Vancouver's multicultural scene offers cultural twists on coffee

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      Were it not for immigration and multiculturalism, Vancouver’s food scene would be far more staid and pedestrian than the ever-evolving and multilayered one it has developed into. That’s become evident in numerous facets of local food and drink, including one of our most enduring love affairs: coffee.

      Ever since Starbucks picked Vancouver to open its first spot outside of Seattle (back in 1987), coffeehouses have been opening up on almost every retail block in the city.

      But downing the same cup of joe and ordering from the menus of doppelgänger coffee chains can get a little monotonous after a while, no?

      Thankfully, a recent wave of additions to Vancouver’s caffeine scene is ushering in some fresh perspectives to our local bean culture. Here are a few highlights for some international twists on your daily cup.

      The West End’s Peaked Pies knows the real deal on the Aussie flat white.
      Craig Takeuchi


      While the flat white has been adopted by many a coffee shop, you have to leave it to an experienced Aussie to get it done right. For the real deal, check out Peaked Pies, which started up in Whistler and opened its second location in Vancouver’s West End (975 Denman Street) on December 11.

      Although many chains serve North Americanized versions in various sizes, co-owner Kerri Jones, originally from Newcastle, Australia, explains that the size of the cup is important. “It’s an eight-ounce cup, so your coffee-to-milk ratio is much smaller, so you get more coffee flavour in the steamed milk but it doesn’t have the foam on top,” she says.

      While the main draw is their meat pies (kangaroo, anyone?) and other baked goods, you can also order other Australian-style coffees: a short black (Oz-speak for espresso) or a long black, a double shot of espresso poured over hot water. Needless to say, this is a prime launch pad from which to start off a g’day.


      You probably wouldn’t expect an Austrian coffeehouse to be all dolled up in Chinese décor. But this is Vancouver, after all, where east is west. Austrian chef Baron Klaus Erich von Hochgotz and Indonesian-Chinese-Canadian local Jensen Sadinkin opened Klaus’s Kaffee Haus (291 East Pender Street) on October 3.

      While they also operate Klaus’s Schnitzel in North Vancouver, where they serve Austria’s national dish, the Chinatown location focuses on strudel, with an Austrian-influenced kaffee menu to complement it. There are quite a few intriguing offerings based on their fragrant Viennese coffee (featuring notes of chocolate and nuts). The Viennese Mélange is made from one shot of espresso with partly steamed milk and topped up with a generous serving of milk foam.

      Klaus's Kaffee Haus
      Craig Takeuchi

      The Franziskaner (a German word for a Franciscan monk) builds upon the mélange by adding cream. For those needing a wake-up call, the strong Einspänner is a double espresso with hot water, chocolate, and generous dollops of whipped cream. Meanwhile, those looking to combine their daily drink with dessert will be interested in this playful choice: Wiener Eiskaffee (or Viennese iced coffee), which consists of one-third coffee, one-third milk, vanilla ice cream, and—of course—whipped cream.


      Luckily for us, Honolulu Coffee chose Vancouver to say aloha to for its first North American location in June 2016. As if that wasn’t enough, this coffee chain has since opened a second in Kerrisdale (2096 West 41st Avenue), with a third on the way (548 West Broadway at Cambie Street) to open in May.

      The company draws its Kona coffee from its own 80-acre farm in Hawaii and roasts its own coffee in order to create the desired flavour profile and quality. Its 100-percent-Kona pour-over coffee, best taken black, features notes of strawberry and lime.

      Honolulu Coffee

      For a breezy change of pace from your everyday latte, the Hawaiian equivalents are made with macadamia nut syrup, coconut syrup, espresso, and milk. Delish. There are also three ice-blended versions: the Hawaiian Kona Frost, with the same ingredients except coffee replaces espresso; the original Kona Frost, which consists of coffee and sweetened milk, topped with whipped cream; and the Mocha Kona Frost, which adds chocolate syrup to the previous ingredients.


      Leave it to one of Vancouver’s first Indonesian coffee shops to remind us where the name java comes from. Entrepreneur Liza Wajong began importing Indonesian coffee to Vancouver, then turned her Nusa Coffee pop-up at 2766 West 4th Avenue permanent on January 12 to help people learn more about not only Indonesian coffee but also the culture.

      In addition to traditional Indonesian sweets, the coffee menu runs the range from espressos to lattes, made by drip, pour-over, French press, or syphon. Wajong uses beans from five areas of the archipelago nation: Sumatra Gayo; Bali, from highlands using subak, or traditional irrigation and planting; shade-grown Flores; Toraja, from Sulawesi Island, which is one of her strongest offerings; and Java, from the Ijen Crater region in East Java. Curious about the pricey delicacy kopi luwak, made from coffee berries partially digested by the Asian palm civet? They’ll be serving it at special tasting events.

      To add a feel-good element to your purchase, five percent of their earnings will be donated to Indonesian farmers, particularly to the all-female berry pickers.

      “I think it’s about time for Indonesian coffee to be featured in such a prominent way,” Wajong said.


      Since contemporary coffee shops are derived from Italian formats, there’s not much new to introduce about Italian caffeine culture, right? Wrong. Thomas Eleizegui has reopened Musette Caffè, originally located at 1262 Burrard Street with a back-alley entrance, in a modern, bright, high-ceilinged space at 1325 Burrard Street.

      Growing up in Italy, Eleizegui was influenced by the world of Italian cycling, which is evident in how he’s transformed his shop into a tribute to the sport. While the walls are covered in his massive collection of cycling paraphernalia, from international jerseys to wall-mounted bicycles, his tables are built of wood taken from 1938 velodrome tracks from Antwerp, Belgium.

      Musette Caffè

      Furthermore, booths along the north side of the café were designed to resemble the famous shower stations at the Paris-Roubaix in France, one of the oldest cycling races in the world. There are also cycling apparel and accessories for sale, fitness-oriented cycling tours and bike rentals available, and more on the way. With Vancouver’s appreciation for both cycling and coffee, could there be a more perfect combination for this city?


      Would you like some salt on your coffee? While there are salted caramel mochas being introduced by coffee chains like Starbucks, you might want to consider the fact that many Asian dessert flavours have a long tradition of skewing towards the savoury (red bean, matcha, black sesame) and not just the sweet.

      At 3 Quarters Full, a smartly designed Taiwanese coffeehouse nestled just off Denman Street at 1789 Comox Street in the West End, you could order espressos, macchiatos, or mochas—or even classic Taiwanese bubble teas. But if you want a Taiwanese take on coffee, try the sea salt coffee, which is iced coffee topped with a wonderfully foamy layer of cream and sea salt.

      The salty layer stimulates the taste buds, accentuating the sweetness and preparing you for your dip into coffee in a different way. Cheers to that.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook