Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The Sprudge Guide To Coffee In Whistler, British Columbia

Whistler, British Columbia has come a long way from its early days as a fishing hole and logging hub. Hippies arrived in the sixties with visions of creating a locale for ski bums, and things snowballed from there. Today the town is on the international travel map as a haven for skiing and snowboarding, having co-hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics with Vancouver. The resort has also become an all-season getaway, catering to hikers, zipliners, and mountain bikers looking create their own thrills in warmer weather. On the traditional unceded territories of the Lil’wat and Squamish First Nations, the village is dotted with alpine lakes connected by biking and pedestrian paths. Festivals celebrate writing, film, cuisine, and beer have only helped grow Whistler’s global profile.

All that activity is better experienced when fueled up on quality caffeine. Coffee spots have popped up in the main village and in neighborhoods along the curvy Sea to Sky Highway, which runs through town and extends to Vancouver, less than two hours south. Baristas welcome patrons with an endearing Aussie “G’day” or a simple hello that announces their own travels from afar. Some stay for a season, others a lifetime. Conversation often focuses on ski conditions, best hikes and the latest bear sightings.

As pristine as Whistler is, it’s retained some of its endearing, well-intentioned environmental kookiness, with an annual midsummer road closure through a park to accommodate the Great Western Toad Migration and its separate, bear-proof recycling bins just for disposable coffee cups throughout the village. According to the municipality’s website, coffee cups constitute the bulk of the waste throughout the Village and the town is working with cafes to conform to standardized, compostable cups and lids.

Coffee for all in Whistler, yes—except for the bears. Do not caffeinate the bears.

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In a place where so much depends upon the weather, Forecast is aptly named. Located in a former health food grocery in Function Junction, the first district as you drive into Whistler from Vancouver, Forecast opened in 2020, a few weeks before COVID lockdowns. The cafe provides the largest coffee space in town with ample indoor seating, but on sunny days, patrons take their wares outside to chat on the patio or at picnic tables set along Millar Creek and the Flank Trail for mountain biking and hiking.

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Forecast roasts its own coffee, and offers a selection of British Columbian wines (the province’s wine scene is roaring) alongside a plethora of local beers on tap. Food options include a BC smoked salmon sandwich, vegan bacon kale Caesar wraps, and large, chewy Wilder Cookies in flavors like mint brownie and PB&J.

Forecast also operates another cafe off Village Stroll, the pedestrian promenade in the heart of Whistler as well as Lift Coffee at the base of Whistler Mountain, the closest spot to fuel up before taking the ski lift or gondola. Building on its success in Whistler, they have now added cafes in both Vancouver and West Vancouver.

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Rockit Coffee

Rockit opened in December 2022, making a big splash near the Creekside gondola at the base of Whistler Mountain. This cafe’s notable retro décor was created by Vancouver’s Daniel Meloché Design, leaning heavy on a palette of yellows and oranges, with mirrored walls and dark wood shelving filled with kitschy typewriters, telephones and radios. The sound system, including a wall of speakers, is the equivalent to an extra shot of espresso, playing classics by the likes of The Beatles, ELO and Nik Kershaw.

Rockit features coffee from small lot coffee producers in Sumatra, Colombia, and Brazil while also featuring a guest roaster each month, including a recent appearance from Bright Jenny of Kelowna, BC. Visitors from afar might opt for the “Canadian latte,” a rich, expertly crafted espresso infused with maple syrup.

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While Purebread is a popular mainstay Whistler bakery, BReD is the vegan upstart, located steps away from Rockit in the Creekside neighborhood. Owners Natasha and Ed Tatton, both from England, put a pause on their careers to spend a season snowboarding in Whistler and they never left. Since opening their own bakery in 2019, it’s become an Instagram darling with followers captivated by closeup videos of the expert process of kneading dough and seeing how it transforms into loaves made from bred yeast rather than dry yeast (hence the bakery’s name, also a portmanteau of “bread” and “Ed”).

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For coffee, BReD uses Elysian Coffee from Vancouver and Earth’s Own oat milk from Burnaby while also offering soy, almond, and coconut milks. Flat whites are a popular order, and the shop also makes a very good chai, brewed in-house and boiled multiple times to reduce it to a thicker, creamier tea.

The exterior resembles a sage green cottage and, once stepping in, the white subway-tiled walls and reclaimed maple wood finishes give the space a warm, airy feel. Most of the indoor space is taken up by the kitchen so drinks are more practical as a to-go option, enjoyed in the pristine common-area outdoor patio or while waiting in line for the gondola.

The baked goods, of course, take centerstage. Expect sourdough loaves, cinnamon rolls, and double chocolate tahini brownies, and be sure to pick up a copy of the BReD cookbook when you visit.

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Mount Currie Coffee Co.

The veteran in Whistler’s offee culture is Mount Currie, named for a peak best viewed 20 miles north in Pemberton where the first cafe opened in 2005. Seven years later, the second location popped up in Whistler’s main village. The shop is very popular with locals, its corner location near the pedestrian village stroll offering reliable espresso drinks made with beans from Vancouver’s Elysian and Pallet roasteries as well as grab and go treats like granola yogurt parfaits, vegan banana bread, paninis, and wraps.

With plenty of light streaming through its tall windows, those who choose to stay in the cozy space can pull up a stool to chat or pick a spot along the wraparound wooden counter as a makeshift standup desk for a quick laptop working session. Hanging plants and small arrangements of fresh-cut flowers give the space an earthy vibe.

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Camp Lifestyle + Coffee Company

Camp Lifestyle + Coffee offers an immersive, Instagram-ready cabin aesthetic experience. As you pull up to the cafe in Function Junction, the first things you notice are the bold red Adirondack chairs and the stacked firewood out front. The interior is a thoughtfully curated space with merchandise for sale such as rustic blankets, toques and caps, stylish flannel clothing, and coffee table books paying homage to cabin architecture and activities connected with the great outdoors. The space out back includes a water feature, stump side tables and more Adirondacks, creating the impression you’re sipping coffee on someone’s deck.

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The cafe serves espresso drinks using Vancouver’s 49th Parallel and offers a S’mores Camp Coffee (mocha with toasted marshmallow, graham crackers and cocoa) or a kid’s version, the Happy Camper (hot chocolate with toasted marshmallow), for those who want the full themed experience.

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Cranked Espresso Bar

The last stop to fuel up on coffee before heading north out of town is Cranked Espresso Bar, a favorite among locals at the turnoff for Crazy Canuck Drive, named after a charismatic group of five Canadian alpine skiers who shone on the World Cup stage in the ’70s and ’80s. The interior has a dark, industrial vibe with exposed ceiling pipes and a weathered wood counter. A large community table is a hit with cyclists and other groups who congregate on log stools with black steel legs for leisurely conversation. There is also individual seating along the back wall and windows. The outdoor patio has spectacular views of the area’s snow-capped mountains.

With a silver Victoria Arduino espresso machine, all drinks are made using Detour Coffee from Hamilton, Ontario and the mochas are a standout. Berry scones and the bacon and egg breakfast bun, made in-house, are popular food items. The cafe also serves local beers and cider on tap for those seeking a different kind of après-ski or post-mountain biking lift. Cranked distinguishes itself from other Whistler cafés by hosting live music events as well, so be sure to check their social media to see if something is on while you’re in town.

Gregory Walters is a writer based in Vancouver and Seattle. This is Gregory Walters’ first feature for Sprudge.

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