meander | Vancouver coffee shop adventures
I believe that the best travel adventures are discovered on a whim, without a plan.
Albeit, so are the worst travel disasters, but I still take my chances. And so, when a friend of mine shared with me an approach that she often takes to travelling that involves handing over the reins to a complete stranger, I was all ears.
Here's my take on it ...
Noun: a circuitous journey, especially an aimless one
Verb: to wander at random
- Go somewhere that is of interest to you - don't overthink it
- While you're there, ask someone where you ought to go next - setting parameters, if you must
- Go do that thing
- Meander ensues
- Repeat steps 1 - 4 to your heart's content
Upon discovering this new concept, I felt eager to try it out. To narrow down the scope of my options, I decided on a theme: Coffee Shops.
I ♡ coffee shops
I love coffee shops because they make me feel good. Not unlike myself, they thrive on indulgence, comfort and connection. As an expression of the community surrounding them, they offer their guests a sense of identity and belonging. In my experience, a good coffee shop feels like coming home.
In our fast paced world, you may be tempted to grab your coffee and go. Many companies are catering to this trend, offering order / pay ahead features to ensure that you get in and out as quickly and with as little interaction as possible. I find this incredibly disheartening. Rather than relying on coffee to fuel us forward, why not appreciate it as an opportunity to relax, connect and slow down instead?
In Sweden, there's a word for this: FIKA
Quite simply, to fika is to chat over coffee and a pastry. It's revolutionary! I could fika all. day. long. But I'll settle for a fika a day.
Here in Vancouver, we love coffee and the shops that serve it to us in every way imaginable. Each neighbourhood boasts more independent coffee shops than we could possibly know what to do with, and therein lies the problem: How do we nail down a selection when the options are seemingly endless?
Vancouver coffee shop Meandering
To create this experience, I used three parameters:
- Coffee shop
- Novel experience
I started out at Propaganda Coffee and over the course of the week I encountered a pop-up coffee shop, a newly opened hotspot and what could be Mount Pleasant's best kept secret. Each discovery had its own personality and I would recommend it for different reasons, although they each shared three essential components:
quality, collaboration and passion
- Propaganda Coffee
- Moving Coffee Roastery
- Nemesis Coffee
- Federal Store
CHINATOWN - 209 E PENDER ST
Focus meets inspiration in a beautiful & modern space
If you're looking for a sleek space in which to focus your attention, this is it. Whether that involves getting work done or having an intimate conversation between close friends, at Propaganda you’ll be immersed in community without being distracted by it.
This is one of my favourite coffee shops to visit, for a variety of reasons. First of all, they carry coffee from some of the top roasters in Vancouver and they brew it to perfection. They even offer drip coffee which is not the norm for these trendy pour over spots. It never fails to thrill me when they take the time to heat the mug before adding my coffee. The baristas are friendly but not exaggeratedly so - they clearly know their stuff and are way cooler than me but at least they're not pretentious about it. What really sets this place apart is the atmosphere. There is a lot of space but it never feels vacant. It's elegant, well lit and modern and the music sits comfortably without being distracting or sleep inducing. Although I do get carried away by the sax from time to time ...
Recommended brew: Ethiopia pour over from Bows + Arrows
Food: Small selection, all delicious and baked in house. If you fancy a light snack, try the ham and cheese croissant or a lemon ricotta muffin!
Wi-fi / plug ins / workspace: All available - including large communal tables - it's an ideal workspace environment.
Seating: Plenty to go around
Music: Instrumental / ambient / upbeat
OLYMPIC VILLAGE - 64 E 3RD AVE
The best coffee in town hidden in plain sight
Moving Coffee is the perfect place for anyone who loves discovering gems hiding inconspicuously in their backyard. Come here to be inspired by passion and blown away by quality.
