23 Best Coffee Shops in Vancouver: A Digital Nomad’s List

This is an opinionated cafe list from West Coast-raised digital nomad who has since lived in the East Coast, UK, and East Asia. The emphasis is on quality coffee, then remote work suitability. Commentary is directed at global readers who may be accustomed to cafe culture that differs from the West Coast, but should be applicable to Vancouverites too!

If you have favourites not on this list, I want to know! Please get in touch.

Macchiato at Timbertrain Coffee Roasters in Gastown Vancouver

Timbertrain’s macchiato

My story with coffee began in high school with a Starbucks gift card. It was our shop’s Christmas gift to part-time employees and I had to figure out how to make use of it. I quickly grew addicted to the mocha frappe. Thankfully, a coffee-addict mentor rescued me from that within a year by taking me to her favourite local shop: Beans Around the World. Since then, my journey has taken me to the great hubs of San Francisco, London, New York, Tokyo, into the marketplaces of Istanbul, onto the squatting street stalls of Vietnam.

I return to Vancouver every year or two, so I visit old favourites and new places. West Coast coffee is special because the flavour-rich coffee comes in generous sizes and mind-boggling affordablity.

If you just want the cafe list, skip my disclaimers. There is also a Google Map at the bottom that you can save and pre-load onto your phone!

Barista at 49th Parallel Coffee on Main St Vancouver

Behind the bar at 49th Parallel on Main St

Description Factors:

My Vancouver remote work doesn’t include a laptop. It is always my Android phone and Bluetooth keyboard to fill in an hour or two between meetings. This affects some of my reviews, as I can keep both charged with a battery rather than outlets. I also have access to Shaw Wi-Fi (available only for subscribers), so I am not as concerned about Wi-Fi availability in the cafes themselves.

To me, independent cafe means fewer than 5 branches. This list doesn’t include some decent local chains. There’ll be another post for that.

All cafes below come with a baseline ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’ summary.

Coffee Yes / No factors:

  • Base technical execution (coffee extraction, milk, art)
  • Interesting tasting notes
  • Price vs quality (I judge based on macchiatos, which may be the most inconsistent milk-based espresso drink in the Lower Mainland. Cappuccino and Late sizes and makes are more standardized).
  • Less hype, but consistent quality
  • Maybe = Passes. All the places I’ve listed pass. My back up rather than a go-to place.

Work Yes / No Factors:

  • Seat availability
  • Wi-Fi and Plugs (Wifi in Vancouver is often a no, or unreliable; usually only one or two spare plugs)
  • Comfortable space layout (high ceilings, bright, space between chairs)
  • Overall traffic (I.e. no disruption with people cramming in)
  • Low noise level (busy is okay, as long as the ceilings are high)
  • Easy to get to (1st priority by bike, 2nd by public transit)
  • Maybe = Ok. Depends on my mood.

 

The Coffee List

More detailed reviews upcoming!

 

Matchstick Roasters

Matchstick Coffee Roasters Chinatown

Two macchiatos waiting to be claimed at the bar via Instagram

Opened in 2014, Matchstick Coffee at Chinatown is like a spacious open-office. It has high ceilings, West Coast wooden-plank walls, and plenty of seating. Take your pick between bar seating, individual tables, or the organic-looking communal table at the back. Their espresso and pour-over roasts are bold and consistently well-executed. This location also has an in-house kitchen with freshly made bread, pastries, and simple dishes from local producers.

Wi-Fi Available.

213 East Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC V6A 0B1
Website
Coffee: Yes
Work: Yes
Read my Review

Other Locations:
639 E 15 Ave (Fraser & Kingsway)

Timbertrain

Timbertrain Coffee Roasters Pour Over Coffee Barista Yuki

Pour over coffee barista Yuki via Instagram

A recent addition to Gastown, Timbertrain is worth the hype. They have a variety single origin beans and careful roasting documentation. They’re a super friendly bunch at the bar, which means they end up taking their time. Nonetheless, the baristas behind the machines know what they’re doing and will ensure a yummy drink. They also have pour-over coffee.

Their seating design makes good use of the long, narrow space and has small ledges for people working independently.

311 W Cordova St
Vancouver, BC V6B 4K2
Website
Coffee: Yes
Work: Yes
Read my Review

Moja Coffee

Moja Coffee North Vancouver Barista Carson Brewing Macchaito

Barista Carson making my macchiato via Instagram

Moja Coffee’s been roasting from the North Shore since 2003. Their main building is in an out of the way place, which means a great quiet workplace for remote workers. It doesn’t offer Wi-Fi. Their experimental lab roasts feature fun flavours that hit the chocolatey, nutty, and even berry notes for pour-over. Their espresso-based drinks are also solid and good value. The occasionally have open house sales that they announce on their Twitter account and news feed.

