- Created: Wednesday, 26 May 2004 14:50
- Written by Colin
The guide to what's hot in the Victoria B.C. Canada's cafe scene - Updated January 2020
(This list was created in the Spring of 1995 - and has been read by millions!)
Have you been wondering where the best Cafes and are in Victoria, B.C. and the surrounding area on Vancouver Island? Look no further!
This is the definitive guide to coffee and espresso in Victoria B.C. Canada - This Cafe Scene has been in print (on line) since 1995! Trust the coffee crew team for the bottom line on who is serving the best bean!
If I have missed a cafe or some detail or another, please e-mail me and I will fix it. If there is something you love or hate about the cafe scene in Victoria, make sure you bring it up with us.
If you are coming into one of these cafes for the first time (or a repeat visit) please let them know that you saw them on the CoffeeCrew.Com website! Thanks!
This collection of observations has been built from consumer reviews and personal visits. We visit these cafes a minimum of 5 times with at least 6 reports from other consumers before we offer an opinion.
What qualifies Colin to review coffee houses you ask? Good question. He has been drinking coffee in Victoria since the 1980's.
Photo upper right - Esquimalt Roasting Company! Greg Sherwell has created the miracle on Esquimalt Road! Fresh and delicious micro-roasted coffee!
What's new! Some cafes that we are reviewing regularly...
- Esquimalt Roasting Company - The Esquimalt community will notice change in local coffee has indeed come.
Located at 1207B Esquimalt Road, ERC is the creation of Greg Sherwell and his wife, who wanted to make a unique contribution to the community. As Greg explained to me, over splendid cups of espresso, "I'm on a learning curve in this wonderful coffee community and hope to make a special contribution to the neighbourhood..." Yes sir, you most certainly have!
- Hide and Seek Coffee - 2207 Oak Bay Avenue - in the Village - featuring Caffe Fantastico coffee. I have been here once and will return. It is a very warm space and a welcome addition at the inner core of Oak Bay village. They have a passionate collection of staff and an owner that was associated with Caffe Fantastico so he knows what he is doing.
- Bows and Arrows Coffee - Very much like some of the cafe roasters in the Industrial neighbourhoods of San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, Bows and Arrows is definitely a "search to find" kind of place - but worth the effort with spot on drip/pour brews and espresso drinks. They are open 7:30 AM until 3 PM doing a whole bean service and some coffee grear as well.
- PicNic Coffee - Two locations on Fort Street - 506 and 1021 Fort Street - Perhaps one of the big draws here are the Empire Doughnuts - but their breakfasts and lunches look pretty darn sassy. Doughnuts sell out quickly at their 7:30 opening at the Upper Fort location. The coffee is awesome - no question there. They do a doughnut and coffee deal for $5 that is hard to beat. OK - I have been here 10 or 15 times. Times to promote them to the master list below!
- Hey Happy! Coffee Unit 122 - 500 Block of Lower Johnson Street (Old Town - Market Square) Rob Kettner at the helm (formerly of Fernwood Coffee) runs this narrow and hip joint featuring some of the best coffees of the Northwest; Ritual, Heart Coffee Portland, Phil and Sebastion of Calgary, etc - selections always changing - great tea selection being added now. They do pours, Aeropress and some pretty off the wall and leading edge mash ups of your favorites. 2020 Update! They are expanding! Reno happening now -- Doubling their size!
- Cafe 1891 - 460 Pandora and Wharf - Been there once. Great location by the Johnson Street Bridge in the Janion Building - great coffee and baked goodies from Fol Epi! Check out the real cool Korean restaurant right next door.
- Union Pacific Coffee - located at 537 Herald Street - I have not been in this place more than once and SHAME ON ME! It's awesome. Great brewed coffee and espresso beverages and lots of food for shacking! A more comprehensive follow-up shortly!
