food

Fresh Roast: The Java Hut Bakery & Cafe.

Java Hut has a quaint little collection of books for people to browse through while waiting for their coffee. Photo: Stephanie Ip

The Java Hut Bakery & Cafe
Location: 767 West 16th Avenue at Willow Street.
Features: A small library, a TV, wireless internet.
Drink: Javachino ($4.75).
Other: Espresso, drip coffee, tea, smoothies, blended coffee drinks, pastries, wraps, sandwiches.

On a recommendation from a friend, I decided to check out The Java Hut Bakery & Cafe. The name sounded familiar but that might be because it’s a pretty cliche, generic coffee shop name, don’t you think? But of course, my suspicions were confirmed: The Java Hut is not so much a chain coffee shop, but a franchise brand.

Location, location, location

While The Java Hut doesn’t exactly enjoy a prime location on a major street, its location tucked away just off Cambie Street ensures that it’s never too busy or crowded. Across the street from an Italian restaurant and a hair salon, the coffee shop is surrounded by apartments and seems like a great place to go for those who live in the area but not quite a destination coffee shop for anyone who lives beyond five blocks.

Getting the goods

While there’s nothing spectacularly unique about the menu, I appreciate that they’ve got a full display case of wraps, sandwiches, and pastries to choose from. Their menu features breakfast, lunch, and dinner items, along with the usual coffee drinks. They also offer a good selection of cold blended coffee drinks for those hot evenings in the summer when you just need to get out of the house.

I also love the set up of the coffee shop. Located right on the corner of Willow Street and West 16th, the shop has a large wrap around patio with plenty of space for a warm summer night. Inside, there are tables and chairs throughout and even a couple of couches hidden in the back. The shop has a TV, as well as a small shelf of books and magazines for people who are browsing and just killing time.

Java Hut has a wide range of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack choices. Photo: Stephanie Ip.

Recommendation

Since The Java Hut isn’t exactly convenient to get to, it really is just a local community coffee shop for those who live in the area. If you’re willing to make the trip though, it’s a nice place to spend a summer afternoon or to chat up your neighbours.

Keep checking back for the next stop on my whirlwind Vancouver coffee shop tour!

Featured photo of The Java Hut Baker & Cafe by Stephanie Ip.

Fresh Roast: The Grind & Gallery Coffee Bar

The Grind serves espresso drinks, drip coffees, smoothies, and blended coffee drinks. Photo: Stephanie Ip

The Grind & Gallery Coffee Bar
Location: 4124 Main Street at King Edward.
Hours: Open 24/7.
Features: Gallery displays by local artists, free wi-fi.
Drink: Caramel Macchiato ($4.85)
Other: Espresso, drip coffee, tea, smoothies, blended coffee drinks, pastries, wraps, sandwiches.

I’m not really quite sure how The Grind became one of my favourite coffee spots but seeing as how I have a tendency to do trade sleep for meandering conversations about life, it definitely helps that The Grind is open 24 hours a day.

Where else to go?

When I usually head to The Grind, it’s late in the evening and either a friend is or I’m having a nervous breakdown. All we really want is a place where we can rehash our dismal mid-20s experience and brainstorm ways to find gainful employment and survive the carnage of romantic relationships.

Alisa Lokshin, 23, who seemed to be doing just that, likes The Grind for the same reasons.

“I like that it’s open 24 hours so you don’t have to worry about when it closes. You can just be like, ‘Oh, the Grind is open. Let’s go there,'” Lokshin said. “That’s most of the appeal ’cause most coffee places close early.”

Others who visit The Grind, do so because they are “hittin’ the grind.” Students filled the coffee shop on the night that I visited, with most of the tables covered with textbooks, notes, papers, and laptops. The shop seems small at first glance but the counter hides a whole other room that seems to be designated for silent study.

Grind it down

The menu is sparse but has all the necessary staples. Espresso drinks are available, as are drip coffees, teas, smoothies, and blended coffee drinks. While the menu isn’t exactly simplified for the sake of quality over quantity, it caters to the late-night crowd that just needs something to keep them going while pulling an all-night study session.

The same goes for their selection of food. The Grind sells wraps, pastries, squares, loaves, and cookies. While not of stellar quality, again, it’s enough to keep a hungry stomach going through the next few chapters of class readings. Everything is reasonably priced between $1.50 to $6.00.

The Grind features artwork and photography from local Vancouver artists. Photo: Stephanie Ip.

Recommendation

The Grind is definitely not the go-to destination for a coffee connoisseur, but it is a good place to sit and study for a couple hours, especially in the evenings and of course, in the middle of the night. Its location at Main and King Edward is easily accessible and yet, far enough away from the distractions of other busy corridors.

Their free wi-fi is helpful for those working off a laptop and the room in the back helps to separate those who are desperate for silent study time from those who just need a  place to chat late at night.

Keep checking back for the next stop on my whirlwind Vancouver coffee shop tour!

Featured photo of The Grind & Gallery Coffee Bar by Stephanie Ip.

Fresh Roast: Kafka’s Coffee and Tea

Kafka's Coffee and Tea sits on the Southeast corner of Main and Broadway in Vancouver, B.C.

Kafka's Coffee and Tea sits on the Southeast corner of Main and Broadway in Vancouver, B.C. Photo courtesy of Kafka's.

