By JASON TWETEN
We Vancouverites love our coffee. Our city’s cafes are packed with people reading books, writing on laptops or chatting with friends over a hot beverage. This adoration for a quality cafe has led coffee-shop owners to import and brew some of the finest coffee and espresso in Canada. We’ve put together this list, a local’s guide to coffee, to help visitors find that perfect cup.
This coffee shop boasts a selection of seasonal, single-origin brews prepared fresh at the time of order. The staff can tell you the characteristics of each cup of coffee and even pinpoint the location of the source-farms on a map. They also serve tasty espresso on its own or mixed with milk, with flavours based on a philosophy that blends Old World Italian techniques with New World flavours (acidity, fruitiness). In addition, Kafka’s cafe is a Mount Pleasant community hub, showcasing local artists’ work and hosting monthly artistic events.
2. Trees Organic
One-hundred percent organic is just a starting point for this coffee house. Each locally roasted bean comes from naturally shade-grown, bird-friendly, hand-picked crops that are certified fair trade. As you enter one of their locations, the earthy aroma serves as precursor to the pure flavour of the coffee. Trees Organic has also become renowned for its award-winning cheesecakes, which make for an irresistible pairing of coffee and cake.
3. Caffè Artigiano
The English translation of this coffee shop’s name tells customers exactly what to expect: artisan coffee. Award-winning baristas mix hot beverages and top them with some of the finest latte art in town. Artigiano Roasting Co. sources their coffee globally through importers that support the communities where the coffee is farmed, so you can feel good about getting your daily caffeine dose.
4. East Van Roasters
This independent shop in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side promotes philanthropy through its storefront by employing women from one of the area’s nearby social housing projects. The espresso beans are ground and roasted on-site after being imported from direct-trade farm plantations. As a bonus to the great tasting coffee, East Van Roasters is also known for having some of the most desirable home-made chocolate in town.
5. The Mighty Oak
This Riley Park–Little Mountain cafe and grocery store might be the best-kept secret in the city. The owner-operators welcome clients with friendly conversation and tasty espresso-based drinks while baking a variety of delicious pastries throughout the day. A peaceful neighbourhood of architecturally interesting heritage homes and magnificent oak trees surrounds The Mighty Oak’s location, making their patio one of the most serene environments to sip a cappuccino.
6. 49th Parallel
49th Parallel takes quality evaluation to a whole new level, testing their coffee at the time of purchase, during roasting at their Burnaby lab, upon arrival at the cafes, and each morning before its sold to the public. The bean buyers visit each farm they work with in person to create long-standing relationships of mutual sustainability. The cafes also sell the highly-sought-after Lucky Doughnuts, offering unique varieties including an apple-bacon-topped maple-glaze fritter. All together this adds up to an ideal coffee-and-doughnut combination.
7. Platform 7
As you step inside this East Hastings cafe, the exposed iron rafters, large glass window panes and Renaissance-era timepiece will make you feel like you’ve just been transported onto a Victorian London train station platform—without the bustle of England’s busy railways. The quiet atmosphere makes an intimate setting for periodic acoustic shows featuring local musicians. Serving Portland’s famous Stumptown Coffee as their flagship roast, the baristas pay careful attention to each espresso-based drink, pour-over, syphon and tasting flight.
With a firm belief in taste, Revolver’s coffee bean sources are among the most progressive in the business. Many of the cafe’s roasters make visits to the origin of their coffee beans, seeking out new opportunities and checking up on existing relationships. Every week Revolver’s current menu is “cupped” (the name for evaluating coffee using an industry-standard score sheet) in blind tastings, and only the best-tasting brews are sold to the public.
Trace back the lineage of Milano’s coffee and you’ll discover a history of family-owned and operated cafes that pride themselves on the tastes derived from the secrets of Italian torrefazione (a time-honoured roasting and blending technique). The quality is evident in their espresso, which properly balances flavours in a 7-13 bean blend (mixing beans based on individual traits, including acidity, mouthfeel, aroma, and brightness)—a difficult achievement. The W. 8th Ave. location hosts Vancouver’s only espresso-tasting bar and has become a coffee connoisseur’s hot spot.
10. Elysian Coffee
Elysian Coffee opened its first cafe over a decade ago. Since then, the company has expanded into a wholesaler of top-of-the-line brewers, espresso machines and water purification systems.
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