- Fernwood Coffee Company - Parsonage Cafe - 1105 Caledonia & Cook Street (Upper Cook Street Village) - the folks at Fernwood Coffee company are on the ball with great coffee and good eats. They totally make the grade! You can find Fernwood Coffee on the grocers shelves of Thrifty Foods and The Root Cellar to name a few. The beans are generally very fresh and very tasty.
- Fairfield Branch Coffee - It is a little place tucked behind Fairfield Ave and Irving... where the old school pharmacy/drug store is... Have poked my head in once but have not sat down for a coffee yet.
- Yoka's Coffee, Honey, Chocolate and Tea. A Vancouver Kits classic comes to Mason Street in Victoria - Yoka Coffee has been in the business for decades in Vancouver before moving from the hip and tony neighnorhood of West 4th. They feature a classic drum roaster and a dozen or so featured single origins roasted in some pretty classic styles.
- Shatterbox coffee - At the Hudson Public Market. This is one of Victoria's smallest cafes - but don't let the size fool you. 1st rate coffee and espresso service! They carry Drumroaster Coffee and have a European style espresso service. They are awesome and deserve your full attention!
- Township Coffee- Finally - Great coffee comes to Gordon Head. Featuring Caffe Fantastico coffee - and some great breads, muffins and soups. At the corner of San Juan and Tyndall in Gordon Head. Erik holds court here and is very passionate about the coffee business as are his staff.
- Taste Coffee - Fort and Foul Bay - I have been in once and need to return - Looks hopeful. Coffee by Drumroaster!
- The Coffee Lab - 2612 Bridge Street - They are a coffee roaster and a cafe in one of Victoria's coolest neighborhoods. We love this place so much we reviewed them on our blog over here.
Geir Oglend was involved in the coffee industry long before it was coffee in North America. "Coffee culture" was not even a thing yet.
Through his 35 year long quest to provide great coffee and service to all those who desire, Geir's travels through Europe have included many visits to espresso manufacturers in Italy as early as 1987, and many, many times since then.
Geir has been involved in selling, installing, and servicing approximately two hundred espresso machines and other coffee-related pieces of equipment on Vancouver Island, Canada, and has trained well over five hundred individuals in the art of making Italian coffee drinks.
In addition to this, he has provided sales and service for such fine companies as La Cimbali and Rancilio. If you are thinking of building a cafe somewhere in North America, there are few experts more suited to steering you in the right direction than Geir!
As a cabinet maker with his own complete cabinet shop, he is available to provide his services in aspects such as building, construction consultation including design and layout, of any coffee-related retail outlet.
The Cowichan Bay location is a mecca for all things coffee - they even have a new roaster room, lab and show room making more room in the main cafe for customers - for a cafe roaster that is slightly out of the way, this place really packs them in from all over the Island.
Open since 2007, the Drumroaster continues to be a hub of activity for the region, offering the best possible coffee experience. Everything is baked or prepared in-house and that is one of many reasons I give "The Drumroaster" the top pick for Vancouver Island
The Drumroaster Cafe is a must-visit for any coffee lovers visiting Vancouver Island! Expect fast moving line ups and lots of happy faces!
Habit Cafe and Culture - 522 Pandora(note update) and Yates & Blanshard Atrium
Shane Devereaux (and his skilled associates) pilot Habit on Pandora in Victoria's historic old-town. And despite the fact that Victoria has some destination coffee shops in the downtown "area", there are few, if any, that are absolute must-visits in the core.
2020 Update -- there may be some changes made with the 522 Pandora location in the very near future.
Habit Cafe and Culture stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of 2% Jazz, Disco on Discovery and, if you are a Vancouver resident, the likes of the Elysian Room, Revolver and Matchstick.
Habit Cafe and Culture is the kind of no-nonsense specialty coffee place you would find on the streets of Vancouver, Seattle or Portland. It's all about the coffee and espresso based drinks here folks. The Habit is an unusually spacious entity that caters to the social experience surrounding specialty coffee; conversation, meditation and education. In fact, they used to do public coffee tasting seminars on Tuesdays (and they might still). And if you really, really love your cup of Joe, it might be worth your while to take your knowledge base to the next level.
