Vancouver Espresso Vacation

This Espresso Vacation took place in May 2009 with an update which took place on a second visit in May 2012.

Memorial Day Weekend was approaching so I decided it would be an ideal time to take off on a little vacation. Where should I go? Since it was almost summer, I decided a return visit to Vancouver, Canada would be perfect. I was there with friends a little last summer, but did very little exploring. Thankfully I live in Seattle, so Vancouver is just a few hours drive north.

Before leaving I did some research on where the good coffee places were. The more research I did, the more I knew I would love Vancouver. I got a few tips from Lynanne, a member of the Coffee Club of Seattle. Her tips lead me to the CleanHotDry website, which in addition to having amazing coffee photography, also has a wallpaper of 10 espressos pulled from various Vancouver coffee shops. What started out as a regular vacation was to become an espresso quest.

How much espresso could I consume during my short trip? I was about to find out. I loaded up my Garmin GPS with cafe addresses and headed for the border.

Elysian Coffee – 590 West Broadway

I almost walked past this place. The front sign is very subtle. Thankfully I entered Elysian Coffee and started off my espresso vacation in style. This is very slick cafe. I had intended to get an espresso, but they offered Clover Coffee. Since Starbucks bought the company that makes the Clover, they have been slowly disappearing from the Seattle area. I make it a point to support the Clover when I see it in independent coffee houses.

Elysian Coffee
Elysian Coffee – 590 West Broadway

I also was fortunate that Elysian Coffee was very close to my hotel and was able to visit here three times.

Clover Coffee at Elysian Coffee
Clover Coffee at Elysian Coffee

Caffe Artigiano – 853 West Broadway

During my two previous visits to Vancouver, this was the my only coffee house stop. It impressed me back then and it impressed me on this trip as well. Super friendly people here. The evening barista came out to my table and talked to me about their espresso blends. I’m not a big fan of milk in my espresso, but I make an exception when I go to Caffe Artigiano. They have a drink called the Americano Misto. It is a traditional Americano with just enough frothed milk added to do latte art.

Americano Misto at Caffe Artigiano
Americano Misto at Caffe Artigiano – 853 West Broadway

JJ Bean – 3010 Main St

This location of JJ Bean has a fireplace for the cold days and wide open garage-door style windows for days with perfect weather. It was perfect weather the day I visited. The espresso was outstanding as well.

JJ Bean
JJ Bean – 3010 Main St

Re-Entry Espresso – 4363 Main Street (CLOSED)

Continuing my espresso hike, I made it to Re-Entry Espresso. The cafe has a space ship / science fiction feel to it. Another great espresso. My vacation had just started, but I already could see Vancouver is way better than almost every place I’ve ever visited.

Re-Entry Espresso is no longer open.

Re-Entry Espresso
Re-Entry Espresso – 4363 Main Street

Cito Espresso – 116 Davie Street (CLOSED)

After a few hours of adrenal rest, I got myself an espresso from Cito Espresso. Wow. Yummy in that Northern Italian style. If you are fan of Espresso Vivace’s Dolce Blend, you will love their espresso. And you know I’m a big Vivace fan. Check out the tag line in the photo below: Coffee Isn’t a Drug, It’s a Vitamin! Agreed and it was time for more anti-oxidants.

Cito Espresso is no longer open.

Cito Espresso
Cito Espresso – Vancouver, BC

Wicked Cafe – 1399 7th Avenue West

At first I thought I entered the address into my GPS incorrectly. I was walking through a residential area. There couldn’t be a coffee shop around here. Yes there was. A corner cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. Wicked Cafe uses Inteligentsia Coffee, so I had to get a Black Cat Espresso. Wicked Cafe is the kind of place you wish was in your neighborhood.

Wicked Cafe
Wicked Cafe – 1399 7th Avenue West

Bump N Grind Specialty Coffee – 916 Commercial Drive

I was running out of time and needed to decide where I could visit before driving back to Seattle. The barista at Elysian Coffee recommended going to Bump N Grind. If it was good enough for Elysian, then I was sure to love it. And I did. Bump N Grind also has a Clover Coffee brewer. The Tanzanian Peaberry I had here was the best cup of coffee I had on my entire trip.

Bump N Grind Specialty Coffee
Bump N Grind Specialty Coffee – 916 Commercial Drive

Continental Coffee – 1806 Commercial Drive

To be honest, when I first entered this place I thought my espresso hot streak was finally going to come to an end. There was a missing character on the sign out front, they had missppelled Colombian (Columbian) on their menu and you had two baristas running back and forth from the register to the espresso machine. I prefer that my espresso not get cold while paying for my drink.

