Photos by Kyle West

By: Andrew Mrozowski

Tucked away on Barton Street East are a ton of local Hamilton shops with a lot to offer. On Barton Street East and Emerald Street North, a coffee shop is quickly approaching its one-year anniversary. Aptly named Emerald Coffee Co, the space creates a larger than life quality that has been ten years in the making.

Owner Phil Green grew up in Montreal. For the past ten years, Green worked in the automotive industry and lived in the United States, but he yearned for change. Leaving his job with thoughts of opening a coffee shop at the back of his head, Green made the choice to move back to Canada and live in Hamilton.

“I was walking my dog and saw that this place had a lot of potential. The neighbourhood was filled with young families, but they had to walk 15 minutes to get a coffee…A coffees hop is the hub of a neighbourhood and I wanted to create that hub here,” said Green.

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In the summer of 2017, Green embarked out into Hamilton to try and find a place. Setting up home base on Barton Street East, the owner knew that he was taking a chance with this spot.

“I took a risk and opened in a location where most people wouldn’t have but once the idea was in my head, I wanted Barton Street. We wouldn’t have been the same if we opened somewhere else,” said Green.

The doors to Emerald Coffee Co. were officially set to open in February 2018 but had to be delayed as the building was not up to code. Green eventually opened a month later on March 31, 2018 and received an unanticipated warm welcome.

“It’s been great! The neighbourhood has been amazing, I’ve met amazing people, and the coffee scene in Hamilton is friendly. It doesn’t feel like competition here, it feels like we are all friends. There is a real sense of community,” said Green.

Emerald Coffee Co. is a unique coffee shop as everything they use is natural. Green makes his own vanilla syrup using vanilla beans, a rose syrup from dried rose petals, and goes to the United States to get hazelnut milk.

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With a wide range of espresso-based beverages such as lattes, and americanos, Green also has kombucha and cold-brew on tap all year around. Emerald Coffee Co. also gets in a different roasts of coffee every two weeks to keep things fresh. A fan-favourite of Emerald is their hazelnut latte made with real hazelnut milk instead of using traditional hazelnut syrup.

“We try to make everything as genuine as possible,” said Green.

About once a month, Green also develops a special seasonal drink. Bringing back a fan-favourite, the rose latte will be featured for the shop’s one-year anniversary along with one-dollar coffee throughout the last weekend of March.

Aside from coffee drinks, the shop also has sandwiches and salads for customers to enjoy as well as sweets from local Hamilton bakeries such as Donut Monster.

Currently, Green is trying to develop a way to bring a nightlife crowd to Barton Street East.

“It’s a really gay-friendly neighbourhood with a lot of the owners being queer, and we are welcoming to everyone. Hopefully in the near future, I’ll have some coffee cocktails to serve in the evening because we really need a nighttime crowd in the neighbourhood,” explained Green.

Isolated from the hustle and bustle of the downtown core, Emerald Coffee Co. is a great place to study or enjoy a great beverage with friends in a warm and inviting atmosphere amongst a community that is working together to show more of what Barton Street East has to offer.

 

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Two years ago, I began having health problems at the ripe age of 21. One potential cause was that I ate the last-day-on-earth diet of an overworked student, so on the advice of a nutritionist, I looked to Canada’s food pyramid for help with balancing my diet.

When religiously following the guide my health declined further, leaving me flummoxed. I was following conventional nutritional wisdom! My diet looked almost exactly like the rainbow chart in my nutritionist’s office.

Unfortunately, our understanding of nutrition had led me astray. Moreover, with a country plagued by a host of chronic diet-related health issues, the food pyramid doesn’t seem to have the impact it should. So where are we going wrong?

The answer may lie in Brazil’s 2014 food guide. Unlike its Canadian counterpart, Brazil’s nutritional advice focuses on reducing the amount of processed food in the diet instead of acquiring individual nutrients in food such as protein, fiber or omega-3s. The guide urges Brazilians to make whole, unprocessed food the basis of their diet and limit the consumption of lightly processed foods, such as pickles, cheeses and breads. It goes so far as to urge the complete avoidance of “ultra-processed foods,” such as sweetened breakfast cereals and yogurts, or instant noodles—foods that Canada’s guide does not scrutinize nearly as closely.

