Though the West Coast Trail may be the most internationally renown backpacking route on Vancouver Island, locals know that nearby Juan de Fuca Trail offers incredible beaches, multiple access points, and far less foot traffic. Accessible from either Botanical Beach, Sombrio Beach, or China Beach, the Juan de Fuca Trail is the West Coast experience boiled down to its essence: rocky shorelines, towering trees, roaring waterfalls, suspension bridges, temperamental weather, beach camping, whale spotting, steep staircases struggling to hold together against the constant coastal damp, impenetrable patches of salal with delicious black berries when in season, and slippery pitches steep enough to get your thighs burning in under a minute.
Starting from Duncan, this VICT Discover Coffee Itinerary highlights some excellent local coffee roasters that you can incorporate into your trip. Discover more about the coffee roasters listed below by checking out the VICT Tour Map.
Coffee Stop #1: Black & White Coffee Roasters (Duncan)
One (perhaps fair) complaint about Island living from Mainlanders is that everything moves at a slower pace, including when businesses open. However, you are all set to get on the road bright and early with a Black & White Espresso served up by the Fishbowl Cafe in Duncan which opens at 6 a.m. on weekdays; the Black & White Coffee Roaster helm was taken up by Jason Horn in 2017 who continues on the path set out by award-winning founders Cody and Nicole Smith.
Coffee Stop #2: Beach Camp Coffee (Port Renfrew)
After passing by scenic Cowichan Lake and braving the twisted old growth road leading down the sea, travelers catch their first glimpse of the open Pacific in Port Renfrew. There to greet them, in true West Coast style, is Beach Camp Coffee. Founded by John Rathwell, who began his roasting journey with an iron skillet, Beach Camp Coffee lives up to its tag line: #TrueWestCoastCoffee. Grab lunch and a fresh brewed up of Beach Camp Coffee right on the water at Bridgemans. Enjoy it, as it will be your last meal indoors for the next few days!
Coffee Stop #3: Cold Shoulder Cafe (Jordan River)
Reveling in the rush of having completed the Juan de Fuca Trail, your first thought as you throw your damp pack into the trunk of the car has to be: “Ok, now where do I get a hot coffee?”
Now, if I had to boil down the West Coast experience to one location it would have to be Cold Shoulder Cafe. Located at the elbow of the lazy seaside highway that leads back from Port Renfrew, the Cold Shoulder vibe is equal parts cafe, restaurant, and surf shop. Short of being able to actually rent a board, visitors can sip their latte on the beach just across the road and, if they are lucky, spot a pod of orcas passing by. Furthermore, Cold Shoulder owners live up to the West Coast ethos and were actively involved in the Fairy Creek protests which saw old growth logging in the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park area delayed and, hopefully in the long-term, halted for good.
Coffee Stop #4: The Stick Specialty Coffee Roasters (Sooke)
The Stick in the Mud Coffee House is a community fixture in Sooke and head roaster David Evans is serious about specialty coffee. I recommend their Tsunami Espresso in a cappuccino, great to take on the road along with a bag of feature specialty single origin roasts which are in constant rotation. If you have one more walk in you, East Sooke Regional Park offers excellent locations for picnics either surrounded by mossy trees or atop an rocky bluff overlooking a turquoise-blue ocean. If you do, keep an keen eye out for whales!
Coffee Stop #5: Drumroaster Coffee (Cobble Hill)
Having come to the end of your journey, there may be no better way to celebrate than with a long-overdue shower and a home-cooked meal. But first, coffee! And Drumroaster in Cobble Hill has you covered for your final stop. Founded by intrepid Island coffee pioneer Geir Oglend, who has been on the coffee scene running cafes and repairing espresso machines since the 1970s, Drumroaster is a family-run business offering finely roasted coffees, an array of delectable baked goods, and a collection of antique espresso machines on display at their Cobble Hill location.
Going on a road trip on Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands?
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Tyler Hagan is the founder of Commonly Coffee and in this expert feature article, originally published on Commonly Coffee (affiliate links included), he offers insights into brewing with the iconic Chemex. Check out Tyler's blog on Commonly Coffee and follow him on Instagram for more stellar coffee content.
