There is no question that the specialty coffee scene in Victoria, BC, Canada is thriving. How do I know this, well this is the second month in a row where we are featuring a coffee roaster from that city as our Coffee Roaster of the Month. There has never been something like this in the 4+ years of this blog.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know the team from Caffe Fantastico over the last while and I am thrilled to get the chance to share their story with you this month! So grab a great cup of coffee and enjoy getting to know more about this incredible roaster from an equally incredible city.
Hey Caffe Fantastico, so great to get the chance to connect with you! So, tell us a little more about yourself.
Caffe Fantastico started as a coffee cart in 1993, in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Our signature espresso blend is named Causeway as an homage to the location that started it all. Going back to the first business license in 1993, Espresso Fantastico was listed as the business name. Descriptive and evocative of a well prepared, high quality Italian espresso, brewed with a real dedication for a Fantastic profile. Espresso Fantastico evolved into Caffe Fantastico when opening our first brick-and-mortar location in 1998. As the brand matured with restaurant and bar services added, Tre Fantastico and Fantastico bar-deli locations now operate within bustling Victoria neighbourhoods.
All three Caffe Fantastico locations are in Victoria B.C. Our Roastery in Quadra Village is our hub: you’ll find roasters, new and seasoned baristas, bean baggers, and our head office all in the same building. The second location, Fantastico bar-deli, has a waterfront view in the Dockside/Vic West neighbourhood. Pair your specialty coffee with a charcuterie box and enjoy the patio or head to the park! Lastly, Tre Fantastico is located in the Parkside hotel and is a cute and quaint cafe with great food and a relaxing atmosphere.
I recently had the chance to get my hands on a few bags of your coffee beans. Can you share more with our readers about what equipment you roast on, and tell us more about your philosophy and approach when it comes to sourcing coffee & roasting it?
We roast with a Loring smart roaster which uses less energy, creates less emissions, and allows us to stand by our goals in sustainability. It also provides a clean and transparent roast profile, which is one of the reasons why our dark roasts are generally medium-dark!
We keep quality as a main decision-maker in everything we do but we also want to cultivate strong, long-lasting, and reliable relationships with the farmers and producers we work with. Alongside building those relationships, we look for producers paying fair wages (many pay above average) and which processing methods they’re using. We don’t shy away from any method and are always excited to see the creativity and ingenuity of these producers.
I see on your site that your coffee bags are branded with what appears to be a coffee/food truck? Can you tell us more about what the back-story is behind that? I’m dying to know!
The truck image on our retail coffee bags is a real truck still currently in our back lot. It is currently out of use but for a brief time, it was used as our neighbourhood delivery vehicle! Intentionally designed with a nostalgic feel, and updated to be an electric vehicle, we hope to see the truck and its neighbourly charm on the road again soon.
If you’ve ordered from us recently, you’ll notice a manual lever espresso machine printed so if you have a truck bag, it’s technically a collectible!
One of the major reasons why I wanted to get the chance to share your story, is because (what many readers might not realize) you are the Canadian Distributor of Germany’s COMANDANTE C40 Hand Grinder…arguably one of the best hand-grinders on the market. What led you to want to distribute their grinders? What’s so great about them?
We’re incredibly pleased and feel fortunate to work closely with Comandante and be their Canadian distributor. When getting our hands on an early prototype of the Comandante grinder, it was clear from the first rotation that this was a cut above any other hand grinder we had experienced. Ergonomic, beautiful, and unrivalled build quality were apparent even in the prototypes. After much research and almost 2 years of development, the introduction of the patented Nitro blade solidified the Comandante C40 as the new standard for hand grinders, achieving exceptional brew clarity with the combination of geometry and patented material composition of the burr. This was the first hand grinder we had ever known to have accuracy to be able to achieve fine grinds for commercial espresso, and offer up controlled adjustments to manage extractions. We were so excited to share this with coffee enthusiasts in Victoria, BC and across Canada.
Furthermore, the team at Comandante make no compromises, evident in their dedication to the initial development and subsequent expansion of grinders and accessories. This also extends to their support of products and partner relationships. When spending time with the Comandante team, it has felt like we are in the company of true coffee friends.
