted espressos and pour-over brews from Pilot Coffee roasters, while still being easily accessible to curious downtown residents via a short bus ride.

The wide selection of hot and cold tastes, along with several more dynamic and complex offerings is definitely a treat for coffee fans or those looking to expand their palette. Owner Jess Ramsay’s passion and adoration for coffee, in all its complexities and variety, comes through its menu offerings. The Elevens (Jess’ personal favourite) is a perfect introduction to the fruitier and brighter side of coffee, a character that is unfortunately absent in cheap, over roasted and consequently bitter coffees, and the blend is rounded off surprisingly-well by steamed milk in your choice of latte, cappuccino or flat white, and a solid selection of Cake and Loaf baked goods.

Finch’s Signature Drink summer menu includes iced espresso, mixed with your choice of bitters, syrups, tonic water or mint. Also unique to the espresso bar is Nitro Cold Brewed coffee, which is brewed for 16 hours, kegged and infused with nitrogen, which gives the drink a strong resemblance to beer more so then coffee. Those in need of something on the sweeter side still have a selection of Italian sodas, ice mochas and highly recommended ice cream floats.

“Being an independent café makes you more approachable, I find. You don’t go into a Starbucks and ask what their different drinks are and what they can do differently for you, whereas here I get people all the time asking. It’s a door to get people talking about coffee and explain the differences, and how the different milk drinks are going to make your coffee taste, and then you can talk more about the roast too.”  So far, Finch has hosted a brew tasting session, summer drink launch party, and is planning a home brewing class later this month.

“I’d always like to push the boundary of what we are offering, and keep our quality going up,” said Jess, who wishes to expand her espresso bar offerings of single-origin coffees, while simultaneously fostering a friendly community space to share with friends and neighbours, and hopefully educate more curious drinkers about her own passion.

Whether you’re thinking of visiting from downtown, or already a mountain resident, the trip to Finch Espresso Bar is well worth it: Finch has some of the best espresso in town, and they’re only looking to improve and educate from here on out.

Cafe Oranje

312 King Street E.

Pronounced “Oh-Rahn-yuh” (but “orange” works just fine), Café Oranje is a modern Dutch-styled café, opened in August 2013, that delivers a delicious variety of brewed coffees from a large variety of local rosters and fresh Dutch sandwiches and desserts. While the Dutch origins are undoubtedly laced throughout the interior decor, and locally sourced baked goods are accompanied by sweet, in-house made stroopwafels, owner Christopher Godwaldt still lets the quality of the coffee take centre stage, offering one of the largest selections of locally roasted coffees in town.

“The standard trend right now, especially in Canada, is for a café to choose a roaster and sit with that roaster,” said Christopher. “Hamilton has six roasters that are doing really great things with coffee and each one of them sources their beans differently, each one of them roasts their beans differently, each one of them looks for different things in the flavour profiles… and I wanted a place in Hamilton where you could grab coffee from any of those places.”

The excellently balanced Oranje House blend is a highly recommended introduction to go with your sandwich, salad, or pie. The “Goldilocks” roast has become a favourite among locals and international coffee loving travellers alike. Local roaster Hero created the beloved blend of Indian Monsoon Malabar bean and Papa New Guinea. The Indian Monsoon is harvested and stored in seaside silos, during monsoon season, which weathers the beans and mimics the conditions coffee beans would experience on trader ships from the Dutch East Indies trading companies in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries.

For summer drinks, Oranje has an excellent cold brew that can even be purchased in a bottle to take home, as well as a weekly staff-pick item, that has so far featured Southern Sweet Tea, Coffee Raspberry Granita and Vietnamese Iced Coffee.

Oranje has easily become a stand-out in the International Village community of the city, and its incredible amount of quality menu items makes it an easy recommendation. This café truly has something for everyone which is a commendable feat for a relatively young café with no signs of stopping there. Christopher is setting his eyes on possible expansion opportunities for his own café and the larger café community, the latter of which he hopes to help develop through barista training spaces and competition.

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