The Chemex: Iconic multi-cup coffee brewer...or glorified flower vase?
There is no other coffee brewer that I feel is more polarizing in the specialty coffee community than the Chemex. I cannot even remember how many conversations I have had with friends who fall into one camp or the other.
Say what you will, but the Chemex doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, it's already been immortalized in culture with its place in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.
The Chemex traces its origins back to the early 1940's where it was invented by German Chemist, Dr. Peter Schlumbohm in 1941. This eccentric inventor has filed for over 300 patents in his time. Schlumbohm set out to not just make a simple-to-use coffee brewer, but also something that would be visually appealing. What is truly remarkable is that it has remained essentially unchanged for almost 80 years! It a culture where trends come and go sometimes in weeks if not years...the Chemex continues to be found in homes and specialty coffee shops across the globe. The next time you find yourself binge-watching your favourite show or a watching movie you'll likely see a Chemex on the kitchen counter...it has that "look" that continues to be appealing to absolutely everybody. It's been featured on F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the Mary Tyler Moore show and even 007 James Bond has brewed coffee with it.
The Chemex corporation is family owned with their headquarters located in Chicopee, Massachusetts. It is there that they manufacture the Chemex Coffeemakers, filters, Chemex Chettle, and other accessories.
The Chemex were originally all entirely hand-blown pieces, whereas now many are moulded-glass designs. You can still find hand-blown versions but they will cost more than their moulded-glass counterparts. Whichever one you choose, what is unique about the Chemex is that it is your brewer & server all-in-one...all contained within the gorgeous borosilicate hourglass uni-body shape. A pouring spout is molded into the top half to accurately channel your freshly brewed coffee into your cup. Each traditional Chemex is finished with a wood collar along with a leather tie and wood bead. The wood collar acts like an insulated handle to ensure your hands stay cool as you pour your freshly brewed coffee. An updated version of the Chemex is available with a glass handle along the side of the body. While perhaps a bit more functional, I feel it lacks that iconic look again of the Chemex.
Chemex Coffee makers come in a variety of sizes, most commonly in three, six, eight and ten cup options...but go as high as 13 cups (plenty to share with friends!) One of the most confusing things I have to clarify with people is "cups" when they seek to purchase a Chemex.
On their website they say "Coffeemakers are measured using 5 oz. as 1 cup." If you do the math 5oz only equals .625 of a US cup. Normal volume would dictate that 8oz is one US cup. So when you purchase say an 8cup Chemex like I own that's actually only going to yield you roughly 40oz of coffee where you might assume that 8 "cups" would equal 64oz of coffee. Not a big deal, but something to be aware of.
The only other item you need with a Chemex is a filter. Chemex filters are also quite unique in their own right. The first thing you'll notice with these filters is that they paper is quite thick. These bonded-paper filters are specifically designed to remove greater amounts of sediment and to give you a smooth cup with greater clarity.
Another option when it comes to filters with the Chemex are reusable metal filters called Kone, made by a company called Able Brewing. These are a great way to reduce paper-waste if that is something you are looking to do. I have owned one of these for a number of years and thoroughly enjoy using it.
When it comes to brewing on a Chemex I tend to use a 16:1 ratio, but the beauty of brewing coffee is that in the end do what tastes good to you. A general rule of thumb thought is to stick to the 1:15 to 1:17 range. So if I were brewing a 16:1 ratio in a Chemex for every 1 gram of coffee I would add 16 grams of water.
When I do brew on my 8cup Chemex I am typically brewing a larger volume of coffee to share with friends (or all for myself) since sometimes that's what’s necessary for survival! So in this instance I would brew using 40g of coffee which would yield 640g of total volume. Now the best thing with a larger Chemex is that you can brew less. You could brew using 25g, 30g etc...which is one of the advantages of not purchasing a smaller vessel. But that's totally up to you.
What many find with the Chemex is that it is a forgiving coffee brewer. Whereas some brewers require more attention to the many variables that go into brewing coffee, the Chemex allows the person brewing to achieve results they can be happy with without feeling overwhelmed in the process.