Kafka’s Coffee and Tea
Location: 2525 Main Street at Broadway.
Hours: 7 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. on weekends
Features: Hosts free monthly talks by local artists.
Drink: Vanilla Latte ($4.25)

While I had wanted to stop in for a while and soak in the feel of the place, I was left with only 20 minutes to check out Kafka’s Coffee and Tea. Probably a good thing since the day I visited, there was a small group holding a meeting in one corner and various others reading or studying at other tables throughout the busy shop. The mix of larger and smaller tables makes Kafka’s a great place to study with a group or read by yourself.

Keep It Simple

According to their website, Kafka’s Coffee and Tea is “serious about coffee and not much else.” This is apparent in their stripped down menu and simple decor. Their website details their motive in selecting coffee beans, buying only from smaller farms that don’t use pesticides or fertilizer. Kafka’s ingredients are all “purchased above Fair Trade Value to ensure good wages and working conditions for farm employees,” says their website.

Brew Methods

Their website also lists four brew methods that are employed at Kafka’s: pourover (regular drip), aeropress, syphon, and espresso. While a lot of places only prescribe to drip coffee and espresso, I like that Kafka’s has these other methods for coffee drinkers who are knowledgeable enough to know the differences and subtleties. (Which isn’t me. Maybe one day.)

Vanilla Latte

Having come straight from dinner at Lucy’s Eastside Diner, and about to embark on a two hour school board meeting, I needed some caffeine and sugar to wake up me. Solution! A vanilla latte. I was instantly pleased from the very first sip. While most people are accustomed to the sugary syrup of Starbucks, Kafka’s vanilla latte was definitely more flavour than sugar. Not to mention, they do that awesome swirly thing in the foam! I’m not going to lie — and why would I? — but their vanilla latte is pretty perfect.

A barista prepares a cup of pourover (drip) coffee. Photo: Stephanie Ip.

A barista prepares a cup of pourover (drip) coffee. Photo: Stephanie Ip.

Recommendation

Kafka’s Coffee and Tea seems like it’d be a nice place to kill a couple chapters of your book on a rainy day. Its wide open windows make the shop seem roomy and while I didn’t get the chance to do so on the day I visited, I’d love to just sit for an hour and study or chat over a well-brewed mug of coffee.

Keep checking back for the next stop on my whirlwind Vancouver coffee shop tour!

Featured photo courtesy of Kafka’s Coffee and Tea (Website).

Fresh Roast: Introduction.

Welcome to my blog series on coffee shops around Vancouver!
Keep checking back to read the next installment of the series.

Part 1: Kafka’s Coffee and Teas
Part 2: The Grind & Gallery Coffee Bar
Part 3: The Java Hut Bakery & Cafe

———-

Whenever I prepare a cup of coffee, I try to make sure no one is looking. Why? Well. It’s embarrassing. When people find out how many packets of sugar I put in a single paper cup of coffee, they look at me, horrified and ask why I’m not 300 pounds.

It’s true that I often sugar down the bitterness but maybe that’s a result of growing up in the Starbucks era, when caramel syrup and chocolate sprinkles are common. But extra frills aside, I love coffee. While I’m not a fan of crappy Costco-brand drip coffee, I’ll pretty much take anything. And as it turns out, the rest of the world loves coffee as well.

A fresh brew

The Vancouver Sun announced today that coffee prices hit its highest point in 14 years, with Arabica coffee sitting at $2.6225 per pound, according to ICE Futures in New York. The problem is that inventory of coffee beans in exporting countries have hit their lowest point since the 1960s when the International Coffee Organization began tallying stockpiles. Simply put, we’re slowly drinking ourselves out of coffee in this world.

“There is simply not enough coffee in this world,” said Jose Sette, executive director of the International Coffee Organization. The supply just cannot keep up with the demand.

Quantity over quality

With the market supply of coffee slowly declining, what does this say about the quality of our coffee? Keurig’s one-cup home brewing machines are quickly becoming popular, ranging from $75 to well over $250. These machines use cartridges of pre-measured ingredients to brew single-cup servings of coffee for those on the go. Starbucks’ line of V.I.A. instant brew coffee packages have also prompted coffee lovers to question the company’s true appreciation of the coffee bean’s quality.

While I’m not well-versed enough in the different varieties of coffee available, I drink enough to know that there’s a certain standard that needs to be upheld when it comes to making coffee. The espresso can’t sit too long. Ideally, the coffee pot should be warm before the brew starts to drip. And steamed milk? Well, it’s pretty easy to burn so you’ll need to watch out for that.

Coffee in Vancouver

All politics and economic exchange aside, what do I really know about coffee? Not a whole lot. I know where the most convenient coffee shops are in Vancouver and that’s about it. So throughout the month of February and March, I’m going to explore Vancouver a little by seeking out coffee shops that I pass all the time on my commute. I’ll sit in, enjoy a cup of coffee, take in the feel of the place, and tell you how it goes. Almost like a food critic… but for coffee shops.

So even though the world is running out of coffee, at least I’ll be able to find the quality coffee shops in Vancouver. And hopefully, the quality will make up for the lack of quantity.

Before you leave, check out this video I found on Vimeo a while back. It’s a 4:00 minute video that talks about the process of extracting espresso. I love the way it’s filmed, love the way he talks about the coffee, love the sights and sounds.

Featured photo by Daniel Hurst (Flickr).