Most coffee shops are just that: places to get a delicious cup of java, with maybe the odd biannual or t-shirt for sale. But the opposite exists, too. Sometimes a place focuses on streetwear, vintage goods, or even snowboards—and happens to also serve coffee. These little hidden gems might not be straight-ahead cafes, but they know a thing or two about a well-roasted bean.
Tucked inside an antique store in Chinatown, Aubade might be the most exacting coffee shop in Vancouver. Honing in on the science of coffee preparation, Aubade is able to create a cup that is truly vibrant and flavourful. Iced Americanos, for example, take a whopping 12 hours to brew in a process that adds one drip of water every six seconds. (Don’t worry, they will have some prepared on-hand when you wander in.) A section of vintage couches are available for those who want to snuggle in and read a magazine, but the selection of vintage oddities spanning the length of the store will probably be even more inviting.
This family-owned gallery space doubles as a cafe, allowing art-lovers and coffee fiends alike to find solace within its walls. Take a cup of steaming java up the stairs and wander through the rooms, browsing the paintings that adorn the walls. There are even tables and chairs dotted throughout the building, allowing for intimate chats in a truly unique environment.
UPDATE, September 2018: Harrison Galleries has closed.
This home decor boutique, tucked off of South Granville, is something of a feast for the eyes. Everywhere one looks, there is a piece to treasure and behold: a shirt; a candle; a scarf; an apron; a mug; a decorative silver parakeet. There are also books, plants, glasses, even tiles—plus an espresso machine and a few seats for those who want to take a break from poking around to enjoy a warming cup.
Railtown’s Endeavor features a small showroom below its headquarters, allowing customers to peruse a selection of snowboard designs and accompanying gear. While you’re down there, order a coffee from the friendly barista and trade powder stories.
Black Echo, the most literally hidden of the bunch, is also perhaps the most delicious. Tucked inside the Yaletown clothing store Global Atomic Designs, which itself is down a narrow hallway in a nondescript heritage building, this coffee is done Vietnamese-style: that is, roasted with butter and sugar. That results in succulent lattes and luxurious cappuccinos. Browse the jeans and footwear while you await your special treat.
Housed in a beautiful high-ceilinged Gastown space, Str/ke Mvmnt is a haven for streetwear enthusiasts. The brand offers a sleek selection of men’s and women’s apparel and footwear, with many items made right here in Canada. The Vancouver-based brand has since expanded to have storefronts in Helsinki and San Francisco, but the Gastown flagship is still special—and not just for the clothes. The onsite cafe is equipped for any kind of coffee drink, made fresh and with expertise.
The Shop Vancouver
Don’t be deterred by the gaggle of motorcycles that is seemingly always parked outside The Shop—inside, the small space has a fine selection of rare, high-quality denim and leather products from the States, Japan, and Europe. And while this biker-inspired shop serves delicious East Van Roasters drip coffee, as one tattooed fellow behind the counter freely admits as he pours the last remnants of a pot (which only amount to about one-third of a cup), “We’re not a very good coffee shop.” What could be more hardcore than that?
Whistler bonus: Camp Lifestyle
Located in Function Junction, a short drive from Whistler Village, Camp Lifestyle is an outdoor goods store selling everything from chairs, to clothing, to blankets and pillows, to books. The beautiful selection is perhaps only better perused while sipping a coffee, for which they serve 49th Parallel beans. Looking to try something on? Yes, that teepee is the dressing room.
When searching for something more off the beaten path, or with a more interactive experience, try a place that sells many things besides Americanos. But be sure to get one of those, too.