Honolulu Coffee to open first North American shop in Vancouver

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      It's taken some time for Hawaiian food and drink to take root in Vancouver but we may be seeing a Hawaiian wave slowly washing ashore.

      Recently, Loco Ono found an audience with its Hawaiian-inspired pop-up kitchens.

      Soon, Vancouver's diverse caffeine scene will be saying aloha to Honolulu Coffee.

      The company has 10 stores in Hawaii, 28 in Japan, two in Guam, and one in China.

      A Vancouver store, at 888 Nelson Street, will be the first not only in Canada but in North America. (Although Hawaii is a U.S. state, it is geographically part of Oceania, not North America.)

      Why Vancouver? In a phone interview from Honolulu, president Ed Schutlz told the Georgia Straight that they've had a number of requests for their coffee from Vancouver visitors and fans. He also added that because our city has "a great food scene", Vancouverites are "a very educated customer when it comes to food and beverage".

      Furthermore, he noted that he's observed that Vancouverites have open-minded attitude to trying out new things from other cultures.

      "It's a fantastic coffee city where consumers really appreciate and embrace the differences of specialty coffees from around the world and you see that in different coffee bars today," he said.

      (Interestingly enough, Starbucks also chose Vancouver as the first city to open a coffee shop outside of Seattle, back in 1987.)

      He explained that something that sets his company apart from other coffee chains is that instead of trying to find farmers to work with, they have a farm-to-cup story.

      "We grow our own coffee on our 80 acres in Kona and we can work on the farm to get the flavour profile we want and the quality we want, as well as the sustainability of the farming community," he said, adding that they roast their own coffee in Honolulu. "It's a coffee that comes out of a very, very tiny growing region that represents less than one percent of the coffee grown in the world. I think because of the fresh volcanic soil…you have really mineral-rich soil."

      If you're unfamiliar with Kona coffee, Schultz described it as having a distinctive milk chocolate, hazelnut flavour. They'll be serving 100 percent Kona and Maui coffees, made by pour overs or with a manual-brewing Chemex.

      The drink menu will consist of espresso-based drinks, including cappuccinos, lattes, piccolos, and Gibraltars.

      Something unique on their menu will be their specialty: Hawaiian lattes (which he said is similar to 49th Parallel's Venezuelan coffee) with macadamia and coconut syrup.

      But it's not all coffee. He said they have a tea program, which includes teas such as Island Breakfast (similar to English Breakfast, with hint of mango and passionfruit) and Ka'iulani Rose (rose hips, chamomile).

      They'll also be offering açai, which he thinks will fit in well with Vancouver's health food–orientation. It'll be served cold as a smoothie or in a bowl with tropical granola, banana, and tropical fruits.

      "It's a very indigenous surf culture food and given the appreciation for health in Vancouver and açai's unique relationship surf culture here in Hawaii, I think it's something that will be different from any other Vancouver coffee bar," he said.

      They'll also be working with local bakeries and suppliers to serve a variety of other food offerings.

      The target date for the opening is May 28. But there's possibly more in store—Schultz said he hopes to open "a handful" of stores in Vancouver. 

      So stay tuned, coffee lovers, for there may be more Hawaiian sunshine and warmth brightening up our rain-prone city.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig or on Facebook.