1412 Rupert St,
North Vancouver, BC V7J 1E9
Coffee: Yes
Work: Yes

Other Locations:
1102 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3X2

Goliath Coffee Roasters (Kahve & Chai)

Goliath Coffee Roasters at Makerlabs

Beans left in the common space at Makerlabs via Instagram

Goliath Coffee only roasts Cameroonian beans and donates 5% of revenue back to the Wildlife Conservation group that protects the natural habitat of the Goliath Frog, a native to Cameroon. Their coffee is air roasted on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Makerlabs. If you want to go another day, drop by Makerlabs and go to the cafe by the entrance, which serves Goliath beans.

The reason I love this place is because it’s a cool, open makerspace with a lounge. Plus, no-one knows to come here, so it’s like having a private working cafe!

You can also find their beans at The Capilano in Gastown.

780 E Cordova St
Vancouver, BC V6A
Coffee: Yes
Work: Yes

Rocanini Roasters

Rocanini Roasters on West 5th

A generous ‘regular’ macchiato from the roastery

Rocanini is a group of young roasters whom have banded together to create great coffee and I went to their roasting shop close to Olympic Village. The big perk is that you can ask about their latest roasts that aren’t even on the menu yet. It may not to everyone’s tastes, but I love that the roastery’s basic retail space is empty. It feels like my private office room with a long-table. For people who like a more standard retail cafe setup, they have additional branches near downtown and on the West End.

127 W 5th Ave
Vancouver, BC V5Y 1H9
Coffee: Yes
Work: Yes

Other locations:

863 Beatty St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2M6, Canada
5631 West Blvd, Vancouver, BC V6M 3W7, Canada

49th Parallel

49th Parallel Macchiato and Luckys Doughnuts

49th Parallel macchiato and Luckys Doughnuts via Instagram

49th Parallel opened on Main Street back in 2012 and is an endless rotation of hyped up visitors in part because of its Lucky’s Doughnuts also sold on site. The single origin coffee and craft doughnut combination takes the truck-driver breakfast-on-the-go culture to unparalleled heights.

The West 4th Cafe blends into its environment with a modern chic minimalist decore. The seating is quite limited, so get in early if you plan to work there.

The Main Street location will almost always have an open seat for work.

2902 Main St
Vancouver, BC V5T 3G3
Coffee: Yes
Work: Yes
2198 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver BC V6K 1N6
Coffee: Maybe
Work: No

Crema Cafe

West Vancouver Creama Cafe Cappuccino

Cappuccino at Crema Cafe via Instagram

Crema Cafe has no rival in West Van, and the daily crowds attest to that. Right across the street from Ambleside Park and the beaches, it’s a prime location for someone looking for an outdoor day that begins with coffee on Crema’s patio and ends watching sunset over West Vancouver’s sea wall.

The cafe seating includes tables, bar tables, and more lounge-like chairs. The design is geared for people who have time to lounge around, socialist, grab a coffee and maybe a lunch an hour later.

There is almost always someone with a laptop. They usually have headphones, which come in handy when one needs to shut out the lively chatter.

Wi-Fi Available.

1495 Bellevue Ave
West Vancouver, BC V7V 3R6
Coffee: Yes
Work: Maybe

Elysian Coffee

Elysian Coffee on West Broadway Vancouver

Elysian after the morning rush.

Elysian Coffee made a buzz when it first opened years ago because of its delicate roasts. At the time, it was one of the few cafes that specialized in French Press and pour over, paving the way for newer cafes to have their craft appreciated.

For people who love late art, there are more refined places. However, if you get past aesthetics, their nutty espresso roast still pairs with the milk quite well. Their West Broadway location is on a convenient commercial strip between Granville and Cambie.

590 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC V5Z 1E9
Coffee: Maybe
Work: Maybe

Other Locations:
1778 W 5th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 1P1
2301 Ontario St. Vancouver, BC V5T 2X5

Gene Coffee Bar

Gene Coffee Bar on Main St

Outside seating along the glass walls for people watching.

Gene Coffee Bar has planted itself solidly at the tip of a triangular junction at Main and Kingsway. Gene is a spunky cafe that preserves the rougher character that once defined Main Street’s independent boutiques.

Lit with windows along two walls, it is a pretty unique work space for those who like to people watch. I haven’t been in ages, but I my distinct memory is that it has one of the strongest acidic notes amongst the espresso drinks I’ve had in the Lower Mainland.

2404 Main St
Vancouver, BC V5T 3E2
Coffee: Maybe
Work: Yes

Aperture Coffee Bar

Aperture Coffee Bar Intelligensia Beans

Lively working groups in Aperture’s cozy setting.

