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.
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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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.
Nothing says West Coast living like waking up at the edge of the Pacific Rainforest looking out over a rocky beach to a rumbling swell. And what better compliment to that view than a finely brewed cup of coffee?
From adventures to Nels Bight near Cape Scott, Mystic Beach on the Juan de Fuca trail, or Beale Cove on Texada Island, morning coffee on the beach always tops my highlight list. Admittedly, I do get a bit of side-eye from friends and fellow campers when I pull out my Aeropress, my Hario hand grinder, and my JetBoil; however, the offer of a finely brewed cup of coffee as the sun rises over the waves never fails to win them over.
Many backpackers forgo their usual brewing methods on the trail, opting for instant coffee or tea to satisfy their caffeine fix. However, there are some very light and portable brewing options for adventurous nature lovers across the island and beyond. I'll give a quick highlight here of three ways to brew better coffee on the beach as you explore Vancouver Island.
Ah, the Aeropress: simple, yet effective. This brewing device is light and portable, using both immersion and pressure to maximize extraction. The small, circular paper filters are easy to pack as long as you can keep them dry, ensuring a crystal clear brew with sharp flavors and next to no sediment. In terms of technique, the Aeropress is “low floor, high ceiling”, producing excellent brews even for novice coffee makers with room to expand and experiment. Calgary roasters Phil & Sebastian can get you started with some Aeropress basics.
This Japanese-designed pour-over coffee device won the coveted Good Design Award in 2007. The Hario V60 is named for the sixty degree angle of the conical sides which helps to optimize water flow during percolation. The portability of this device is attractive to many, though it demands much more in terms of technique. Brews are clean and full of flavor but highly susceptible to issues such as channeling, grind overflow, or errors in pouring technique. With patience and practice, you can wield the V60 like a pro with a little help from the experts at Union Hand-Roasted Coffee.
Ok, ok, hear me out. Old fashioned brew methods such as Cowboy Coffee, a descendent of more traditional preparations such as Turkish coffee, are often frowned upon by those who consider themselves coffee connoisseurs. However, in terms of measurable extraction, veterans at Barista Hustle believe there may be no better option than these traditional coffee brewing practices. What may appeal to hardcore and ultralight hikers about this technique is that it requires no extra equipment. Learn the good, the bad, and the ugly of Cowboy Coffee brewing techniques from Driftaway Coffee.
No matter how far or how wide you wander across Vancouver Island or up the strait, no beach is too remote for a good cup of coffee. If you can spare the weight, it is well worth it. Pair that with locally roasted beans using the Vancouver Island Coffee Tour Map and you're all set for a transcendent coffee experience on the beach. Travel safe and brew on!
The sad fact is that most people drink terrible coffee.
Stale beans, burnt roasts, and poor brewing methods produce a bitter flavor; this bitterness stimulates stomach acid production which then leads to an unpleasant assortment of digestive discomforts affectionately termed ‘gut rot’ by the coffee community. Some bury the bitterness in cream and sugar; others stubbornly drink it black to prove their mettle.
Despite all this, many still enjoy coffee as a beverage. Whether because of emotional associations, cultural customs, or an acquired caffeine dependency, coffee is intricately stitched into our daily life. The good news is this: coffee does not have to taste terrible, nor does it have to make your stomach feel upset. Though the art of brewing requires a lifetime to master, I believe there are three basic coffee concepts that will spur novice coffee drinkers on to intrepid amateurs.
Coffee Concept #1: You cannot extract a high quality cup of coffee from a low quality bean.
Mass market coffee blends, pre-ground and sold in large tins at the grocery store, are problematic for several reasons, most prominently because they are sourced from so many locations. Some farms may have good crops, some poor, but inevitably the coffee quality falls to the lowest batch in the bin. Without getting too technical, high quality coffees are graded using a Q score; this standard, set out by the Coffee Quality Institute, is a grade out of 100 points. Any coffee rated 80 or above is considered specialty with a guaranteed baseline quality. Local and small batch roasters usually source their specialty coffee beans from a single origin; this means they can be confident of the quality of the whole batch because they bought their coffee from a specific farm. Therefore, it is important to purchase beans from a source that guarantees quality from the start. In most cases, your local coffee roaster is your best bet.
Concept #2: Even high quality coffee beans can be ruined with a poor roast.
Local coffee roasters are artisans of the highest degree and are constantly roasting fresh batches of coffee. The smaller scale of their operations actually allows them to hone the roast to perfection, whereas industrial roasting methods for mass market beans typically err on the side of being overdone or even burnt. Worse, fine grinds and long stretches of time spent in transit and sitting on the grocery store shelf exacerbates staleness. Local cafes can grind whole beans for you which should be brewed within two months of the roast date for optimal freshness. Explore local light, medium, and dark roasts to discover your preferred flavor profile.
Concept #3: Your brewing method either maximizes or minimizes a coffee’s potential.
Extraction is the process of dissolving the wide array of delicious flavor components out of the coffee bean and into water as it brews. Poorly extracted coffee is a tragedy; the excellent flavor and craftmanship of the perfectly roasted bean is left in the grinds as the taster gets a paltry shadow of what the coffee could truly be. Many modern brewing techniques help optimize extraction (a subject for future articles). If you’ve never heard of an Aeropress, the Japanese-designed Hario V60, or the Moka Pot, you might be surprised at the reasonable price-point for these options designed to optimize your extraction. Each requires a bit of practice and specific types of grinds, but the flavor difference is well worth the investment of time.
Coffee is a part of our culture, a daily ritual for some and a social rite for others. No matter when you drink your coffee, consider enriching your experience by employing these three essential coffee concepts. As always, travel safe and brew on!
For some, brewing and drinking coffee is a sacred solo ritual; for others, it is an essential element in the act of gathering. In either case the coffee experience is an intrinsic opening of the soul, like a prism bending light into its full spectrum of colours. Where we drink it, when we drink it, why we drink it all reflect who we are at our core. It offers a sense of place, grounding us as we greet the glow of dawn, as we face another turbulent hour, or as we ponder our day in the calm of dusk.
I truly believe that living local starts with coffee. More acutely, local coffee roasters and the cafes that grind, brew, and serve their coffee offer a vivid slice of local life unlike any other. The intensity of authentic experience at these community hubs is akin to a perfect shot of espresso, a shot that could not be drawn so perfectly any other place but there. Yet too many, whether long-time locals or welcome visitors, settle for stale coffee, sloppy brews, and generic coffee experiences identically replicated across the country like cheap plastic souvenirs. Coffee can be so much more.
The Vancouver Island Coffee Tour is a treasure map of sorts, a self-guided quest for seekers of flavour and meaning. Here you may discover cups of bliss in your local community that you never knew existed. Take it with you on your journeys up the wild coast or while island hopping through the Strait of Georgia. Support local roasters, share your experiences here, and rekindle a feeling of human connection with both your local community and those you visit. Most importantly, don’t settle for bad coffee; to do so is only to cheat yourself of all that the communities across this incredible island have to offer. Until our next meeting, travel safe and brew on.
VICT Discover Coffee Trip Itineraries:
Feature Roast Series:
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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.