Vancouver Coffee Essentials

The border just to our south sometimes makes it easy to overlook our proximity to the Pacific Northwest, but like other major west coast cities Vancouver has some excellent coffee options if you know where to look.

With each offering a different experience, this list was built to give you a tour of the best of our coffee culture. Some require a bit of travel to other interesting neighbourhoods, but luckily most are convenient to the downtown core where most visitors spend their time. There are other really great choices in town not covered here, some of them mentioned in the honourable mentions list at the bottom, but stick to this list if you only have a short amount of time.

(And yep, this list is for those who like coffee coffee without the desserty add-ons. If you’re aching for a double whip frap, I don’t need to tell you where to go for one.)

Revolver Coffee

325 Cambie St (source)

Revolver is a must. Easily one of the top local cafes, it holds its own against a best-of list from almost any other city in the world due to its funky room, excellent service, and obesessive attention to detail. Importing beans from high quality roasters far and wide, don’t be surprised to find Norway’s Tim Wendelboe, Berlin’s The Barn, or London’s Square Mile on the menu alongside top quality beans from all around North America.

The food selection is limited and not why you’re here; stick with the coffee, lovingly poured in a variety of thoughtful and inventive ways, from amazing pourover to cupping flights to packaged cold brew and more. And you can even pick up some new brewing gear from their extensive store in the connected next door Archive.

Elysian Coffee

1100 Burrard St, 1778 W 5th Ave, 590 W Broadway, 2301 Ontario St (source)

A small local roaster that started with a single cafe over 15 years ago and has since spread to multiple locations across town. Great pastries, pourover, and espresso drinks, with beans to go. Most locations don’t have wifi and seating can be scarce during busy hours so don’t expect to park with a laptop, but if you make it to the Broadway & Ash cafe during the summer make sure to check their semi-hidden patio.

Timbertrain Coffee Roasters

311 W Cordova St, 551 McLean Dr (source)

An inventive little roaster with funky communal seating, Timbertrain is only a few years old but already a vital part of the local coffee scene. With pastries, pourover, and espresso-based drinks, they were also the first to introduce nitro coldbrew to the local market and are still the best game in town for it. Their menu is always rotating, and a much larger second space is opening in East Vancouver in 2017.

Matchstick Coffee Roasters

213 E Georgia St, 639 E 15th Ave, 4807 Main St (source)

While it’s accurate to call Matchstick a top notch roastery that partners with coffee producers across the world, the concept behind Matchstick is something much more. The cozy neighbourhood feel of its three locations and an excellent food program revolving around its in-house bakery complements the brews and gives you a reason to come any time of day — especially the Chinatown location, with its well-curated local beer and cider taps.

Moving Coffee / The Taste & See Shop

129-1628 W 1st Ave (source)

This is a bit of an unusual one that isn’t likely to show up on the tourist maps. During the week this tiny back alley shop operates as Taste & See Shop, but on weekends it becomes Moving Coffee operated by a passionate roaster. You can expect fine beans with a story behind them as well as a meticulous approach to crafting each coffee and even unique products like their cold brew Morning Whisky.

Due to the size it’s not a place you can expect to come and park for an extended period, but if you’re visiting Granville Island on a weekend it’s worth the detour for quite possibly the highest quality cup of coffee you’ll find anywhere in the city.

Prado Cafe

100 W Hastings St, 1938 Commercial Dr, 4208 Fraser St (source)

Prado is a cozy mini-chain with good coffee and snacks. Starting life as a single independent cafe on Commercial Dr., it’s now owned by Sammy Piccolo, co-owner of local roaster 49th Parallel. Prado understandably serves exclusively their beans, which are certainly in the top tier of local roasters.

Each cafe has a personality of its own, with the newer locations offering a more refined aesthetic and expanded food menus. They have some great cold options during the summer, including their orange slice adorned espresso tonic that is far better than it has any right to be.

Propaganda

209 E Pender St (source)

A comfy multi-roaster cafe in Chinatown with free wifi and ample power outlets. Offering a variety of single-origin coffees from roasters like Victoria’s Bows & Arrows, Calgary’s Phil & Sebastian, Edmonton’s Transcend and more, it’s a big enough space and just far enough off the beaten path that it makes for a nice quiet place to get in a morning work session. Also literally across the street from Aubade (see next).

Aubade

230 E Pender St (source)

Located in a pocket at the front of an antique shop, calling Aubade a ‘cafe’ would be over-selling it. But don’t let the size or location throw you off, this one man show is perhaps one of the most interesting things happening in the local coffee scene.

Bringing Melbourne’s inventive coffee culture back to Vancouver, owner & operator Eldric recently took third in the Canadian Aeropress Championships and it shows; his technique is unusually scientific, approaching extraction in phases and separating smaller volumes to isolate acids before blending for the final, balanced cup.

You can order espresso-based drinks as well, and you’ll be encouraged to skip the (purposely vegan-only) milk and experience the coffee in its natural state with a slight pricing discount. Don’t expect a wide array of food or seating; there isn’t much of either available. Also literally across the street from Propaganda (see previous).

Honourable Mentions

Also worth your time: 33 Acres Brewing Co. (15 W 8th Ave), 49th Parallel (2902 Main St, 2198 W 4th), Bows & Arrows (4194 Fraser St), Bump & Grind (916 Commercial Dr, 3010 Granville St), Cafe Bica (1809 Fir St), Marche St George (4393 St George St), Musette Cafe (1325 Burrard St), Nelson the Seagull (315 Carrall St), Pallet Coffee Roasters (323 Semlin Dr), Platform 7 (2300 W Broadway, 2331 E Hastings St), Small Victory Bakery (1088 Homer St), The Birds & The Beats (55 Powell St)

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