As someone whose heart years to discover places unknown, I knew I'd be in for a treat at this "pop up" coffee shop. I entered with giddy anticipation and swooned over each novelty I uncovered from there on out. From the coffee list tacked to the fridge, to the open concept bakery and the owner's instruction that I "smell the pot" upon finishing my coffee, it somehow lived up to my expectations. Up until a few months ago, Edmund (the owner) had been running a pop-up coffee shop on the weekends while juggling a full-time job for over a year. Upon realizing his sincere passion for roasting and serving high quality coffee, he took a leap of faith by quitting his job to partner with Fife Bakery and run Moving Coffee full-time. Edmund is one of only 3500 Q Graders on the planet and he roasts all of the coffee himself on-site. Like the Swedes, he understands that great coffee is best paired with great pastries and good company. Along with Fife Bakery, Moving Coffee has nailed down the formula to high-quality indulgence.
Recommended brew: Barista's choice! You really can't go wrong ... according to Vancouver Coffee Snob this is where you'll find the best coffee in Vancouver, or perhaps in Canada!
Food: Try a fresh baked cookie or a "coffee bun" - a sweet bun with coconut cream filling and espresso bit topping - brought to you by Fife Bakery
Wi-fi / plug ins / workspace: Not available
Seating: Limited - come for the coffee and the novelty then be on your way :)
Music: Hypnotic, fills the space without being intrusive
GASTOWN - 302 W HASTINGS ST
"Coffee creating culture" at a buzzworthy hotspot
If you're someone who likes to stay on top of the latest and greatest, you'll want to make Nemesis your next stop. After opening only just a few weeks ago, it's the most talked about spot in town. It seems to me that it has earned the hype.
As soon as I walked through the door the owner Cole came rushing to greet me, as he did for each guest that followed. After chatting with him only briefly it was clear that he's a visionary who strongly values collaboration and quality. Nemesis may seem to be an overnight success, but make no mistake, a year's worth of dedication and planning went into opening its doors. The space is clean, bright and open; the decor is minimal without lacking character - not one thing is out of place. Details for every coffee they carry and each piece of equipment they use are laid out neatly on take home info cards for their guests. Cole and I talked at length about the best spots in town and he happily listed off several recommendations. I believe that businesses thrive when they are truly committed to helping their communities thrive. Nemesis is no exception.
Recommended brew: Mocha - It comes with a mini shortbread cookie topped with torched marshmallows and a hazelnut chocolate spread. YUM.
Food: You're in good hands with chef from Wildebeest behind the wheel. They have a wide variety of treats as wells as more substantial bites, all decadent and adventurous. Try the roasted squash goat cheese and shallot scone or for something sweet, a chocolate cashew and smoked salt cookie.
Wi-fi / plug ins / workspace: Wi-fi and good workspaces available, although I wouldn't recommend coming here to get work done - it's busy!
Seating: Plenty of space / seating, although depending on the timing you may end up scrounging for a spot.
Music: Dream like with a steady beat - think Sigur Rós. It eats up the noise of steady chatter quite well.
MOUNT PLEASANT - 2601 QUEBEC ST
Travel back in time to nourish your soul
This winter has been a hard one for every brave Vancouverite - some days getting out of the house is an accomplishment in itself. If the rainy days have got you down then Federal Store has you covered. This sweet corner store tucked just behind Main Street serves up a much needed dose of self care.
Before making my way to Federal Store I had been feeling low and was seriously considering skipping out on this final stop. But I pushed through and thank goodness for that! This place was the perfect pick me up. As to be expected, this lunch counter + grocer has a great selection of nourishing bites, both big and small. They brew Bows + Arrows coffee here - one of my favourites - and they brew it well. The retro grocery store appeal is delivered perfectly and leaves the impression of stepping back in time. The air feels light and free. The staff are lovely. This place is simply wonderful.
Recommended brew: keep it simple with a latte or an Americano
Food: So many great options! If you're hungry, try the soup and fresh baked bread topped with avocado. Or, if you're craving something sweet, try the cardamon knot! It's superbly decadent.
Wi-fi / plug ins / workspace: No / no / no ... we've stepped back in time, remember? Those things don't exist.
Seating: Limited but shouldn't be an issue as this spot is hidden only slightly off the Main Street grid and behind the persona of a grocery store. If you find yourself waiting for a seat, not to worry! Take the opportunity to browse the charming grocery selection where you're sure to discover some specialty snacks. Like the jalapeno lemon cashew dip!
Music: Upbeat, funky and fun! That latin beat keeps you feelin' good.