An Island Getaway

I made the jump over to Vancouver Island on Thursday, just for a break from the hectic pace of Vancouver. It was primarily a vist to Pearson, my wonderful “high school”. There I saw people I hadn’t seen in six months and I got to chat with a whole bunch of them. It was a good time, and I’ll be back in December.

During my trip I did make it out to 2% Jazz and Caffe Fantastico, arguably the best coffee shops in central Victoria (I know you’re out there somewhere Geir… but I can’t afford to get to Broadwalk). I have a bit of history at 2%, it being the first true third wave espresso bar I had ever been to. Plus, when I was running the “cafe” at Pearson, Sam paid Scott and I a visit on our last ever cafe.

So, anyways, I had this vision of 2% as being one of the few “ideal” coffee shops I had come across. Cool people, great music/atmosphere and awe inspiring espresso. Having been exposed to a greater number of shops with this level of coffee in Vancouver, I was worried maybe my view of 2% would have been an inflated one. I was wrong. It was just as good as I left it six months ago, and now Sam is opening a roastery in three weeks. This place is still one of my favorite places to be… and I say places, as in anywhere in the world (which, my experience with is pretty narrow…)

But, why is a bar like that so appealing to me? What are the differences?

First of all, it seems as if the Georgia Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca act as barriers from the rest of the coffee world. They do their own thing out there. Sam freely admits this. I like that, as it seems as if they are more free to run with their own vision without having to pander to a broader and much more competitive market as found in Vancouver. (I am including Fantastico in this analysis of the Victoria scene too.) One thing that is remarkable about these two shops is their espresso blend. Their blends are quite vibrant, more acidic and fruity than most of the top blends found here. I like that, and this is what caused problems for me when I was in search of a Calgary based espresso blend that fit my tastes – I was adjusted to the Victoria profile. Now, I know there are blends that are similar to the Victorian blends. Vivace’s Vita was incredible, but I have not had that down at their shops, but instead at 2% one afternoon last year.

Another thing about Victoria, is the two shops are rather different in atmosphere than anything I have ever come across in a shop anywhere else. 2% has loud funk/hip hop/house music playing all the time, with limited seating (there are say, eight seats), and it’s in the same building as a long term care facility. Fantastico has a bit more seating, a roaster, a very political bent, beaten up couches from a long time ago and indie music. I don’t know if these places would do well in Vancouver unless they were really well placed in a proper neighborhood. People would go elsewhere. Or maybe they wouldn’t. The whole atmosphere and the incredibly coffee they’re getting are what’s bringing back everybody from the punks to the secretaries at the local offices to the construction guys from down the road.

It’s cool stuff, the way people choose where to buy this drink.


3 Responses to “An Island Getaway”

  1. 1 Jonathan Howse November 13, 2005 at 9:37 am

    That’s right Peter. Victoria is different. I would say better. You just can’t find the comfortable, inviting, energizing abiance of 2% Jazz anywhere, or a similar espresso. Once again, I also have limited experiences with this, living in San Francisco I have found two great shops with regards to espresso: Blue Bottle and Cafe Organica. I would argue that Organica is doing inovative things with drinks, but all in all, neither of them can achieve the atmosphere of 2% Jazz, now the innovative drinks to that extent. Peter, remember that day that you and Scott and I went to 2% and Sam got us to try some drinks that were still in the “test phase”. Not to mention that they were free. Yeah, Sam rules.

    keep it real, just like Sam.

  2. 2 Jonathan Howse November 13, 2005 at 9:40 am

    *nor, not now

  3. 3 rita November 14, 2005 at 6:02 am

    How was it going back??

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