It’s nearly impossible to walk a block in Victoria without strolling past a coffee shop.
Whether a trendy chain or a boutique independent joint, coffee is a big deal to Victorians.
“We have a really sophisticated coffee market here,” says John Oughtred of Oughtred Coffee & Tea, a roasting and distributing company established in 1973. “The attention to detail, the quality of preparation, the roasters … When you get the leaders that come in and really do a good job it pushes the envelope for everyone else.”
Oughtred thinks the strong coffee culture comes from the city’s proximity to Seattle and Portland, two coffee meccas, along with coffee’s general association with the Pacific Northwest outdoorsy lifestyle.
Habit Coffee owner Shane Devereaux believes the European influence in Victoria is another contributing factor.
“It’s about community. That’s what coffee used to be about back in the old days of Vienna,” he says. “Coffee was a place to go that was much like the pub. It was a place for people to gather and think and share in this. And that’s what we see happening (here).”
Oughtred’s company goes to the source for its beans and pays great care and attention to where the coffee is coming from and how it has been produced.
Habit takes its coffee seriously too, from seed to cup, frequently visiting the source with its roaster, Victoria’s Bows & Arrows Coffee Roasters, and taking great care and attention through every step of the mostly manual process.
Even the baristas making the coffee at Habit’s two downtown locations are trained extensively before they ever get to serve a customer.
“You’re really relying on truly a high level of skill to understand day in, day out a fairly volatile, constantly changing product,” Devereaux says. “The art of making coffee has been taken for granted for a very, very long time.”
It still comes down to that culture though, he says. When asked to describe the perfect cup of coffee, he speaks more of what’s around the cup than what’s in it.
“Who your with or where you are and what kind of comfortable environment are you in. I think it’s an overarching experience.”
Spread of Starbucks
-There are numerous independent coffee houses in Greater Victoria, but Starbucks has the most coffee clout, with 33 stores at last count.