Located conveniently across from the mountain equipment Co-op on Broadway, Aperture Coffee Bar is a great cozy place to work. You can choose from the window bar seats, the couches, or the communal table.

They serve Intelligentsia beans, and I’d personally say go with the hand brew over the espresso. The macchiato was a bit over pulled and resulted in a sharp, acidic tang. The latte art is also a bit inconsistent.

Wi-Fi Available.

243 W Broadway
Vancouver, BC V5Y 3L1
Coffee: Maybe
Work: Yes

Platform 7

Platform 7 Cafe on East Hastings

Platform 7’s unassuming storefront

Inspired by the Victorian London Train Station, the East Van branch of Platform 7 is a good momentary travel pod across the Atlantic. The small entrance belies the deep, cavernous interior. What caught my eye was their use of Stumptown Coffee, one of my favourites, from Portland. I love the fact that it’s on a rougher strip, away from the downtown core, and focuses on local products. It’s decent enough for remote work and the outdoor patio is a good place for off-line mockup-drawing and brainstorming.

2331 E Hastings St
Vancouver, BC V5L 1V6
Coffee: Yes
Work: Yes

Other Locations:
2300 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6K 2E5, Canada

Coffeebar

Coffeebar Gastown Vancouver

Coffeebar in Gastown

Coffeebar is conveniently located on the main artery of Gastown in polished glass-window unit. It’s quite popular, so I find that seating may be an issue in the afternoons. The coffee is decent and I recall the latte art was standard. Because it registers to me as more a “work and business” sort of space, it is usually not my first choice, so I haven’t been in about 2 years. Usually I grab something on the go, but I recall they have Wi-Fi.

10 Waterstreet
Vancouver, BC V6B 1A4
Coffee: Maybe
Work: Maybe

AGRO Roasters

AGRO Roasters began as an off-shoot cafe of the non-profit AGRODEV, which helped coffee farmers in Kenya. The long story short is that they have great beans, attracted another talented roaster from Salt Spring Coffee (from Vancouver Island, and a must try), and they in turn bought the company in 2014.

I haven’t been to AGRO for 7 years, but the place still has raving reviews, so I thought I should keep it on the list. 🙂

550 Clark Dr
Vancouver, BC V5L 3H7
Coffee: Yes
Work: Yes

Revolver

I haven’t been to Revolver during my past few visits, but my memory was that their espresso-based drinks packed flavour. What flavour, I can no longer recall. Like many of the other Gastown joints, they have a long and narrow space. This means tables are arranged along one wall. It shouldn’t be a problem to find a spot, or even ask a solo worker if you can join them on one of the booths. They also serve aeropress drinks.

Archive, their spill-over space, has Wi-Fi available.

325 Cambie St
Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7
Coffee: Yes
Work: Maybe

Nelson the Seagull

Nelson the Seagull has a cute, spacious, open-kitchen ambience. One of the things I enjoy most is the amount of space between the two seating areas, which have communal tables. The latte I had was decent enough even though I don’t recall the exact flavours anymore.

Wi-Fi Available.

315 Carrall St
Vancouver, BC V6A 0A7
Coffee: Maybe
Work: Yes

Milano Coffee

Milano Coffee is technically well done. To me, this basically means that the roast is flavourful (the usual chocolatey and nutty) and the steamed milk is the right temperature and has good foam. The decor here is more standard cafe rather than the industrial or kitchen-styles that dominate cafes on this list. It can also have rushes and get quite busy on the weekend. If you’re just looking to grab a cup, this is a good bet.

Wi-Fi Available.

36 Powell Street
Vancouver BC, V6B 2JY
Coffee: Maybe
Work: Maybe

Other Locations:
156 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V5Y 1N2
849 Denman Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2L9

Bump N Grind

This is another cafe I haven’t been to since my university days. However, it’s worth mentioning because it showcases the best of Canadian coffees. I used to go to the location at Commercial Drive because it was across the street from the community centre that I went to. The seating isn’t exactly the most comfortable, but the shop has a no-nonsense minimalist setup and friendly staff. Also, it was one of those early movers long before Third Wave coffee became a thing.

Wi-Fi Available.

916 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC V5L
Coffee: Yes
Work: Maybe

Other locations:
3010 Granville Street, Vancouver, BC V6H 3J8

Prado Cafe

Like Bump N Grind, this place is a fond memory from my student days when the list of good independent cafes was fairly short. Prado Cafe is owned and run by Sammy Piccolo, four-time Canadian barista champion. The decor is the minimalist, wood and metal furniture setup. However, best memories of Prado were their tangy espresso-based drinks that had a kick. Since it’s Commercial Drive, the traffic is constant, but community-oriented. The people are usually locals rather than people in business meetings.

