One of the best—and most enjoyable—ways to get to know a city is by exploring its coffee scene. In the case of Vancouver, that means long-standing institutions, innovative and stylish cafés, and a handful of under-the-radar locales. Here, we present five of the best places to go for high quality, top-notch brews served alongside tasty bites and a warm atmosphere.
Step into the brick-walled Gastown café and you may feel as if you’ve entered something akin to a coffee laboratory. Knowledgeable baristas expertly pour, press, and filter along a long wooden bar using glass vessels and stainless-steel kettles. Choose from a rotating menu of specialty beans from both local and international roasters, and if you can’t settle on just one, not to worry—order the tasting flight to sample three different varieties. 325 Cambie Street.
Tucked into the front of an antique store in Chinatown, Aubade is a bit of a hidden gem for those in the know. Enter the shop on any day of the week and you’ll find owner Eldric Stuart brewing away behind a small bar, chatting with fellow “coffee geeks”, or going over the menu with less savvy newcomers. “One of my focuses is to stay really grounded with people and just serve coffee I’m passionate about without any pretention,” says Stuart. For a truly exceptional experience, order the bright and fruity Gesha Village from Ethiopia brewed via Aeropress—Stuart’s specialty. It’s a cup well worth the $15 price tag. 230 East Pender Street.
Milano Coffee is a Vancouver staple that has been a part of the city’s coffee scene since 1984, when its Italian-born founder and master roaster Francesco Curatolo opened the first location. Today, Curatolo’s apprentice Brian Turko has taken over, along with his wife Linda. Together, they’ve upheld Milano’s legacy, producing and perfecting its world-renowned espresso at three locations in Vancouver, one on Vancouver Island, and an outpost in Toronto. Pay a visit and sample up to eight different blends of espresso served on tap, any given day. Various locations, see here.
For a café that satisfies both the eye and the palate, it’s hard to beat Kahve. Owners John and Justine Rhee come from art backgrounds—a critic and curator, respectively—but have always had a passion for food and coffee. “What we are trying to do is serve our customers the best of the best,” says Justine. For the Rhees, that means making avocado toast and lettuce wraps in-house with mainly organic ingredients, and serving coffee solely from Calgary’s Phil & Sebastian. “Those guys are incredible,” says Justine, who touts them as the “best roasters in Canada.” 1822 West 1st Avenue.
Located in the heart of the historic Gastown neighbourhood, Timbertrain is a hip coffee shop founded by a trio of friends united in their love of coffee and all things locomotive. Serving their own roasted beans sourced from Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, Timbertrain takes pride in creating both excellent coffee and a sense of community. They recently started hosting bi-weekly latte art classes for those eager to hone their barista skills at their new Depot location in Strathcona. Various locations, see here.
For more great coffee shops across Canada, click here.
To discover more Canadian coffee roasters, click here.
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