Victoria, the capital of British Columbia and the largest city on majestic Vancouver Island, was renamed in 1843 in honor of Britain’s Queen Victoria. The quaint, walkable city across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula maintains a leisurely pace that allows for relaxing caffeinated interludes. The city’s coffee scene has responded accordingly, adding specialty roasters and cafes. Learn about five places to drink good coffee in Victoria.
Numbers on the map correspond to listings below and appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
1. Bows & Arrows Coffee Roasters
Drew Johnson and wife Leesha Sabine opened a Bows & Arrows coffee roastery and cafe in 2011, naming their Burnside business for a favorite album from indie rockers The Walkmen. The open-air space with roll-up garage doors, Probat roaster, and three-group La Marzocco is a great place to witness the coffee process. I enjoyed their Street 66 espresso, a blend of Guatemalan and Kenyan beans with bright acidity. Their coffee cherry tea (aka cascara) was from Agricafe in Caranvani, Los Yungas, Bolivia. This option is brewed using dried coffee cherries, carries only 25% of coffee’s caffeine, and is available either natural or infused with tangerine peel, my preference. I also bought a box of Guatemala beans from Ader Recinos in Bella Vista, which was a sweet souvenir of my time in Victoria.
MUST ORDER: Espresso, Coffee Cherry Tea
Fernwood Coffee Company was my last coffee stop before leaving Victoria, and the most complete. In 2007, Terra Ogawa and chef Ben Cram bought a former bike courier call center in the Fernwood neighborhood that already housed The Parsonage Cafe. The couple took a crash course in coffee roasting using an existing machine and launched Fernwood Coffee Company. The Parsonage Cafe sells bagel breakfast sandwiches and baked goods, all made in-house using ingredients from local purveyors. Their fully loaded breakfast bagel was a hit, featuring fried free-range egg, Cheddar, Slater’s bacon, creamed spinach, and tomato on a sesame bagel. “Semi sweet” pastries like the buttermilk scone with sharp cheddar and dill are also worth seeking. Of course, coffee is a major draw, particularly in espresso drinks or stylish cans of refreshing iced coffee cream soda.
MUST ORDER: Breakfast Bagel, Buttermilk Scone, Ice Cream Coffee Soda
3. Habit Coffee
Habit Coffee has two Victoria locations, and I favor the original branch in North America’s second oldest Chinatown, which opened in 2007 and pre-dates The Atrium offshoot by three years. The Chinatown outpost contains brick and green walls, a photo mural depicting a coffee farmer, amazing nature photos, a rack devoted to indie magazines, and both counter and lounge seating. Key coffee components include a red two-group La Marzocco espresso machine, cold brew, and filter brew, all featuring local Bows & Arrows beans.
MUST ORDER: Espresso Drinks
4. Hey Happy
Rob Kettner’s airy cafe near the Johnson Street Bridge started making locals happy in 2014. The coffee bar with lime green and light wood elements brews espresso, filter coffee and nitro cold brew using beans from indie businesses like Elm Coffee Roasters, 49th Parallel Coffee, Drumroaster Coffee, Phil & Sebastian, and Heart Coffee Roasters. Unique offerings include a filter coffee tasting flight and a Turmeric Cashew Vanilla drink that floored my entire family. This drink contains no coffee, but overcomes that limitation by combining house-made cashew milk, vanilla, ginger, turmeric, and honey.
MUST ORDER: Espresso, Nitro Cold Brew, Turmeric Cashew Vanilla
Jim and Candy Walmsley ran Union Pacific Coffee Shop near Chinatown for over a decade before passing the caffeinated torch to start 2016. This historic brick building houses picnic table seating, plant-lined shelves connected with pipes, and a trellised garden patio in back. JJ Bean Coffee courses through a two-group La Marzocco espresso machine and batch brewer. Tempting baked goods include an oat fudge bar and cheesecake with raspberry coulis.
MUST ORDER: Espresso Drinks