This is a review of an independent cafe by an amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad. Descriptions are equal parts coffee and remote-work suitability.

The Cafe Overview:

Timbertrain Coffee Roasters Vancouver Gastown Storefront

Timbertrain’s Storefront at Gastown

Good places don’t need big signs.

Timbertrain was my confirmation bias in action. The faded wooden sign stands out well enough against steel-and-stone ambience of historic Gastown. The storefront blends in to all the neighbouring boutiques, galleries, and offices with great big windows.

Inside, one finds clean white and silver palettes that give a nod New York-style modern sophistication. Vancouver’s good at that: keeping the down-to-earth exposed brick and wooden floorboards in upper areas while transforming the main space into contemporary showrooms.

Timbertrain Coffee Roasters Vancouver Gastown

Timbertrain cafe layout for remote work

I was instantly charmed by the seats. The booths made better use of space by inserting one-person work ledges into the wall between 4-person booths.

I dropped my stuff on one of the single-person booths and didn’t notice any plugs. There is no Wi-Fi, but I find the spacious setup, number of people working, and steady traffic set a pace for focused work.

At the bar, I ordered a macchiato after I spending some 5 minutes weighing the different options. The beans are mostly from Nicaragua and Ethiopia and come as single-origin or blended roasts. The tasting notes are detailed, and the combinations intrigued me.

Macchiato at Timbertrain Coffee Roasters in Gastown Vancouver

Timbertrain’s macchiato

The macchiato I got was well executed. The milk was texture was consistent and at an above-warm temperature that countered the acidic base of the espresso and accented its chocolate notes better.

The one thing I’d improve on is their service speed, as the baristas take their time to welcome guests and have extended conversations. This creates a warm, friendly atmosphere, but sometimes the coffee and milk get left out a little too long. It hurt a little just thinking how mind-blowing the drink could have been. I’m rarely mind-blown now, but I think this place definitely could do it!

Also pick up a pastry at the front if you plan to work for a while.

Their Coffee Backstory / Why I Like Them:

Timbertrain Coffee Roasters Vancouver Gastown

Pretty cool seating design!

The backstory to Timbertrain’s spirited roasts was even more charming. Firstly, the name Timbertrain comes from the three founders’ (Jeff, Min, and Peter) shared love of trains, which transports people around. In addition, timber is essential to British Columbia’s history, economy, and culture.

However, what really impressed me was their pay-it-forward and humble attitude towards coffee. The founders are passionate about coffee, and they want to help improve the entire coffee industry chain from sourcing of beans, to production, and finally educating consumers. I love that their business began with a fascination for coffee, and that it is a journey to the base of its origins: the farmers, who are collaborators. I give huge props to Peter for putting on record that it’s important to have a shift in perspective that gives “insight into the labour of the local farmers and experiencing the process of communal work in brewing a cup of quality coffee“. Even though it’s just a cup of coffee, I buy into his vision that farmers with secure livelihoods through fair and guaranteed income will “focus merely on cultivating quality beans“.

If their coffee hadn’t been good, I would never have looked into their philosophy. Now that I have, I’d doubly recommend this place!

Timbertrain Coffee Roasters Pour Over Coffee Barista Yuki

Pour Over Coffee Barista Yuki via Instagram

Good For:

  • Coffee: Espresso and pour-over filter coffee. They roast their own.
  • Food: Pastries, breads, sandwiches, and light lunch menu
  • Cafe Space: 4-person, and 2-person booths with window bar seats. Seats about 30-40 people. It can get cramped, but the high ceiling diffuses the noise a bit.
  • Friends: Hangouts & catching up
  • Workspace: Great for reading and work. The cafe has Shaw Wi Fi, only available to registered users.
Address: 311 W Cordova St, Vancouver, BC V6B 4K2
Hours: Monday to Friday 7:00am–6:00pm
Saturday & Sunday 8:00am–6:00pm

If you liked this post, check out my list and map of Vancouver’s Best Independent Cafes (with additional contributions from the Reddit Community).

Credits: Peter Kim’s quotes are from an interview with Alex Knight.


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