With its abundance of scenic roads and highways, it’s no wonder why road-tripping is a popular pastime in coastal British Columbia. Of course, the secret to truly successful driving excursions is to make plenty of restorative stops along the way. And finding a place’s best coffee shop can add a cool extra layer to any trip, giving visitors an inside track on the community, as well as a great way to meet the locals.
Read on for our six-pack of sip-worthy coffee stops to sample on your travels around the province.
Aubade Coffee’s inventive owner, Eldric Stuart, brewing behind their counter in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Photo by Jeremy Wong, courtesy Aubade Coffee.
Aubade Coffee (Vancouver)
Vancouver’s venti-sized coffee shop scene still includes hidden gems — including this one, sitting just inside the entrance to Chinatown’s Space Lab collective (which also features an antique store). Visit Aubade Coffee and enjoy an informative, coffee-focused chat with the operation’s bearded owner, Eldric Stuart, who works his java-crafting alchemy at the small-yet-inviting counter. Stuart’s passionate approach to coffee is a huge part of the place’s charm. “I do lots of experimentation and use a scientific approach to understand what exactly happens when you add water to coffee grinds,” he says, noting that good coffee always starts with quality beans that are well-rested after roasting. “I handmake all my coffee because machines can’t make it as well as humans — yet.”
Enjoy your coffee iced or hot, indoors or outdoors at Beachcomber Coffee. Photo by Dolf Vermeulen, courtesy Beachcomber Coffee.
Beachcomber Coffee (Gibsons)
New coffee shops have spread across BC like spilled cappuccino in recent years, but this 2018-opened Gibsons café — with its attractive wood-lined interior and jolly yellow mugs — has already become a Sunshine Coast favourite. “We planned every little detail,” says founder Martin DesRosiers, adding that the shop regularly roasts its own certified organic and Fairtrade coffee beans in small batches to ensure freshness. Tasting flights and latte-filled chocolate waffle cones add to the fun, creating a warm hub for locals and visitors, alike. “The vibe here is extremely positive — and that definitely makes the coffee taste better.”
Café Guido in Port Hardy is well-loved by locals and visitors alike. Photo courtesy Café Guido.
Café Guido (Port Hardy)
Port Hardy’s favourite hangout is also a magnet for North Island visitors. “Since 2004, we’ve mixed quality beans from Vancouver’s Bean Around the World with baristas who show our guests just how much we love our hometown,” says owner Davida Hudson. But there’s more to Guido’s than excellent refreshments and friendly service. Alongside the carefully prepared coffees and fresh-made treats (be sure to try one of the panini sandwiches), the café features “side-dish” retail nooks brimming with cleverly curated books, clothing and BC-made arts and crafts. “It’s not just about killer scones and lattes here,” says Hudson.
The whimsical and rustic exterior of Café Talia on Salt Spring Island. Photo courtesy Café Talia.
Café Talia (Salt Spring Island)
With choice local artworks adorning its walls, this rustic-chic Salt Spring Island charmer evokes a creative vibe that extends to the coffees on offer. “Our lavender mocha is a must — and the beetroot latte and turmeric chilli latte are also amazing,” says co-owner Becka Heck, adding that great baristas and quality beans from Vancouver’s 49th Parallel are the secrets of the cozy café’s popularity. But it’s not just the coffee that’s worth savouring. “We also serve delicious house-made soups and sandwiches and teas from Vancouver Island’s Westholme Tea Farm.”
Base Camp coffee shop in Powell River newly roasts its own coffee beans. Photo courtesy Base Camp.
Base Camp (Powell River)
Now roasting its own beans, this Powell River favourite is often busier than a big city café. That’s because there are so many compelling reasons to drop into the chatty Marine Avenue hangout. From friendly service to artsy wall displays, it’s been a thriving community hub for years. “This is a great place to meet and connect with locals and visitors,” says general manager Jacob Bristow, adding there’s also more than “top-notch coffee” to dive into. “We serve delicious breakfast and lunch dishes — and we’re planning some dynamite new additions for [later in] 2019.”
A view from above inside Hey Happy coffeeshop in Victoria. Photo courtesy Hey Happy.
Hey Happy (Victoria)
Like a generous layer of cinnamon sprinkles, Victoria is studded with indie coffee shops, but this wildly popular haunt on Lower Johnson Street is a standout. Founder Rob Kettner attributes the café’s success to the raw materials and suppliers his team works with. “We give all the credit to the farmers and roasters,” he says. “We certainly pay attention to detail and taste and tweak all day long, but we’re just trying not to screw up their hard work.” As for his personal recommendation for first-time visitors to Hey Happy? “Our coconut milk iced latte is simple yet perfect — it’s become a bit of a Victoria icon!”