– text/photos by Sonia Stastny
Observing the increasing obsession with the art of coffee in Vancouver for the last few years, I concluded that it is time that someone took a good look at what’s brewing in our town. I sampled and explored the scene extensively, following along the trail of the finest pastries and the best quality coffee. Taking tips from friends and friendly baristas, acquaintances and coffee aficionados, I have compiled reports from my search for the elusive Perfect Cappuccino – the one coffee drink that in my opinion reflects the quality of a café (think house-made vinaigrette reflecting the quality of a restaurant). The following 10 cafes, brought to you in weekly installments, are from the Greater Vancouver area, and range in flavour and focus, quality and quirks. I am including a bonus report from Paris, France, for international flair and Old World perspective. – S.S.
Place: Elysian Room
Location: 5th Avenue and Burrard
Ambiance: cozy, warm, with nicely worn-in couches and endearingly outdated décor (including a few curious photographs that are as old as the café), quirky and mellow hipster music i.e. Four Tet and Medeski Martin and Wood, lots of regulars in the morning, and pre- and post-cinema crowd, few laptops, and friends and families of the baristas. A few chairs outside; alas the café faces north so there is almost never any sun. This café is my personal favourite from 10 years ago. The ever-present warm scent of coffee, baking and old furniture is like an old, comfy sweater for my nose. The small but good selection of baked goods and food is lovely, though the coffee reputation is so stellar it is almost irrelevant.
Coffee: The Elysian Room is known for their amazing Clover coffee served in bodums and ranging in notes from sweet and nutty to fruity and floral. It is thin and delicious (almost tea-like in quality) and you will be frowned upon if you add your usual choice of dairy. So just don’t do it, you will be pleasantly surprised. The Elysian cappuccino is gorgeous, smooth and deep, with a rich, bitter taste of beans. Not for the weak of heart. The latte art is always exquisite and I love the dark coffee-coloured cups that come with the mandatory tiny glass of water – euro-style.
Price: Mid-level. Cappuccino is $3.50, a bodum of Clover coffee is $2.50-3.75 depending on the coffee.
Note: There is a second Elysian Room at 590 W. Broadway & Ash.