Whenever Vancouver Island comes up back home in the states, anyone remotely familiar with the Island asks, "Victoria is there, right?" There are a lot of reasons Victoria is one of the only pieces of the Island outsiders know -- it's the capital of all of British Columbia, nearly half of Vancouver Island's residents live within its city limits, and the food, coffee, and shopping rival much larger cities.
Three weeks ago, I traveled from Nanaimo to Victoria for a weekday trip with my friend Carly. We ate a delicious lunch at Jam (try the Red Velvet Pancakes with cream cheese drizzle or The Charlie Bowl for something a bit more hardy) and, even though it was a Tuesday, there was still a line outside. There is always a line outside of this place. Thankfully, a table for two wasn't a wait!
I'm kicking myself for not trying the Blueberry Lemonade Waffle on special, but it was a savory kind of morning. Next time!
After lunch we took a wander around the city and I spotted a hanging sign that said "HEY HAPPY" on it. I hadn't noticed it last time I visited Victoria and I checked with Carly, who used to live in the city and frequently returns for day visits, if she had seen it before. She answered that she hadn't and we popped over for a look. Inside, we were immediately greeted by one of the friendly baristas of Hey Happy Coffee. On the counter were a few bottles of cold brews and a glass jewelry case like holder for croissants, donuts, and other sweet options. Any place that values and displays treats like they would the Hope Diamond is OK with me! We were crunched for time, so I grabbed two bottled cold brews (they have a regular and a cherry-infused one -- it's only a slight flavor "Not Dr. Pepper coffee or anything" as the barista told me) and promised myself I'd be back.
Last weekend, Nicholas and I came down to Victoria and I was more than excited to actually get to spend some time in the cafe this visit -- they have gorgeous wood seating built into the wall opposite the coffee bar, a small area to buy beans, mugs, and other coffee things, and some of the friendliest city cafe staff I've ever encountered. Not to mention the menu options...Coconut Milk Iced Latte, Mint Julep Espresso, Honey'd Latte (with local honey)...
We watched from our seats as they prepared beans specifically for Nick's iced coffee from the the day's brew sheet and concocted my Mint Julep Espresso. For snacks we grabbed a chocolate croissant and a vegan cookie and patiently waited for our drinks.
My mint julep espresso came in an adorable little chalice? metal shot glass? and was delicious. Hints of fresh mint and a perfectly made shot of espresso over ice. I'm no coffee expert, mostly it just gives me the steam I need to face life as the opposite of a morning person, but I've never tasted anything quite like it...and that's definitely a good thing. Nick's iced coffee was exactly what he needed after a three hour cyclocross adventure on his bike.
If you find yourself in Victoria (ferries run from Vancouver, Seattle, and Port Angeles daily) be sure to check out these two places in the downtown area. Your belly will thank you.