The Best Coffee Shops in Vancouver

Plan your next coffee stop in Vancouver with our insider guide
Plan your next coffee stop in Vancouver with our insider guide | © Fotomaniya / iStock

Vancouver’s best coffee shops put great coffee above all else, whether roasting beans in house or sourcing from roasters around the world.

Vancouverites love their coffee so much, it practically flows from the taps. Decent cafés can be found in every neighborhood, so bleary-eyed visitors never need to stumble far before a double-shot appears in their hands.

The cream of this crop aren’t just pit stops, however. They’re destinations in their own right, where obsessives can explore and savor every tasting note carefully extracted from their beans.

1. Revolver

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Revolver elevated Vancouver’s coffee scene to world-class heights when it opened in the historic, cobbled streets of the Gastown neighborhood in 2011. It continues to brew each serving with scientific attention to detail, showcasing a revolving menu of beans from leading roasters. As with other cafés on this list, the coffee here is best experienced in its purest form – black and unmarred by milk, sugar or pumpkin spice. Revolver emphasizes this point by placing its goose-necked Seraphim single-serving brewers front and center. Baristas program the machines to deliver water with precise timing, volume, and temperature-control to beans with grind sizes tailored for each bean type. Revolver leaves no variable unmeasured to craft its finely tuned coffees.

2. Timbertrain Coffee Roasters

Cafe, Canadian, Coffee, Tea

Timbertrain draws harried crowds of tourists and office workers to its tall, narrow, Gastown café which is decked out like a modernist 1920s-inspired railway car. Pour-overs from its ‘slow bar’ are worth waiting for and lingering over. Its African brews burst with vibrant fruit flavors, while its South American offerings envelope tastebuds with rich nuttiness. Timbertrain roasts its beans and bakes cookies and other treats at its depot near Commercial Drive.

3. Matchstick

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Matchstick opened its roastery and the first of its shops in 2012, growing into an acclaimed mini-empire with five bright open spaces that bustle with creative workers and young parents. It also supplies discerning cafés and restaurants in the area (including Revolver, listed above) with its flavorful, yet unfussy single-origin coffees, and with rustic baked goods like its naturally leavened country bread. Matchstick makes all its products with deliberate care. They are best enjoyed in a comfortable seat with time to savor them.

4. Rocanini Coffee Roasters

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Rocanini has earned little media hype and just a modest Instagram following, but Vancouver’s coffee cognoscenti spread the roaster’s virtues like zealous missionaries. Its four cozy cafés serve a seasonally changing variety of single-origin beans from Africa, Asia, and the Americas, which are roasted in the back of its Mount Pleasant location. Being a smaller roaster allows Rocanini to produce limited batches of rare treasures, like the hallowed and usually unobtainable Panamanian Geisha (a type of coffee that originated in Ethiopia but has since been popularized in Panama) that recently appeared on its menus.

5. Nemesis Coffee

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Nemesis ignores the axiom ‘do one thing and do it well’. Portland’s globally influential coffee-journalism site Sprudge named this Gastown-based shop a finalist for its Best New Café Award in 2017. Unsurprisingly, it makes coffee worthy of this list. Nemesis gets its beans from globally renowned roasters like Copenhagen’s La Cabra and Melbourne’s St Ali. It also does meals just as well, and is willing to take a break from coffee to serve local craft beers. Its brunch menu features French toast brulée, glazed duck confit and a luscious linguine carbonara, making this the best café on this list for real, good food. No pre-packaged sandwiches here.

6. Prototype Coffee Roastery and Tasting Room

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Prototype opened in 2019, instantly becoming known as Vancouver’s most experimental café. The café and roastery continually hunts for improvements to every step of the coffee-making process, using equipment fresh from the drawing board. Customers can watch three countertop Aillio Bullet R1 roasting machines in action behind the bar. Each is able to roast as little as a single bag at a time, giving Prototype the ability to tinker with small batches of beans, and different recipes for each one. The brew bar features an ever-changing list of more than 12 types of coffee, poured through Bluetooth-enabled Gina drippers with built-in weighing scales. The devices allow baristas to precisely adjust grounds measurements, water volume, steep times and dripping rates in their quest for better coffee.

7. Small Victory Bread and Coffee

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Most cafés on this list cater to the coffee uber-geeks that frequent gentrifying artsy neighborhoods like Gastown. Small Victory lets the quinoa-salad-and-avocado-toast crowds in Yaletown and South Granville get in on top-flight brews too. Its pour-over beans come from Prototype and other cool Canadian roasters. Small Victory bakes naturally leavened bread for its aforementioned toast, and for sandwiches like its turkey BLT. The café serves breakfast and lunch at both locations.

8. Their There

Coffee Shop, Coffee

Every café sells baked treats, but Their There in the beachside neighborhood of Kitsilano takes its carbs as seriously as its caffeine. After all, the nuanced notes of a single-origin Kenyan coffee deserve the equally sophisticated sweetness of Thai tea cronuts with lemongrass glaze and candied Thai basil. Their There sources beans from roasters like Vancouver’s Luna, while baking kouign-amanns, croissants and donuts in house. Its smoked meat, egg and gruyere breakfast sandwiches will spoil anyone’s appetites for McMuffins. Lunch and dinner feature tasty sandwiches and burgers, but check the café’s website for kitchen hours.

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