Victoria is blessed with a vibrant and continuously growing coffee scene. From local roasters to spots that seamlessly mix the concept of coffee and café, there’s a great patio and a steaming cup waiting for you in Victoria.
My personal favourite is Habit. The original location, on Pandora Avenue on the edge of Chinatown (tiny Fan Tan Alley, the “narrowest alley in Canada”, is right next door) opened in 2007, and immediately had a loyal cache of customers, drawn to its casually cool interior of crumbly brick, big front window seats, records spinning on a turntable, and, of course, its great coffee. The artwork on the walls rotates between local artists and photographers, there’s an eclectic assortment of magazines to buy (including store copies to browse over a cappuccino) and a community board provides an ever changing list of great events to check out.
A few years later, a second Habit location opened at the impressive Atrium building. The Atrium is a treasure trove of great local businesses, including Pig BBQ Joint, Cook Culture, AJ’s Organic Cafe (their breakfast wrap is amazing!) and the beloved Italian joint, Zambri’s, and Habit fits right in. With floor to ceiling windows providing great people watching, and long tables and hidden corners perfect for meetings or first dates, Habit Atrium’s slam dunk is a tie between its sunny patio and its access to seating in the soaring inner space of the Atrium, well suited for a rainy day mocha.
Caffe Fantastico marries the concepts of coffee shop and modern café together in an intimate space nestled between some of Victoria’s historic buildings, including St. Ann’s Academy. Fantastico’s beginnings were humble, starting as a tiny kiosk in the Cook Street Village Court (still home to fantastic Ethiopian food), and their new location in downtown’s Humboldt Valley is a definite step up. Grab an Americano by day or bring a date for beer, wine and small plates by night. The café is inside the Parkside Hotel & Spa, and it’s worth going for a wander through the lobby and into the enormous atrium, populated with gigantic tropical plants from the now defunct Crystal Gardens conservatory.
Fantastico has a second location on the other side of the water from downtown, just over the Blue Bridge and along the Galloping Goose multi-use trail. If you have the opportunity, hop on your bicycle, pedal over to Fantastico and enjoy a latte (no doubt topped with exquisite latte art) and a baguette from the adjoining Fol Epi—without a doubt, the best baguette in the city.
The Parsonage Café is a hidden neighbourhood gem, tucked down a quiet avenue off Cook Street. Its cozy interior, with big booths and tiny open kitchen, make it a shoulder-to-shoulder affair, and it’s usually packed with locals vying for its great coffee and affordable and well portioned food. I love hitting up the Parsonage for breakfast and my go to is a soy latte and lox bagel. The bagels are baked fresh right next door at Mount Royal Bagel Company and if you’re in the area after 11:00am, check out the Parsonage’s other neighbour, the delightfully creative Cold Comfort Ice Cream.
Other coffee shops in Victoria to check out: