By Kathy Mak
Coffee, served hot or cold, is arguably the world’s most popular beverage. In the ranking of best coffee cities in the world, Vancouver has become one of the undisputed top ten leaders. The obsession with coffee, particularly independent coffee shops/roasters, is a big part of what defines the city’s foodie culture, as much as craft breweries, food trucks, farmers markets, boutique eateries, etc. And, the love affair with java extends throughout the Fraser Valley. To truly appreciate the local coffee scene, grab your travel mug and follow this itinerary to sip on some of the best coffee, and special accompaniments, at a batch of unique micro-roasters in Greater Vancouver.
As the saying goes, “life is too short to drink bad coffee.” If you crave unique coffee flavours that are ethically sourced, then you may be part of a growing trend of coffee connoisseurs that support indie-owned coffee shops focused on craft brewing the finest organic, single origin and fair trade beans. But, not all shops roast their own coffee nor do all coffee roasters have a shop. From an abundance of excellent coffee shops in Vancouver and the Valley, here’s a small round-up of out-of-the-ordinary artisan coffee roasting houses/cafes steeped in local appeal that you can visit in North Vancouver, Fort Langley, White Rock, Richmond and Vancouver.
The road trip for your coffee tasting day begins early in North Vancouver at Moja Coffee (1412 Rupert Street). Doug and Andrew started Moja Coffee in 2003 and have stayed true to supporting single origin coffee from around the world, with the majority being organic. Their roasting operation sits behind their café. Be sure to indulge in a Thomas Haas chocolate croissant with your first caffeine pick-me-up of the day.
Point your coffee mug east, driving on the Trans-Canada highway #1 to Fort Langley, a charming village and home to the popular Fort Langley National Historic Site. Just off the main street in Gasoline Alley, you’ll discover Republica Coffee Roasters (9203 Glover Road). The owners’ (Hiro and Ricardo) mantra is to provide the freshest roast and any unsold coffee 72 hours after roasting is donated to the community. Although they focus on organic single estate coffees, their unique blends are only served at the coffee shop. And, while you’re there, perk up your coffee with a healthier shot of organic blue agave syrup in ten flavour options.
Continue your drive, crossing through Langley along highway 10 to Surrey. Arrive at the eye catching, landmark tepee of Holy Smoke Coffee (3418 King George Highway) before 11 am (closing time, M-F). For thirteen years, Al has been serving coffee with a smile at this extraordinary coffee drive-thru. He is dedicated to everything organic, from coffee beans (from Mexico and Guatemala), sugar, and milk to baked goods, which are sourced from Michael’s Artisan Bakery in South Surrey/White Rock. Don’t miss your chance to get a free 2-minute therapy session which is included with every $2 cup of joe! In the spirit of keeping things small, Al home roasts his organic beans on site in an adapted BBQ! And, if you’re lucky to be around on Saturday in the spring/summer, traditional Berliner Currywurst is cooked up for customers. With your coffee to go, take time to stroll along White Rock’s oceanfront promenade.
Turn north along highway 99 to Richmond and pop by Viva Java Roasting House (2900 Smith Street), a small one-man coffee operation. The owner champions organic coffee that he roasts daily on-site to offer about fourteen single origin coffees and three house blends. While this may not be a coffee shop to hang out, the coffee is well worth the visit along with the chance to meet the owner, Arti, for his larger-than-life personality.
Carry on highway 99 towards Vancouver’s city centre. In Gastown, drop by East Van Roasters (319 Carrall Street), the city’s only artisan bean-to-bar chocolate maker and coffee roaster. Owned and operated by the PHS Community Services Society, East Van Roasters provide training and employment to women recovering from homelessness and addiction. Organic single origin, fair trade cacao and coffee beans are all roasted on site. Along with espresso beverages, you can spoil yourself with hand-crafted chocolate drinks, truffles and bars.
Complete your coffee touring day at Trees Organic Coffee & Roasting House (450 Granville Street) in the heart of Downtown Vancouver. For over 20 years, Trees Organic has been sourcing and serving only 100% organic, single origin, naturally shade grown coffee bought at fair trade terms. Their coffee is fresh roasted daily, in small batches, on premise at their flagship Granville Street location. The owner, Doron, takes great pride in maintaining the distinct aromatic and flavour qualities of single origin coffee beans; therefore, coffee blends are not available. And because man does not live on coffee alone, pair your coffee with one of their popular cheesecakes, voted the best in Vancouver! If you’re on location for Thursday or Friday nights, then stick around for their free live music events.
With so many more coffee shops and roasters in and around Vancouver, as a welcome contrast to large coffee chains, there’s no shortage of good coffee options and you’ll soon discover that all roads lead to great coffee!