Ultra-processed foods are items that generally include five ingredients or more, including things that are not easily recognizable or part of traditional diets, such as high fructose corn syrup or colorants. Generally found in the center aisles of the grocery store, these products include excessive amounts of unhealthy salt, sugar, and fat, along with additives that distort colour, taste, and shelf life. These foods are at best benign, and at worst nutritional landmines. They deprive our bodies of the nutritional complexity of unprocessed food, making them the antithesis of the varied and nutritious diet that Brazil’s guide is attempting to cultivate.

So how is it that our food guide can claim that Gogurt, Shredded Wheat, and fruit cocktail—all ultra processed foods—can be part of a healthy diet? The answer comes down to money. It is, simply put, more profitable to sell you highly processed foods. A company can manipulate their product to make cheap, processed and unappealing ingredients taste great, thus justifying selling it to you for much more than the sum of its parts. The use of synthetic food additives can also enhance the flavor of less appealing ingredients, such as tasteless produce or low-grade meats, further widening profit margins and reducing nutritional content.

The problem is that our food guide does not distinguish between highly processed “franken-foods” and more wholesome meals. This is in part because it was written by those who wish to sell you processed food. One quarter of the 12-member Food Advisory Committee who composed Canada’s food guide were working for corporations that produce and sell processed food. Instead of investigating a holistic concept of health, the authors of our guide focused on individual nutrients.

This means that Captain Crunch can tout its fiber content, while Kraft Singles can boast being a source of calcium. Both of those “foods” are ultra-processed, but suddenly they become part of food groups that we are supposed to consume every day. This vastly distorts what we can consider healthy.

Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect, compared this to cutting pharmaceutical-grade cocaine with tea. You could conceivably claim that it was healthier for you, less addictive, and “now with chai!”—but would you actually say that it was good for you? Probably not.

So what should your diet actually look like? The short answer is to avoid processed foods, but that is not always possible, especially for those with limited time, cooking skills or access to affordable quality ingredients. Instead, my answer is that you should be skeptical. Is a company trying to sell you highly processed food based on one or two nutrients? What exactly is “natural” or artificial flavouring, and how is it affecting your diet? Just how much sugar has gone into your yogurt? At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, do not trust Canada’s food pyramid, because Brazil’s ended up being the key to regaining my health.

Sometimes it feels like we live in a world that never sleeps. Our globalized media works 24/7 and access to any electronic device gives you a window into an active world at any time of the day. “All-nighters” and getting less than six hours of sleep have become acceptable, especially in university, and especially in our age group.

It’s well documented that people don’t get as much sleep as they used to, or as much as they need. A survey in the States found that people sleep an average of 1.2 hours less than they used to, and it’s not unreasonable to extrapolate those findings to Canadians. Another survey found that some Americans get 40 percent less sleep than recommended. Last January, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention announced that lack of sleep is a public health epidemic.

Unfortunately, not much has been done to remedy this problem, and our cultural conversations around sleep often encourage lack of sleep. We are exposed to these ideas about sleep early on. I remember hearing the phrase “sleep is for the weak” all through high school. People would brag about staying up all night to finish assignments, or even just talk on MSN – a long-forgotten social messaging program and cultural artifact of the early internet.

And when I came to university, many students talked about the heavy demands of student life, which meant that you couldn’t have it all, whatever “all” means. People like to say that you can only have two of the three most important things in university – sleep, grades, or a social life. In other words, no matter how hard you try, you will always need to sacrifice something to succeed here. This disposition towards sleep is perpetuated by the conversations we have about how busy we are, how little we sleep, how good we are at sleeping so little and being so busy. It’s not hard to understand why people engage in this type of unhealthy discourse, but it’s a problem that can be fixed one conversation at a time. When your friend says that they’re running on three hours of sleep, don’t respond with a tone of approval. Regular lack of sleep can indicate an inability to manage your time, or might be an indicator of mental health issues. These are both problems that need to be addressed, not normalized.

Most people already know the adverse effects of lack of sleep. Your mom or dad has probably given you a long lecture on it. It can cause obvious things like fatigue, irritability and weight gain, and can get as serious as anxiety, depression, hypertension and diabetes.

There will be times when you just can’t get enough sleep, but don’t make a habit of it. Don’t neglect sleep because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do to succeed in university. If you need those seven to nine hours of regular sleep and don’t get them, you’re hurting yourself and those around you.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Han Jae-Ho

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