Like I said at the beginning, the Chemex coffee brewer is loved by many, and yet for others seems to be reserved for holding flowers instead of brewing coffee. I love my Chemex. And I am fairly sure that you will too.
Thanks to Tyler for sharing his passion and expertise!
Find more coffee reviews, expert advice, and coffee know-how
at CommonlyCoffee.com and be sure to follow Tyler on Instagram.
Espresso. Not EX-presso. ES-presso. Yes, that’s the stuff.
Any coffee drinker who frequents cafes will be familiar with the rumble of grinding beans, the gurgle of trickling shots, and the hiss of steam as milk is foamed. Espresso is a staple in cafes, inseparable from our modern coffee culture though not antiquated as you might think. It is essential in creating popular beverages such as cappuccinos, lattes, and cortados, to name a few. However, despite its ubiquity, many coffee drinkers may understandably still ask the question: What is espresso?
First and foremost, it must be understood that espresso is a brewing method, not a type of coffee. Other brewing methods include the French Press, various pour-over methods such as the Hario V60, immersion devices such as the Aeropress, and even old-school drip coffee machines. Coffee roasters create specific taste profiles for espresso, but technically you could use any type of coffee bean for the espresso brewing method.
Espresso brewing involves hot pressurized water shot through very finely ground beans packed into the long-handled portafilter which locks into the espresso machine; the resulting highly-concentrated liquid is caught in a small cup called a demitasse. Officially speaking, espresso is defined by pressure, temperature, and time. Pressure must be 9 bars (roughly nine times normal atmospheric pressure), the temperature must be around 93 °C (200 °F), and the shot must be drawn in 25-30 seconds. In fact, the parameters and methods of brewing espresso are so specialized that they have their own terminology. With other methods one would say they ‘brewed a cup’; with espresso, one will ‘pull a shot’.
Now, the extremely observant coffee drinker will notice that espresso shots are not always pulled to match the parameters described above. Espresso, perhaps more than anything else, is a marker of quality and experience in a coffee establishment. Anyone who has worked at a cafe will relate to the struggles of wrestling the espresso machine into producing a well-balanced shot.
Painting in very broad strokes, inexperience behind the bar or a poorly-tuned espresso machine will result in an underextracted or overextracted shot. Underextracted shots (not enough pressure, heat, or time) tend to taste acidic or sour. Overextracted shots (too much pressure, heat, or time) tend to taste bitter or burnt. Well-balanced shots highlight the full flavour profile of the coffee and are marked by a light-brown aromatic foam that floats on the surface known as crema. If you want to fall further down the espresso rabbit hole then check out Matt Giovanisci’s article on Roasty Coffee.
So the sad news is that you cannot recreate the cappuccino experience using an old drip coffee maker; for that you will need to visit your favorite local cafe, unless you are ready to invest in an espresso machine of your own. Cheaper models start around $150, with professional grade espresso machines easily running up to $7500 or more. While espresso can be endlessly fascinating to explore and experiment with, proper maintenance and repair for these machines is costly and time consuming. As a final tip, do not buy beans pre-ground for espresso unless you have an espresso machine; espresso is meant to be extremely fine and all other brewing methods will benefit from a coarser grind.
As part of the Van. Isle Coffee Tour, Drumroaster Coffee in Cobble Hill features not only amazing locally roasted coffee but also a free display of rare and antique espresso machines! In fact, Drumroaster patriarch Geir Oglend entered Vancouver Island's coffee scene in the 1970s as a cafe owner famed for his expertise in fixing these rebellious devices. Check out Geir's collection the next time you head up or down the island and, wherever your journey takes you, travel safe and brew on!
Wush Wush is less of a culinary experience and more a shot of spiritual euphoria. I had the pleasure of first tasting this as a feature espresso at White Rabbit Coffee Co. in Nanaimo. Following the barista's recommendation (shout out to Max!), I drank it as a cortado instead of a latte to prevent the more delicate notes from being washed out. From the first sip, it was bliss: cherry fruit on the palette while breathing in and dark chocolate on the breath out. Treat yourself to a Wush Wush cortado at White Rabbit Coffee Co. if you pass through Nanaimo in April or go straight to the source and order from French Press Coffee Roasters in Qualicum Beach.