Wi-Fi Available.

1938 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC V5N 4A7
Coffee: Yes
Work: Maybe

Other Locations:
100 W. Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC V6B, Canada
4208 Fraser Street, Vancouver, BC V5V 4E8

Turks Coffee Bar

Sitting at Commercial Drive across from a park, Turks is one of the old-timer independent cafes. The original Turks Coffee Lounge was founded in 1992. Its chairs are relics from that bygone coffee-chain era, but the interior has had a facelift. They now serve Milano beans. There are plenty of people who bring their laptops, but there are a limited number of seats (about 20-ish). There are also patio seats!

1276 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC V5L3X2
Coffee: Maybe
Work: Maybe

The Message Cafe

The Message Cafe replaced Musette Cafe, which used to make Vancouver’s top cafe list. It’s a quiet shop, especially at the back and makes a great place for focused work. They use North Vancouver’s Moja beans, but I’m a bit unsure of the brewing ability. Order something other than the macchiato.

75 E Pender St
Vancouver, BC V6A 1S9
Coffee: No
Work: Yes

Kafka’s

Imagine walking into a large den with a bit of grunge. That’s what Kafka’s on Main Street used to be. Since then, it’s gone with the rest of the Third Wave coffee trend and added in new chairs and more lighting to showcase the artwork on the walls. The back still has the same wooden hard seats that are standard West Coast 90s. They serve syphon, pour over, and espresso drinks.

Wi-Fi Available.

2525 Main St
Vancouver, BC V5T 3E5
Coffee: Yes
Work: Yes

Propaganda Coffee

Propaganda Coffee has a spacious interior and serves some of my favourite beans (Timbertrain and Phil & Sebastian). The design is modern, with Scandinavian-inspired simple wooden benches by the window and tables. Pour-over coffee and espresso-based drinks are available. The cafe is located in the heart of Chinatown, just a few minutes walk from Matchstick. I haven’t visited since 2014, but my impression of it was decent!

Wi-Fi Available.

209 E Pender St
Vancouver, BC V6A 2T9
Coffee: Yes
Work: Yes

Momento Coffee

I didn’t get to try them, as I arrived at 3:30pm and they were already closed!

However, I’ve heard great things about Momento. Also, they serve Bows & Arrows, Phil & Sebastian, and Matchstick Coffee Beans. Those are all great roasters!

Address: 577 Great Northern Way, Vancouver, BC V5T 1E1

 

My Personal Favourites

If you’re really wondering, my top three are Timbertrain, Matchstick, Moja. Crema, Rocanini, and 49th Parallel come close. Amongst the cafes listed, which have great beans and decent brewing standards, these places stand out for originality of roasts and execution for a macchiato (which isn’t standardised in the Lower Mainland). Vancouver is spoiled for good coffee. It’s easy to get a decent cup. However, more rare are the adventurous roasters that experiment beyond the safe nutty and chocolatey flavours that pair smoothly with milk.

Vancouver Independent Cafe Coffee Map

 

Redditor Community Contributions

Below are the places the awesome Redditors also recommended throughout the Lower Mainland. Their suggestions are in the above Vancouver coffee map.

Old Crow Coffee Company

655 Front St, New Westminster, BC V3M 1A2

Great Dane Coffee

6011 Walter Gage Rd, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1

The Mighty Oak

198 W 18th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Y 2A5

The Water Shed Arts Cafe

20349 88 Ave, Langley, BC V1M 2K5

Lelem

#100, 23285 Billy Brown Rd, Langley, BC V1M 0C8

Red Velvet Cafe

23343 Mavis Ave, Langley, BC V1M V1M

Republica Coffee Roasters

9203 Glover Rd, Fort Langley, BC V1M 2S4

Caffe Divano

101 Klahanie Dr, Port Moody, BC V3H 0C3

Culprit Coffee

2028 Vine St, Vancouver, BC V6K 3K1

Dose Espresso Bar

1517 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6J 1W6

Aubade Coffee

230 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T3

Pallet Coffee Roasters

323 Semlin Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 4H9

Greenhorn Espresso Cafe

Edit 994 Nicola Street Vancouver, BC V6G 2C7

Over to you. Would love to have more local input. What are your favourite independent cafes in Vancouver?

15 responses to “23 Best Coffee Shops in Vancouver: A Digital Nomad’s List

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  7. My God…. well, I’m kinda boring as a coffee drinker. I’m happy with a dark coffee. Tim Horton’s is too weak for me..but a bike touring ride in rural Canada, it’s manna!

    Liked by 1 person

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