5 Compelling Vancouver Coffeehouses + Bonus Options

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Coffee Vancouver

49th Parallel espresso

View Vancouver Coffeehouses in a larger map

Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Establishments also appear in alphabetical order instead of in order of preference.

It’s pretty much universally accepted at this point that Seattle and Portland have destination coffeehouses, but their Pacific Northwest neighbor to the north – Vancouver – has developed a vital coffee culture of its own. My most recent visit included eight coffee stops, all based on advice from locals, with several cups yielded compelling results.

1. Caffe Cittadella

Last August, former Caffe Artigiano General Manager Dejan Bozic opened an espresso bar and bistro in Shaw House, one of the first homes built on Vancouver’s Fairview Slopes, in 1894. In Italy, a Cittadella is fortified city on a hill that’s protected from marauders, and the goatteed owner added that since they’re surrounded by modern buildings, people can come for an escape. Bozic lived in Bologna for 16 years, so the coffeehouse has somewhat of an Italian aesthetic, including a three-group Victoria Arduino espresso machine with glowing lettering. Each shot of 49th Parallel espresso comes with a small bar of 72% dark chocolate, and pastries are baked in-house.

2. Elysian Coffee

Alistair Durie debuted the Elysian Room downtown about 12 years ago, and almost a decade later, he followed up with Elysian Coffee on Broadway. His modern, glass-fronted coffee bar features banquette and counter seating and a clear emphasis on education. One-sheets describe La Tortuga and El Machete coffees from Intelligentsia, laid out on the curved bar, along with bowls of roasted beans and photos of coffee sorting line the walls, all designed to build dialogue. Baristi like Nate, who’s been with Elysian for three years and is studying painting at nearby Emily Carr University, pull shots on a three-group espresso machine. They also brew coffee on twin Clovers and sell Kones, but during my June 3 visit, they were on the verge of removing the Clover machines and switching to a Kone pourover bar.

3. 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters

The company leading the Vancouver coffee movement seems to be 49th Parallel, which was founded by Caffe Artigiano co-founder Vince Piccolo and supplies a lot of other top area coffeehouses. They roast beans in Burnaby, and have a single coffeehouse, in Kitsilano, with a brown and sky blue color scheme, high ceilings and banquette seating, though they’re apparently opening a second coffeehouse in 2012, in a still undisclosed location.

Coffee Vancouver

Barista Conrad Brown, who’s been with 49th Parallel since the shop’s September 2007 debut, pulled me a shot of Epic Espresso on a deluxe three-group Mirage machine, engineered by Kees Vanderwestin in Holland. The Epic blend changes seasonally.



Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Just wanted to say thank you for including us in this. All of us at Galileo Coffee!


Happy to include Galileo. Your shop was a welcome sight and respite. on the drive from Vancouver to Whistler.

Beanbuyer has a good point: Starbucks was the one to start cafe culture in Vancouver. They opened their first Canadian store in Vancouver, WAAAAY back in 1987. Starbucks tested a number new concepts in Vancouver that were very unique at the time. The famous Starbucks concept of two franchises of the same brand right across from one another was tested first in Vancouver, at the intersection of Robson and Thurlow. Starbucks also developed the innovation of a franchise cafe inside a big box book store, where the Chapters bookstore chain had a Starbucks cafe at nearly every location. All of these were tested first in Vancouver.

But hey, you were looking at independent cafes, right? Well, how the heck did you happen to miss JJBean?!?! http://www.jjbeancoffee.com/ Over 11 stores in the Vancouver area, the cafes look great, the roast is decent and drinkable, and all done by hardworking East Van kids. Can’t believe you stayed in Vancouver in two days, and missed JJBean.


Thanks for providing more context. I actually did try JJ Bean coffee, at Lift in Whistler. Pretty good experience right near the gondola. If you’re ever up that way, you might enjoy that coffeehouse. And yes, I was focused on independent cafes.

So of the top 5, one is not a 49th venture (Elysian). Top 5? Artigiano “kickstarted specialty coffee movement in Vancouver”??? (actual quote is kickstared) Starbucks, sadly, was the kickstart and anyone who has been there longer than the 2010 bid knows this. Really, top 5? There are so many roasters there and you pick the easiest and most popular. Some expose! I suppose if I put burger into this food gps it would take me to Mc D’s… tabloid spectacular, you teach nothing.


I made a point of not calling these coffeehouses the Top 5 in Vancouver, since I was only able to visit a cross-section over two days, but they are all “compelling” for different reasons, which I stated. Which other Vancouver coffeehouses/roasters would you suggest people visit? If you’re going to be critical, that’s fine, but at least offer “better” alternatives.

Also, Starbucks isn’t local to Vancouver, and while important, really belongs to an earlier generation of specialty coffee development.

Thanks for correcting me on “kickstarted.” I changed it from “kickstared” to “kickstarted.”

Great post. Wish I had the benefit of this information on my recent trip to Vancouver. Will bookmark for the future.

Nice to get your views of coffee in our fair town. I just discovered Nelson the Seagull in Gastown, you should check it out next time! 315 Carrall St http://www.nelsontheseagull.com coffee is grand and baking done onsite in a spacious, airy, heritage building.

I think the awesome “Murchie’s Coffee” coffeehouse needs to be added to this list. I’ve been to Vancouver about 3 times on vacation with my family before and we went to Murchie’s. It’s such a great coffeehouse with very delicious beverages! Here’s their website – http://www.murchies.com/store/

Thanks, Chris. Over the course of less than 72 hours in Vancouver, I definitely got a crash course in Vancouver coffee, but there are bound to be other good coffeehouses that slipped through the cracks. Thanks for filling in one gap.

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