In your opinion, what’s the specialty coffee community like in Victoria? What do you love? What are you noticing in terms of the coffee culture on Vancouver Island that is unique in comparison to say the city of Vancouver?
The specialty coffee community in Victoria seems to be changing – in a very positive way. We’re noticing a more inclusive culture, which might be partially due to social media. Transparency throughout the pandemic has allowed us to see shared experiences and the turbulence each cafe or coffee roaster in Victoria has had to endure.
It has also provided a healthy competition as it brews better choices and puts pressure on roasters to keep learning, sharing that knowledge, and keep in line with SCA specifications.
We are so rich for our relatively small city. Many specialty coffee events have been hosted over the years, bringing together coffee professionals and attracting new interest from an enthusiastic public.
Even through the pandemic, we have had our own annual latte art competition, (online one year), and barista tests that always turn into a fun staff event. We all look forward to more in-person specialty coffee events in the future. As for collaborations, this one with Commonly Coffee is pretty great!
So, speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
Our most recent coffee release is Tanzania Umi (Peaberry) and we’re always excited about the coffees that our head roaster, Derek, has chosen. It has flavours of orange marmalade, toffee, green grape, and soft florals. How could we not be obsessed?
We have also crafted our limited-release, Caffe Mazagran, which is flash-chilled Ethiopia Ardi Adola, sweetened slightly with panela sugar, and topped with an orange slice. Cold, refreshing, and everything you could want in a summer cold brew.
When we’re not drinking Fantastico coffee at work or at home, you’ll find many of us stopping in to other great Victoria cafes like Hey Happy, Hide + Seek, or Saint Cecilia to check out their rotating selection of specialty coffees. We are coffee nerds 24/7.
I noticed on your site that you play host a number of events at your roastery! Can you share more about the idea behind that? Why is this so important to you as a venue to open up your space for these community-events?
Caffe Fantastico has always been community-minded. The Taylor family (owners) even live in the same neighbourhood as the Roastery. We’re fortunate enough to have a large enough space to host events and being a cafe instead of a bar or pub, allows us to easily have all-ages events. We regularly host poetry nights, drag shows, live music, and vinyl-spinning djs. It’s important for us to continue having these events as we see how great the turn out is and being able to provide a space that is a little more accessible than others (not just physically accessible but in support of our 2SLGBTQIA+ community and others with sensory sensitivities) is very fulfilling.
Looking beyond COVID-19 what do you see as some of the emerging trends or new initiatives that will shape the future of specialty coffee?
Trends we’re already noticing are introductions into unique fermentations and processing variations such as anaerobic fermentation or natural hydro honey (we had a holiday release last year with this process). With these new processes, coffee farms and their producers are coming into the spotlight and are being deservedly highlighted for what they do. Cheers to more love and support for producers and farmers!
With current inflation and disruptions in transportation, we see a need for more diverse drink menus, with less focus on milk-heavy drinks. A return of instant coffee options is already happening and will likely spur more convenient canned coffee drinks as well, such as nitro and flash-chilled cold brew.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Thank you for your continued or new support! We look forward to roasting delicious coffee for you and hosting all who get to visit beautiful British Columbia and Vancouver Island!
Please visit caffefantastico.com for Comandante, fresh roasted coffee, and more!
FANTASTICO + COMANDANTE STARTER PACK
And as a way to thank you for reading this, we’d love to let you know of a great promo we are offering in collaboration with Commonly Coffee.
– Black edition Comandante C40 MK4 grinder
– Red polymer jar
– Black Fantastico Snapback hat
– Two bags of coffee (Causeway Fantastico, our signature espresso & one of our favourites, the Sulawesi Toroco Jaya.)
Cost for this is only $475 and includes FREE Canada-wide shipping. But use code COMMONLY25 at checkout to save an extra $25 dollars.
Find their beans: If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-store for what they’re currently roasting.
If you happen to find yourself travelling to the beautiful city of Victoria, make sure to stop by one of their cafes.
I just want to say a huge thank you to Nancy, Gareth and the entire Caffe Fantastico team for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in the Victoria, BC. Check out their site, grab yourself some beans and enjoy!