Ah, beautiful Victoria, BC: the provincial capital of British Columbia and a hot-spot for world-class cafes serving incredible locally roasted coffee. This coffee walking tour is designed for accessibility, so the total trip is a little over four kilometers which translates to just under an hour of walking. Of course, I would encourage you to take more creative routes between stops, especially to explore the many cultural and culinary treasures found in Victoria’s historic downtown.
Special thanks to the spectacular Victoria photographer Setareh Ghirian and the ever-chic model Monique for collaborating with me to bring the walking tour to life! Now, on with the tour...
Stop #1: Discovery Coffee (Blanshard Location)
Discovery Coffee’s new location, affectionately known as ‘The Corner’, is the launching point for the official Van. Isle Coffee Tour coffee walking tour for downtown Victoria. Start the walking tour off right with a steaming pour-over from Discovery Coffee Roasters served alongside a delicious fresh-baked doughnut from Yonni’s.
Stop #2: Fernwood Coffee at Parsonage Cafe
Fernwood is a delightfully vibrant neighborhood just east of Victoria’s downtown core. At the center of this thriving community of local artisans is Fernwood Coffee Roasters. At Parsonage Cafe, their flagship location, you can pick up a mouthwatering Americano then explore the shops, bakeries, and restaurants nearby. If you need a destination, start at Parsonage Cafe then wander over toward Mount Royal Bagels; I suggest their house made salmon lox cream cheese on a rosemary rock-salt bagel!
Stop #3: Caffe Fantastico (King Street Location)
Caffe Fantastico is a Victoria treasure, roasting delicious coffee and serving it up with style in each of their unique locations which emanate the soul of that neighborhood. The King’s Road location has a spacious interior for brunch with friends and a sunny patio perfect for people watching or reading that book you picked up from Camas Books just down the street. Stop by and enjoy a latte paired with a savory cheddar scone!
Stop #4: Bows & Arrows Coffee at Habit Coffee (Pandora Street Location)
Think “west coast coffee shop” and the image of a bespectacled, bearded hipster arrayed in plaid while toting a laptop and a latte is hard to resist. Habit Coffee is my top pick for those who embrace the west coast ethos of living local, celebrating the arts, and resisting the gravitational pull of mass marketing. Serving up coffee roasted by Bows & Arrows Coffee Roasters, Habit Coffee is a must-stop for cafe lovers and coffee aficionados alike.
Stop #5: Hey Happy
If you are a caffeine fiend and have one last espresso stop in you, then complete your walking coffee tour of Victoria with a trip to Hey Happy. While not technically a local coffee roaster, Hey Happy features a supreme selection of the finest coffees from around the world, top quality brewing gear, and a whimsical aesthetic which emanates a palpable joy.
Are you ready to set out on this Victoria Downtown Walking Tour?
Tag your coffee discovery posts with the hashtag #VICT to join the conversation with others on the tour!
Check out more from Victoria photographer Setareh Ghirian and model Monique on Instagram.
As always, travel safe and brew on.
I once had a mock debate with a tea-loving friend of mine about the superiority of either coffee or tea. Their central argument was essentially that ‘leaf water’ (aka tea) was far more appealing to the rational individual than ‘bean water’ (aka coffee). Though all was in jest, her point reveals a common and widespread misunderstanding about coffee.
Coffee is not a bean. There, I said it. And if that comes as a surprise, you are in good company. The term ‘coffee bean’ is an understandable mix-up between plant species, one that perhaps stems from a culture and society that has long imported coffee from distant places rather than see it grow on their own home soil.
So if it is not a bean, then what is it? Well, coffee is a flowering plant belonging to the genus Coffea, of which only a few produce what we would roast and brew as coffee. The coffee ‘beans’ are in fact the seeds of the plant which are encased in a fleshy fruit which the industry calls the 'coffee cherry'. And if you’re wondering, by chance, if coffee is a cherry, it’s not: that is yet another misnomer!
One delightful benefit of this knowledge is the awareness of another delectable treat produced by the coffee tree which is cascara, the flesh of the coffee cherry. Though tart, somewhat akin in flavor to a cranberry, it makes for a delicious beverage or snack. If that has piqued your interest, try out a refreshing cascara iced tea at Level Ground Coffee in Saanich or pick up a bag of cascara tea from Drumroaster Coffee in Duncan.
I am left to wonder why our terminology developed to be so strangely inaccurate. I would hazard a guess that it was a potent cocktail of selective histories, mis-translations over international borders, and enthusiastic marketing agencies getting carried away with ideas that were not wholly accurate. Nevertheless, sip your next cup of coffee confident that it isn’t ‘bean water’ in your cup, but fruit water!
