I expected this blog post to follow the usual coffee shop blog post formula. Talk about the coffee, how delicious the pastries are, mention the friendly staff, maybe even throw in a bathroom rating (this seems almost as important as the coffee these days). Andrew Boutilier, owner and visionary behind Koffie, made short work of that expectation.
Located at 1050 W Pender in Vancouver’s business district, Koffie is inconspicuously nestled in the base of one of the many nameless office buildings that line the street. There’s an insurance broker to one side, a Quizno’s to the other, and a new Tacofino just behind. Despite its somewhat secretive storefront, there is a line to the door as I wait for Andrew to put the finishing touches on some homemade baked goods. My cappuccino is excellent and the raspberry-blueberry muffin even better
Andrew comes and sits down, kindly entertaining my request to interview him despite clearly being quite busy. That’s the vibe I get whenever I’m in here. Hardworking, busy staff, that always find time to make a connection. Andrew informs me of the history of their space. Apparently, Koffie is part of a multi-decade legacy of coffee shops that have existed at 1050 W Pender for the past 20 years, as evidenced by the frequently amended lease. When Andrew moved in 7 years ago, he took over the space from Liquid Assets, a geniusly named mom and pop shop run by a couple that grew up in Mainland China during the Cultural Revolution. It had that classic 90s cafe vibe, complete Gatorade stocked fridges.
It was also incredibly small. However, like any good entrepreneur, Andrew made it work. He used to prepare all the food himself using only the top of a small dishwasher as a production surface. Despite this, Koffie was busy and outgrew their little shop. A year and half ago they expanded into the space next door and renovated. The ceiling came out and a new bar was put in alongside a proper kitchen. The result is a spacious and well designed cafe with a mix of old and new, the walls lined with antique signs and tins and the bar sporting a Black Eagle.
The business district has also changed. For years, Koffie was one of the few places to get a well-made coffee. Now, with the influx of established heavyweights like Quantum and 49th Parallel, there are more options, making it even more remarkable that Koffie has maintained its bustle and following. Part of that can be attributed to Andrew’s presence. There is something special about walking into any establishment and seeing the owner sporting a flour dusted apron, grinding it out alongside their smiling employees. His high standards are evident, from the top of the line coffee equipment to the traceable Avalon milk.
That being said, high standards are pretty much baseline in the Vancouver coffee scene these days. You can get excellent coffee and muffins most places you go. The reason why people go to Koffie is because, in addition to being excellent, only Koffie feels like Koffie. In a city with three 49ths, four Elysians, and five Prados (well one is in Surrey), it’s refreshing to sit down in a one-off. That wasn’t meant as a dig. I like those places, but Koffie is one of a kind. And the bathroom is a 10/10.