Bean around BC

Join RealTours host Stephen Tadgh as he sits down to talk about the best coffee shops BC’s Lower Mainland has to offer.

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Hi, my name is Stephen and I’m a coffee addict. I’m also a content creator, film maker and the host of REW’s original series, RealTours. For over a month this summer I found myself traveling around BC’s Lower Mainland to film RealTours. They were long days which meant…I needed coffee, so I seized the opportunity to sample some of the independent coffee shops this side of the Prairies.What makes a great cup? Obviously, we have the coffee. Is it bitter, sharp, sour? Is the milk frothed the right way (not leaving you with third degree burns on your tongue)? And what about the vibes - how does the store feel and would I come back again? With that in mind, it's time to reveal the top five coffee shops in BC’s Lower Mainland…as decided by a random Irish man with a somewhat concerning caffeine addiction.
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Chilliwack - Smoking Gun Coffee Roasters

First up is Chilliwack’s Smoking Gun Roasters. As the name might suggest, they do indeed roast their own beans. Located within the newly developed District 1881, I was not expecting to find such decent coffee in the heart of agricultural BC. I ordered a quick flat white in between filming and it ticked all the boxes. The coffee itself had chocolatey notes to it (yum) and was rich and flavorsome. The cream was frothed at a temperature that wasn’t comparable to the surface of the sun. And the vibe of the storefront itself was the crème de la crème - welcoming and relaxing, with a great energy in the shop from staff and patrons that radiated from the walls. Weeks later I found myself going out of my way during a trip to Cultus Lake to grab another cup for myself!


Mission - The Penny

Let me start by saying that The Penny had to put up with a whole film crew barging into their establishment 20 minutes before they closed for the day. While I can’t remember the name of the barista who helped us get our caffeine fix, just know that your patience and kindness brought a hangry crew back from the brink. Now onto the coffee: in one word, great! I wasn’t too surprised because The Penny just so happens to work with formerly mentioned Chilliwackians, Smoking Gun Roasters. As for our milk frothing, it was a touch on the warm side (although, I’m beginning to think this is more a Canadian thing than anything), but to be fair it still had that airy texture that you want in a creamy coffee. Finally, superhero barista aside, the vibe of the shop deserves special credit - long tables, with an open plan that reiterates Penny's mission: to create a shared space for the community. The decor is more rustic but still welcoming, as if you’re visiting someone's house and they’re beckoning you in. Located in the middle of downtown Mission (technically also on the Lougheed highway) this lil shop is definitely not one you want to miss if you’re out that direction!


Ambleside, West Vancouver - Crema Cafe & Bar

Oh Ambleside, for so long you have remained a mystery to me. Usually you're just an exit I pass by on the way to Whistler after ripping my hair out for choosing to go over the Lions Gate Bridge in rush hour, but no more! The coffee is the closest thing I found across the Lower Mainland to what I had back in Ireland, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean it's fundamentally better than anything else on the list, it does mean I can give you full marks for your cup of liquid gold. As for the milk, well I’ve a confession. I actually ended up getting an oat flat white this time around but as any good coffee connoisseur will tell you, it’s more difficult to get that froth with oat milk, and these guys delivered.

Now onto vibes. In my opinion, a good coffee shop should be full of life and people and community, and Crema delivers on all of the above. However, it should be noted that some of the crew felt the shop was a bit loud and busy but hey, you can’t fault a good business for being busy, right!?


Sunshine Coast - Beachcomber Coffee

After enduring hours of delays with BC Ferries, Beachcomber Coffee had an uphill battle to pull me out of my very bad mood on this particular day of filming. Combing the beach for hidden treasures is kinda synonymous with the Sunshine Coast. While I don’t think we can call Beachcomber Coffee hidden, considering all its awards and media coverage, it’s certainly still a treasure in Gibsons that you would be insane to miss. Great coffee, roasted in small batches means unique flavors and notes that I haven’t really experienced anywhere else in Canada. There is a real sense of discovering something new when you drink a cup here.

As far as milk frothing goes, I may be biased as I was being served by a European who knew exactly what I wanted when I said ‘not too hot’. It was the chef's kiss and further clarification that Europe does coffee better (sorry Canada). Now as far as vibes go, Beachcomber Coffee claims to be a lifestyle and this is shown in their storefront - relaxed, fun and engaging. I sat down here for over an hour waiting for our drone pilot to get the shots he needed and I saw such a diverse group of people from the community come in and out. Also, donuts to die for folks!


Mount Pleasant - Nemesis Coffee

Finally Nemesis, a staple in Vancouver and the first coffee I had in the city that was remotely passable. At Nemesis Coffee, you get reliability from a team of baristas trained to make great coffee regardless of who is serving you. The beans themselves are slightly sharper in taste and while not my preference every day, it can’t be denied they make a good coffee. Milk frothing though is where these folks stepped it up. Up until now I requested every flat white be ‘not too hot’, but I was very tired when I was ordering this time and forgot. I had nothing to fear however as the barista in question knew that a coffee shouldn’t be burning the papillae on your tongue.

As for vibes, well let me be honest, the exterior of their Mount Pleasant location is siiiiick. Beautiful architecture, unique, quirky, fun, an Instagrammers dream. But inside, it’s very businessy. Don’t get me wrong, nothing against getting some work done, but it's just not my vibe when it comes to coffee shops. In short I found it a brilliant place to hold a work meeting when you want out of the cubicle, but not somewhere you’d go to relax and read your latest novel.


Final Sips

So there you have it, my top five coffee locations in BC’s Lower Mainland! Now excuse me while I grab a cup of joe and get ready for the first episode of RealTours, premiering September 12th. Until next time, S.


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