Over the past six hundred years, coffee has traveled the globe, earning accolades and creating addicts in every corner of the planet. More than perhaps any other drink, coffee is never simply absorbed by a culture; it is brewed into the fabric of society, with unique cultural customs sprouting up around it as drinking practices reflect each culture’s core values.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Scandinavia. The irony, of course, is that few places on earth might be considered more hostile to the coffee plant itself; yet the people of this region have taken up coffee drinking with a fervor unrivaled anywhere else, with Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark topping the list of annual coffee consumption per capita. For example, the average Finn drinks a whopping 26 lbs of coffee per year and it is legally mandated in Finland that all workers must be given two ten-minute coffee breaks. Now that’s some legislation I could get behind.
Of course, coffee’s popularity in the Scandinavian countries has inspired a distinct coffee roasting culture. While French and Italian coffees are generally roasted dark, Scandinavians have developed a unique profile of lighter roast coffees known more broadly as Nordic style. Early critics scoffed at what they considered to be ‘underdeveloped’ flavor profiles but the test of time and years of fine-tuning have produced a truly memorable coffee-tasting experience.
Bjørnar Hafslund, founder of Brattestø Roastery in Norway, postulates that Norwegians, as well as other Scandinavians, are more attuned to the sharper, acidic flavors of lighter roasts because of the food sources available in that climate; brined fish and tart berries made up much of the locally foraged diet for hundreds of years and still serve as important components of local cuisine. In fact, Norway’s ready supply of fish was traded directly for quality coffee beans from Brazil, again contributing to the development of their unique coffee culture. I personally find it fascinating that the Nordic style tasting profile is reminiscent of the traditional local diet!
It might be said that Scandinavian culture is in the limelight currently, with cultural concepts such as Denmark’s hygge and Norway’s koselig permeating our concept of home design and healthy living. While certain Vancouver Island roasters, such as Drumroaster Coffee in Cobble Hill, have Scandinavian family ties, one may also sample coffees directly from Lykke Coffee Roasters in Sweden and Norlo Coffee Roasters from the UK thanks to Sara and Dan, owners of the newly-opened lifestyle shop Hoxton Home. Located in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter, Hoxton Home provides not only imported Scandinavian coffee but a wide array of stylish home decor, including some fantastic coffee brewing hardware and coffee tableware to impress your Scandinavian friends.
Stop by Hoxton Home to pick up a bag of Scandinavian coffee and open yourself to the world of Nordic roasts! As always, travel safe and brew on.
Coffee has long been celebrated for its stimulating effects due to caffeine. In fact, the original Arabic term قَهْوَة (qahwa) alludes to it being a ‘stealer of sleep’ as coffee was popularly used to maintain alertness during late-night religious ceremonies conducted by Sufi mystics. Throughout history, it gained popularity in both Islamic and Christian cultures over alcohol because of its stimulating, rather than inhibitory, effects. However, not all coffee drinkers see this well-known side effect as beneficial; in fact, some may avoid coffee altogether because of its impact on their sleep.
Is Decaf 'Real' Coffee?
Decaf coffee, or decaffeinated coffee, is a controversial subject within some coffee-loving circles. Many might think it isn’t ‘real coffee’ while others might wonder if it is a special genetic modification of coffee, somewhat akin to seedless watermelons. Both of these ideas are wrong. Decaffeinated coffee is actual coffee and all modern decaffeination processes are performed on naturally caffeinated green beans after harvesting and before roasting
So how does it work?
Caffeine as a chemical compound is very water soluble, similar to sugar or salt. The general idea of any decaffeination process is to dissolve the caffeine out into a liquid solvent then remove the solvent or use another intermediate substance to absorb the caffeine. This also means, as with any chemical process, the reaction is not complete; in other words, there will always still be some caffeine, typically ranging from 2-5% of the original amount remaining. In that sense, decaffeinated coffee is actually very low caffeine and not exactly caffeine free.
Talk of ‘chemical processes’ may put some health-minded coffee drinkers ill at ease; however, the most common method of decaffeination, known as water processing, uses all natural substances including water (which acts as a solvent) and charcoal (which captures the caffeine).
Unfortunately, charcoal captures all kinds of chemical compounds from the beans which may impact flavor. Caffeine-targeted solvents such methylene chloride are used in the direct solvent method where caffeine is extracted by the solvent itself with no intermediate required. Most dramatic and exciting is perhaps the supercritical carbon dioxide method which forces carbon dioxide into a liquid-like state at pressures hundreds of times greater than atmospheric pressure so it can act as a highly effective caffeine solvent.