Habit Cafe and Culture on Pandora (a location whose days may be numbered) below Government Street is a fine example of the next generation of specialty coffee spaces - where knowledge is about as important as the finished product.
I have been to Habit over 100 times now - and there is no question: It's is hipster central for the specialty coffee scene. This is the place to see and be seen.
The Vibe: Habit Coffee represents the monsters of cool. By merely drinking coffee at HABIT, you become cooler, younger and sexier. Heck, being there even fixes dysfunctional elements in my childhood - and that says something! This is the place for young hipsters, sexy happy people - and the coffee is always leading edge - which contributes to the overall groove. So come on down and see what all the cool is about.
Locations - Pandora below Government Street | Yates and Blanshard at the Atrium |
Discovery Coffee - 600 Block Discovery (at Government Street) - Oak Bay and Amphion - Blanshard and Broughton - and James Bay! 2020 updates!
Discovery Coffee on Discovery Avenue (at Douglas) is now anchored by Logan and his team of the cities best baristas. They are roasting in-store, brewing with a Synesso and the cities only Clover Coffee Brewer. The Oak Bay location has a siphon bar and does Hario pour-over as well!
2020 update - there is a new roastery afoot and an education centre -- updates when they come in.
Often considered among the most social of coffee joints, Discovery Coffee in Victoria is a prime example of cafe destination! Make it part of your coffee journey. They are well known for coordinating and hosting barista thrown downs and special coffee events.
Now also open on Blanshard Street and Broughton Street junction and Oak Bay Avenue at Amphion! 7-7 7 Days a week!
Discovery coffee features the awesome Yonni's Doughnuts! You have been warned!
Photo left: Former Barista Paul enjoys a brief break in the action at Discovery Coffee. If you are looking for the best coffee in town -- or a place that prides itself on not serving a bad cup of coffee... then Discovery Coffee is for you. No excuses. No nonsense. This is the place.
Locations - Discovery Street at Douglas | Oak Bay Avenue at Amphion | Menzies St - James Bay | Blanshard and Broughton across from the Royal Theatre.
The Stick in the Mud - Eustace Ave, Sooke Village, Sooke B.C.
David Evans shares his passion for the bean with every customer - his motto appears to be: No beverage less than the beverage before it and every drink unique to the needs of the customer.
I have been to the Stick about 20 times now - which qualifies it for the honor roll you see here.
What I find interesting is that - not only has Sooke adapted itself to The Stick Cafe, but the opposite has applied as well.
Specialty coffee is relatively new to this West Coast community but the residents have taken to David's brand of the brew as if they have always had great coffee.
And great coffee and espresso it is! Baked goods prepared on location are a must-have as well.
The Stick in the Mud cafe is at 6715 Eustace Ave, a right turn on Otter Point road in the Sooke village if you are coming in from Victoria... and then a quick left.
Coffee is roasted in house by David Evans and crew and is top notch. The Stick in the Mud is one of Sooke's main coffee spots, is full appreciated by the local community - and is generally packed during "Sooke Coffee Time..." which is pretty much all the time!
The Stick in the Mud cafe is open 7 days a week. Blog and audio interview here.
2% Jazz - Hillside & Douglas and the Hudson building - Douglas & Fisgard!
Sam Jones (photo-right) often holds down the morning shift at the Douglas Street 2% Jazz - one of Victoria's smallest and spunkiest espresso joints
There are cafes and there are cafes. 2% Jazz is one the better cafes the city of Victoria has to offer.
Decor: The Douglas and Hillside location is a hit with neighborhood journalists and staff from the local paper, the Times-Colonist. 2% is a great place to hang out and wait for a bus or read the paper if your so inclined. With Sam at the bar, expect good espresso based drinks.
Seating is tight and there is always a crowd.
The new location at the Hudson Building is bright, airy and spacious - great baked selections and coffee poured a variety of neat ways - including HARIO. Open late at least 5 nights a week. Til 10 PM. The Hudson is also their roasting location and the location for the soon to be open Hudson Public Market! -- it will be the first full on Farmers Market in Victoria since 1958! Been waiting a long time for that.
Sam Jones, runner-up for North-Americas best barista at a past 1990's SCAA conference in San Francisco, covers the AM shift. Come on down and taste what coffee is really about!
The Coffee: His espresso shots and caffeine-powered attitude is first-rate! 2% Jazz uses the innovative Synesso espresso machine with modified 'bottom-less portafilters' for a truly leading-edge experience. In 15 years of drinking espresso in Victoria, 2% Jazz hits the target 100% of the time. If you are visiting Victoria from somewhere else or are looking for the truly perfect espresso experience, visit 2% Jazz!
Current Locations - The Hudson on Fisgard - 1701 Douglas Street and the new 105-740 Hillside Ave. Midtown 2% Jazz next to the Long & McQuade at the Hillside Junction.
Ryan and Kristi Taylor roast and serve some of Victoria's better bean on-site. The drip coffee is top notch and espresso is some of the best in town.
Caffe Fantastico has expanded its Kings Street location to fill and need and hold itself firmly as the signature gathering place for the Quadra community. The Dockside green location now includes a Charcuterie/Deli right on the bike trails!
Best bean: Causeway blend is among the best espresso in the city. Whether you brew at home or have it in-cafe, it cannot be beat. The aged Sumatra (when available) is superb and flavorful to the point of distraction. As they have expanded and improved upon an already exemplary selection of great coffees, CF continues to be near the front of the pack where great taste and sustainability is paramount.
History: I have been buying coffee from Ryan since he was selling it out of his back yard (around 1994-95!). There isn't better bean in the city. Ryan, Kristie and the team at CF care about coffee. So much so, that they have not gone the way of some other local outfits who boost production beyond their capacity to train, support and educate. Volume and quality rarely go hand in hand in the world of great coffee.
Derrick is now handling the bulk of the roasting at C.F. and is doing a fabulous job. CF is number one for fresh roasted coffee on Vancouver Island!
Tres' Fantastico is open on Humboldt featuring food, liquor and evening meals - so not really in the full cafe category but an awesome place to grab one of their great coffees and sit in the hotel lobby where they are located.
They now have a signature location at Dockside Green alongside the also new Fol Epi bakery - It is arguably the best view in town - with some highly competent coffee thrown in for good measure.
Caffe Fantastico also sells hardware, coffee brewers, filters and grinders at its flagship Kings Street location.
Locations - Kings and Quadra Roastery | Fol Epi Dockside Green 102-398 Harbour Road | Tre Fantastico 810 Humboldt Full service bistro
No question here - This is one of the best coffeehouses for conversation and people watching!
One of Victoria's better cafes is in the heart of China town on Fisgard up from Wharf Street. The coffee is fresh and roasted on premises. They have organic whole bean coffees and 'bird friendly' eco-sensitive Java.
Bean around the World is one of Victoria's busier coffee shops/espresso joints with an older and loyal following. There is rarely a spare seat but everyone seems willing to share if there is a chair. Their staff are among the most dedicated, competent and enthusiastic.
Decor: Wild-west rustic. Do not expect hip, cool, edgy or leading edge. Move on if that is what you are looking for.
Coffee: Always spot on fresh. Espresso based beverages always reproduced faithfully and consistently. I have never had a bad coffee here.
Food: Great panini sandwiches folks!
Colin lives and works in Victoria B.C. Canada - Colin can be seen wandering the streets of Victoria with an empty cup and a camera looking for honestly good coffee and espresso. His current brewers include the Hario, an AeroPress, a NewCo OCS-8 and OCS-12, numerous french-presses, and stovetops. Grinder: Rancilio Rocky and Baratza Virtuoso, Vario and numerous manual Hario grinders. I generally do not brew espresso anywhere...