Eating Our Way Through Victoria – Coffee’s On!

Hello Dear Ones!

Grab a coffee before you sit down to read. No, it’s not that long an article – but it is the topic for today.

Mike and I, even more than eating our way through the city of Victoria, tend to frequent good coffee shops. We find that we can tell a great deal about a community by the numbers and quality of the coffee houses a location offers its local residents.

Years ago, and back in Ontario, we opted for one particular national coffee spot. There were two prime reasons:  one was the frequency of shops – one on practically every other corner; and the other was consistency – all food and beverage options were the same whichever location we chose. At the time, and with our lifestyle, that was a desired convenience. (Hint: my brother wrote an anthem for them and put it up on YouTube. It now has over 125,000 hits!)

Today, however, our lives are different and our preferences more particular. There is no longer the stress of needing to get in, get product and get out all with expedient timing. We are now the folks who savour time in a place that offers a wide variety of options and an ambiance of welcome and relaxation. Sometimes that can be a matter of hours if we happen to have brought our journals or our laptops with us!

The process of change began in Vancouver while visiting our sons. For them, Starbucks was the coffee house of choice and I learned to appreciate a good Americano-style brew. When we moved to Kelowna, we had the privilege of attending a coffee tasting seminar at a local Starbucks. As with wine, there is a process to the variations of coffee options, a specific method to the way one sips coffee (the noisier the slurp, the better the flavour release to all mouth senses!) and different coffees go well with different foods. On our computer there is a database compilation of almost four years of comparisons between brands and the differing flavours within those brands, the foods that work well with each and those that don’t work at all! Mango, for instance goes with almost every brand and flavour we have tried during that time!

We have become very particular – almost snobbish – in our coffee preferences. Since our arrival in Victoria, we have been extremely selective in the coffee houses we frequent.  Yet, with few exceptions, we have not been disappointed! Victorians love their coffee! There are more coffee shops here per capita than anywhere else in the world, I am sure!

Though we have barely scratched the surface of all the options available to the discerning coffee officianado, here are some of the coffee bars where you might likely find us in an afternoon, and the reasons we prefer them (listed in alphabetical order to avoid any perceived favouritism):

Chocolat au Lait Cafe: This place has chocolate in the title – what’s not to like? The coffee is good. Location size is relatively small, but with lots of windows. Their carrot cake is delicious! It’s the only coffee shop we’ve tried in this area of Colwood – a western suburb area of Victoria. It’s close to the new Lee Valley Tools store (this is a story all its own!) and to Royal Roads University where our son attends school till his graduation July 2010.

Cornerstone Cafe: “The Cornerstone Café is proudly owned and operated by the Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group (Fernwood NRG). The Café operates out of the revitalized Cornerstone Building at 1301 Gladstone Avenue (at Fernwood Road). All proceeds from the Café are reinvested in the neighbourhood through Fernwood NRG’s programs and services.” A fabulous reason all its own for frequenting the place. Yet the great coffee, tasty meals and desserts and the friendly atmosphere plus the ambiance add to the overall effect. This place is out of the way for us, yet worth the effort. And feel free to ignore the “Hippies MUST use the back door” sign. Mike does!

Dolce Vita Coffee Art: I plan my trips downtown to include shopping, browsing or sightseeing plus time to have a coffee and a bowl of delicious Nine Vegetable Moroccan soup served with class and a delightful side of scrumptious bread.

Francelli’s Coffee House: Locally owned and operated, Francelli’s is one of our most frequented spots due to its location – nearest to our home and grocery shopping mall. Yet there is more to this place than convenience. The staff are great, the coffee’s good and strong – the way I like it – they have huge cookies and muffins the way Mike likes them and I get some of my best poetry inspirations there.

Fresh Cup Roastery: On your way to or from Victoria via ferry to the mainland or by air to any destination in the world, the town of Sidney-By-The-Sea is a hop skip and a jump from both modes of transportation. In addition to a full dozen new and used bookstores, there are a wide selection of coffee shops. The Roastery is our choice when Mike’s in the mood for the most amazing cinnamon buns either of us has ever have the delectable privilege of savouring! First of all they are immense – ask for two forks and take someone with whom to share one! There is a  rich, warm, gooey cinnamon and cream cheese aspect to them – oh, yum!

Knotty Bean: A new addition to Victoria, this quaint and relatively small cafe with a  living room atmosphere offers a nice selection of brews and meals. We have only been there once  (so far) – after attending a massive community charity book sale at the curling rink across the street. Hungry after 3 hours of book browsing and, naturally, of purchasing scads of great books at amazing prices, we stopped in for lunch. Should you find yourself there some day, do know there is no wheelchair access and there are several steps to climb up.

Murchies Coffee/Tea Restaurant: To see the coffee options available in-house or to order online: check them out here. Murchies is a classic in Victoria since it opened back in 1884! There are a wide range of teas and coffees for purchase plus a fascinating and delightful array of unique merchandise. Their desserts are scrumptious!

Moka House: Both the Cook Street Village, which is the original Moka House, and the newest addition to the family, the one at Shoal Point over near Fisherman’s Wharf, are worth visiting. Great lunches and desserts, excellent coffee and terrific staff … each Moka House location is spacious, relaxing and definitively Victoria.

Olive Olio’s Pasta and Espresso Bar: Located in Cadboro Bay Village, Olive Olio’s is the ideal outdoor patio hangout for lazy summer days. Pasta and salad and wonderful espresso coffees, the service is personal, the community spirit is tangible and you’ll be within a short walk of Gyro Beach and a sandy shoreline.

Paradiso di Stelle: A touch of Italy in the heart of Victoria’s Inner Harbour area – at the outer edge of  famous Bastion Square (famous for its ghosts and the ancient and remarkable Witch Hazel tree) – the Paradiso will take your tastebuds to the Mediterranean with each bite! There’s even a picture of Positano on the wall! Whether the food or the great coffee options, everything is delectable. Plus there are at least a dozen or more flavours of home-made Italian gelato.

Serious Coffee: Begun in Duncan, north of Victoria – there are now 25 Serious Coffee locations running up and down Vancouver Island. Several of them are located in Victoria. Serious Coffee even has their own bakery beside their own roasting plant in Duncan – that way they can be sure “the products being served at each of our stores is fresh and made of the best ingredients”.

Starbucks: Though an international company, we have chosen to include Starbucks in our list as the local shops hire local staff, well trained in Starbucks quality barrista techniques. The coffee is always good, the facilities relaxing, always lots of window space and you can’t beat the two hour wifi option when you have a blog post to prepare and Starbucks Americano coffee or a no-whip mocha frappuccino and treats to nourish and energize you while you write!

For more information on Victoria’s coffee culture, visit Colin Newell’s site.

That’s our list for today … gonna go grab a top up on my brew! Might stay to record a few more poems while I’m here …

In Light and Laughter,


P.S. For store-bought coffee brands, we now tend to favour local Vancouver and surrounding island whole bean coffees: Level Ground Trading and Salt Spring Coffee companies – both of which are fair trade and organic. Slurp on!

P.S. II, the Sequel: You can read more of our Food posts and restaurant reviews here.

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