Cape Scott Provincial Park is on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island and a favorite destination for many locals. Expansive white-sand crescent beaches, an abandoned Danish farming settlement, and a rustic lighthouse are just a few of the features that attract intrepid hikers year after year. The park is accessible from San Josef Bay from the south; it can also be reached via the North Coast Trail starting at Shushartie Bay. This VICT Discover Coffee Itinerary from Nanaimo to Cape Scott offers suggestions on where to uncover amazing locally roasted coffee on your journey there and back. Discover all the locations listed here on the VICT Tour Map.
Coffee Stop #1: Regard Coffee Roasters (Nanaimo)
You’ll be in for a long drive if you plan to reach either trailhead, San Josef Bay or Shushartie Bay, on day one so start your day off right with coffee from Regard Coffee Roasters in Nanaimo. They open at 8 am weekdays and 9 am on weekends, so if you are a morning person it may be best to buy beans ahead of time and brew them at home. Otherwise, check out their new north end location on your way out of town.
Coffee Stop #2: French Press Roasters (Qualicum)
This local coffee hub boasts incredible locally roasted coffee and delectable baked goods, just in time for breakfast or a late morning snack. If you are not in a rush, the town of Qualicum is a fantastic place to stretch your legs and explore with a cappuccino from French Press Coffee Roasters in hand. Note to weekend travelers: French Press is not open on Sundays.
Coffee Stop #3: Foggdukkers Coffee (Campbell River)
By this time it’s either lunch or well into the afternoon. Open daily from 9:30 am to 5 pm, Foggdukkers Coffee is a long-established local favorite in Campbell River. Take some time to hang out on the beach like a true west-coaster as you heed the oft-sighted island bumper sticker: Slow down! This ain’t the mainland.
Coffee Stop #4: Burly Bean Coffee Co. (Port Hardy)
If you think you can’t find locally roasted coffee on the north tip of the island, you could not be more wrong thanks to Burly Bean Coffee Co. Established in 2021, expert coffee roasters Mike and Andrea McGill have your north island coffee needs covered. Get a fresh roasted bag of beans for the trail from Marketplace IGA in Port MacNeil or stop by Cafe Guido's Copper & Kelp Market in Port Hardy.
Coffee Stop #5: Rhodos Artisanal Coffee Roasting Co. (Courtenay)
Of all the things you may crave as you step off the North Coast Trail, a steaming cup of coffee to warm your chill, damp soul may be at the top of the list. Rhodos Bistro & Artisanal Coffee Roasting Co. in Courtenay will not only satisfy your coffee craving, but offers an all-killer, no-filler west-coast brunch for hungry hikers. If you hit the road early you can reach Rhodos Coffee before they close at 3 pm.
Coffee Stop #6: Royston Roasting Co & Coffee House (Royston)
The last stop before heading home has to be Royston Roasting Co & Coffee House. Tucked away in the scenic seaside town of Royston, this small roaster has recently transferred hands to new owners passionate about great coffee. Add a warm community vibe to a well-drawn shot of espresso, and you are all set to wrap up a truly memorable journey.
Going on a road trip on Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands?
Tag your coffee discovery posts with the hashtag #VICT to join the tour!
Fruity and well balanced, I immediately did a double take after my first sip of Tsunami Espresso from The Stick Specialty Roasters. I usually add cream to my espresso drinks but this extracted so perfectly that I drank it black - a rarity for me! Serve Tsunami Espresso Americano-style as the perfect compliment to either an early-start breakfast or a classic West Coast brunch. Suggested as a welcoming entry for those who want to start exploring the wild world of espresso-based drinks.
VICT Discover Coffee Trip Itineraries:
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About the Curator
Joshua Gillingham is an author, board game designer, and coffee lover from Vancouver Island. He curates the Vancouver Island Coffee Tour. For questions or comments about VICT, map updates, or roaster openings and closures, send him a note via the community contact form.