To dive into the nitty-gritty details of these processes, check out this article from Scientific American. And don’t be too put off by talk of ‘chemical processes’ - remember, the act of brewing itself is a chemical process!
Potential Benefits of Decaf
Decaffeinated coffee also has potential flavor benefits. Caffeine itself is very bitter and contributes this to the flavor profile. By removing the caffeine, one effectively removes a major bitter component. Of course, proper brewing techniques can help reduce bitterness overall, and some might view caffeine’s contribution as an essential part of the flavor. However, for those who like the smell of coffee but not the taste, a quality origin decaf roasted by your local coffee roaster might be worth a try!
As always, if you're looking for quality decaf, or any finely roasted coffee, check out your local coffee roaster using the Van. Island Coffee Tour Map. Travel safe and brew on!
The Aeropress came crashing on to the specialty coffee scene at Seattle's CoffeeFest in 2005; designed by retired Stanford engineer and coffee-lover Alan Adler, the aim was to achieve greater control over the many variables that affect brew quality. Marketed as a portable ‘espresso style’ coffee maker (though not technically espresso, as we learned here), the Aeropress is perhaps one of the most popular, and certainly one of the most affordable, quality brewing devices in cafes and kitchens across the globe. In this article, we will explore three different brewing methods for achieving exceptional coffee using the Aeropress.
Method #1 - The Original
The original Aeropress recipe is both simple and elegant: place the Aeropress on top of your cup with a fresh filter in place. Pour your coffee grounds into the press (either 14 g by weight or by simply using the included Aeropress scoop), followed by hot water (~95C / 203F) up to the #2 mark on the side of the chamber. Stir fast for 30 seconds then insert the plunger, expelling the rest of the remaining water as you press down. To clean the Aeropress, simply unscrew the cap and use the plunger to remove the cylindrically packed grinds into your organics bin. That’s it!
The main advantages from a brewing perspective are the narrow brew-time window, added pressure to increase extraction, and a fine paper filter for a smooth, clean cup of coffee every time. Practical advantages include portability, an efficient grind-to-flavor ratio, and a no-mess clean up.
Method #2 - The Inversion
A friend of mine recently complained that his Aeropress brews were too weak. After a brief discussion, it was clear that the water was running through the grinds too quickly, an issue that could probably be solved by dialing in the grind. However, another solution to Aeropress brews that taste too ‘thin’ is to use the Inversion Method, my personal favorite.
For this method, begin with the plunger inserted about ¼ inch and place the Aeropress upside down on the table, lid off. Pour your grinds in, followed by hot water, as before. However, this time let the coffee sit longer; set a timer for anywhere from one to two minutes (or longer - feel free to experiment!) to extract a greater depth of flavor. When your timer goes off, place a filter in the lid, wet it, and screw it in. Immediately flip the device onto your coffee mug and then press out the whole brew at once. Viola!
The advantage of the Inversion Method is two-fold. First, you get more of the late-stage brewing flavors which can lead to the brew feeling more ‘full’ or ‘developed’ on your palate. Second, all the water is exposed to the coffee grinds for a much narrower range of time (i.e. the time it takes to flip the Aeropress and depress the plunger) which helps to optimize the consistency of your brews.
Method #3 - The Cold Brew
Cold Brew coffee is most popular during the hot days of summer and can be achieved using your Aeropress. The basic idea is to use larger grinds in cold (or room temperature) water over a long period of time (i.e. hours, not minutes). If you are interested in experimenting with cold brew, or are a long-time Aeropress brewer who wants to try something new, give this cold brew recipe from European Coffee Trip a whirl.
Place your coarsely ground coffee beans into an inverted Aeropress with the plunger inserted about ¼ inch. Fill the chamber up to the 4 mark (~200 mL) with cold or room temperature water. Place a dry filter in the lid and screw on (to prevent spills) then store for 12 hours either on the counter or in the fridge. I recommend unscrewing the lid and wetting the filter with cold water, replacing it on the Aeropress before flipping it on to your mug and fully depressing the plunger. Add a patio with a view of the ocean on a hot summer day and you are all set!
Of course, these three methods are just the beginning of all the brewing bliss you can achieve with the Aeropress. Weighing out your coffee with a scale, using a professional burr grinder, and experimenting with brew time can all aid in consistently bringing out the best flavor in your coffee. However you make your coffee, buy it local, travel safe, and brew on!
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?
Tag your coffee discovery posts with the hashtag #VICT to join the tour!
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!
VICT Discover Coffee Trip Itineraries:
Feature Roast Series:
Tag your coffee stop with #VICT to join in!
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.