The shot I got here was so off the hook good, it didn’t matter. I was blown away. Amazing rich body with flavor. How good was the espresso? I got back in line and bought a 1/2 pound of whole beans to take home with me. It was that good.

Continental Coffee
Continental Coffee – 1806 Commercial Drive

49th Parallel Cafe – 2152 West 4th Avenue

49th Parallel is the roaster for many of the coffee places that I visited while in Vancouver. This is their cafe and I am so glad I went here. This was going to be my last coffee drink before heading home. I love the Epic Espresso Blend, so I ordered it and took a seat.

49th Parallel Cafe
49th Parallel Cafe – 2152 West 4th Avenue

It was only then did I fully take in everything around me. This was a coffee lovers playground. After savoring every drop of my espresso I got up to get a closer look at the huge cold coffee brewing system they had. They also made syphon (vaccum) brewed coffee in these beautful glass brewers. The photo below shows the syphons on the left and the cold brewer on the right.

I wanted to stay and drink more coffee, but I was running out of Canadian currency and it was time to go home. I felt like kid being drug kicking and screaming from the amusement park. But I want more coffee!

49th Parallel Cafe Slow Bar
49th Parallel Cafe Slow Bar – Siphons and Cold Brewers

What a vacation. Vancouver delivered. It is a first class coffee city and I’m honored to have them as my neighbor to the north. There were a few places on my list that I didn’t get to. I’ll be sure to visit them the next time I take an espresso vacation to Vancouver. I’m getting jittery just thinking about it.


May 2012 Update

The 2009 espresso vacation to Vancouver was so wonderful that I returned for a second visit exactly three years later. Here are a few new coffee venues worthy of checking out when you visit. If you need more ideas, check out this Google Plus entry by Vancouver resident Mark Prince of CoffeeGeek.com.

Coffeebar – 10 Water Street

The best espresso of my 2012 visit was at Coffeebar. Like many other Vancouver coffee shops they use beans roasted by 49th Parallel. However, they have something that most coffee shops don’t have, which is a hand pulled espresso machine. The espresso I received was amazing. It was both bright and syrupy. Visit here if you find yourself in the Gastown area.

Coffeebar
Coffeebar – 10 Water Street

Matchstick Coffee Roasters – 639 E 15 Avenue

This spacious cafe opened in early 2012. They also roast their own coffee on site. The barista shared with me that my espresso was a blend of different beans from Colombia. It had a wonderful creamy and textured taste. Check it out when you visit Vancouver.

Matchstick Coffee Roasters
Matchstick Coffee Roasters – 639 E 15 Avenue

Kafka Coffee and Tea – 2525 Main Street

Kafka uses Seattle based roaster Herkimer Coffee for their espresso blend, which is one of my hometown favorites.

Kafka Coffee and Tea
Kafka Coffee and Tea – 2525 Main Street

Sources

CleanHotDry Wallpaper – Desktop wallpaper of 10 Vancouver pulled espressos.

Elysian Coffee – 590 West Broadway

Caffe Artigiano – 853 West Broadway

JJ Bean – 3010 Main Street

Wicked Cafe – 1399 7th Ave West

Bump N Grind Speciality Coffee – 916 Commercial Drive

Continental Coffee – 1806 Commercial Drive

49th Parallel Cafe – 2152 West 4th Avenue

Coffeebar – 10 Water Street

Matchstick Coffee Roasters – 639 E 15 Avenue

Kafka’s Coffee and Tea – 2525 Main Street

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Michael Allen Smith

Michael Allen Smith fell in love with coffee while attending college. Shortly after graduating college, he found himself in the Tampa Bay area far away from the good coffee he had at The Ohio State University. That is when he starting home roasting coffee. Less than a year later in April 1999, he launched the coffee website INeedCoffee.com. INeedCoffee.com has been going strong ever since with hundreds of articles and tutorials submitted by over one hundred contributors.

In 2007, Michael moved to America's coffee capitol Seattle, Washington. He has visited close to two hundred different coffee places in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver and met many of the top roasters and baristas in the country. Since 2009, Michael has been the Organizer of the Coffee Club of Seattle, which is a Meetup group of over 600 coffee enthusiants. Besides the social aspect of the group, the Coffee Club of Seattle partners with local coffee professionals for educational events such as coffee cuppings, brewing demonstrations and roasting tours.

Unrelated to coffee, Michael has a personal blog at CriticalMAS.com which covers several topics including fitness, cooking and finance.

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