food opinion

A First Timer’s Guide: The Best Vancouver Coffee Shops

Are you interested in learning more about some of Vancouver's greatest coffee hot spots? From Main Street to Broadway, I have curated a list of some of my personal favorites. Keep on reading to learn more.

If you haven’t caught on yet, I like coffee. No secret there. What might not be as well known, however, are the amazing coffee shops that Vancouver has to offer. From Main Street to Broadway, this city is known for its delicious cups o’ joe.

As a student who has spent countless hours scouring the city for THE study spot, I have definitely stumbled upon a few gems. I felt it fitting to curate a list of the best coffee shops to visit if you are a newcomer or resident of Vancouver. After all, most of us have been to a Tim Horton’s or Starbucks more than once to leave with a burnt coffee in-hand (been there, drank that). It’s now time for a change.

Here are some of my secrets.

Cartems Donuts

True, I might be here for the donuts as much as I am for the coffee—but let me tell you, both are equally amazing! Plus, there are options available for my fellow gluten-free friends.

Cartems also has a very quite alcove in the back of their store. It makes for a quite study spot and a great place to people-watch. There are also large park-like benches in the middle of the cafe where you can meet other coffee/donut enthusiasts.

The only downside of Cartems is that their drink menu tends to be somewhat limited. They do have the option of ordering a London Fog, Chai Latte or Ginger Beer from Dickie’s, but that’s about it. However, I do have to put in a good word about their coffee. I find that the coffee here is very strong, especially their dark roast option.

Platform 7 Coffee

This is another one of my favorite spots on Broadway! I think that the ambiance of this cafe is what makes the (slightly overpriced) beverages and treats so delicious. Their coffee comes from a local coffee roaster in Portland, known as Stumptown. Another bonus is that Stumptown Coffee Roasters sources beans that ensure a sustainable and transparent, quality-based relationships with farmers. It will put any coffee snob at ease.

Unlike Cartems, the drinks here seem endless. Platform 7 is a true connoisseur of the bean with an espresso bar, cold bar and brew bar at their disposal. Walking into their cafe, you can see all of their high-tech equipment and gear in the back. They even offer the classic dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and French-style baked goods.

Taken from a Belle-Époque Parisienne train station, the design and interior of this cafe is absolutely incredible. The iconic arching ceiling and train station clock make this an essential sight to see in Vancouver. Whenever a customer steps inside, it feels as if they have been transported to Paris circa 19th century.

Tip: during the holiday months they have lights strung across the ceiling to make for a fantastic photo opt!

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Good Earth Coffeehouse

Founders, Nan Eskenazi and Michael Going, opened the first Good Earth Coffeehouse in Calgary 1991. Now, with over forty different locations, this brand has made its way to Vancouver.

This cafe mecca of sorts offers some amazing dark roast and fantastic cold brews!

It all starts with the hard work of our coffee farmers.  The good grows with their commitment to social and environmental initiatives in their coffee-growing communities.  It flourishes with our Direct Trade relationships, supporting communities where our coffee is grown.  When our coffee is carefully roasted – slowly in small batches – it brings out the best in every bean. 

And your smile when you take your first sip? Well, that’s good too.

Good Earth Coffeehouse

For anyone that is environmentally concision of how their food is made, this cafe ensures that their beans are grown in the least intrusive and damaging way to the environment. What does this mean? Essentially, the beans are cultivated beneath a canopy of trees (to prevent deforestation). It is done by a process known as shade grown coffee.

The crop requires little or no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Overall, it is a more sustainable process and helps the natural habitat in which it is grown.

Continental Cafe

Let’s travel to Main street, an area well known for its hub of coffee hipsters. I must not take credit for this one, however. A close friend of mine took me here a few years back for ice cream and since then it has become one of my favorite coffee spots in Vancouver.

Unlike Cartems and Platform 7, these two cafes are known for their special atmosphere and ambiance. However, Continental tends to stick to a different plan. They seem to ride more on their beans’ quality rather than creating a special experience in their shop for customers. Not without saying, their coffee is superb.

During the (very few) hot summer days, there is also a great patio seating area outside. If you prefer to use this space to study, they also have a bar for students to pull out their laptops.

Another tip, besides trying their fantastic coffee, they have amazing homemade ice cream! (This was the reason I first came to this cafe on Main Street, and let me tell you, the food is delicious).

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Aperture Coffee Bar

Welcome to the last cafe stop on this list (at least, for now). With the intent of introducing the photography world to the coffee shop, Aperture is a great place to meet locals. This cafe has taken inspiration from vintage bookstores and modern minimalism to add to its caffeine experience.

The definition of aperture is: – “a hole or an opening through which light travels. More specifically, the aperture and focal length of an optical system determine the cone angle of a bundle of rays that come to a focus in the image plane”.

There are two locations for this shop: West Broadway and Main Street. Both offer great spots to study, spots to host a meeting with clients, or just a local cafe to meet up with friends in the neighborhood. I would definitely give both locations a solid 10/10.


Did you enjoy this article? Check out my post A Starbucks Veteran’s Coffee Fix.

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