Author: Shirley & Mike Wong
“Situation is serious.”
-Bell Biv DeVoe (from “Poison”)
This North Road hub, known as Koreatown, is worth some exploration. In recent years, it’s become a convenient stop for several popular and unique independents like Standing Egg Coffee and Coffee Monster.
Near the intersection of Lougheed Highway and North Road, Black Milk Water is in the shopping plaza with Hannam Supermarket. We head for the farthest left corner, where the café looks dark inside, maybe even closed. Despite appearances, they’re actually open for business.
We enter a large space with ample seating – benches, and chairs around individual and communal tables. Surprisingly for a big venue, it’s warm and personalized.
One whole wall is dramatically painted is an animated woman’s face. A comfort bike hangs on the opposite wall, with lit up wheels: it’s both art and a lighting fixture. Touches of red (on a painted bookshelf) and turquoise (on steel chairs) add personality to the grey concrete walls and floor.
We head for the back. A rustic wooden counter is the showstopper. Its beautifully designed shelves display a miscellany of items: a gorgeous silver Victoria Arduino espresso machine (with lit up script), bags of Vancouver’s Timbertrain Coffee, Chemex drippers and coffee plants in pots dressed with burlap.
Black Milk Water touts themselves as dessert focused. They have more than ten types of cheesecakes ($6.75/slice) including Matcha Red Bean, Red Velvet and Crème Brûlée.
And while we’re let down there aren’t any savoury choices, we like the competitive pricing you won’t see at many Vancouver cafés. Examples: cream puffs ($1.50 for 2) and biscotti ($2.15).
For breakfast, we opt for a chocolate croissant ($1.75) and lemon poppy seed muffin ($1.75). It’s nice they take them out from the display case immediately to heat them up.
Non-coffee drinkers should check out the paper scroll menus to the right of the counter. There’s a good selection: seven teas ($4.75), five frappes ($4.95) and shaved ice (coming soon). I order a Matcha latte ($3.75, 10 oz).
A chalkboard menu shows Black Milk Water’s offerings: espresso, pour over (Chemex) and nitro cold brew. Mike has a pour over ($4.25, 10 oz) and the young man gets started on it right away. When we ask which coffee he’ll use, he brings out a bag of Timbertrain Coffee’s Brazilian.
Although he’s reserved, he is friendly and polite. We also get the impression he’s an owner. As he grinds the beans and sets up the scale, he tells us this profile (cherry, lemon, caramel) is his personal favourite from the roaster’s lineup. He asks if we’ve been to Timbertrain Coffee’s Gastown location.
There’s a clear view of the pour over process on the counter, which is a big plus. It would have also been nice to see the barista pour the latte art; unfortunately, the pour is hidden behind the espresso machine.
They bring our food and drinks to our table. The pastries are on colourful plates, and a little metal tray with cutlery. The poppy seed muffin and croissant are average cafe fare. But the fact they’re heated and nicely presented makes the experience better than most.
Mike likes his pour over, it tastes like sweet cherry, caramel, chocolate. He remarks was done well with technical execution.
My latte is deliciously creamy and sweet. Afterwards, I tell the barista just that, and ask what sweetener they use. He smiles and says thanks. He explains they use a blend of “two good, expensive Matcha teas”, with no sweetener at all. I don’t need anything more.
VANCOUVER BARISTA REVIEW
Name of coffee: Timbertrain Coffee Roasters’ Brazil (Fazenda Santa Ines)
Location of roaster: Vancouver, B.C.
Price: $3.75 (10 oz)
Brewing method: Chemex pour over, paper filter
Roaster’s tasting notes: “Coffee cherry, hint of lemon, tart and caramel.”
Mike’s comments: Sweet cherry and caramel with a slight milk chocolate flavour. Smooth and clean aftertaste.
- Love that Timbertrain Coffee is conveniently offered outside of downtown Vancouver.
- Friendly service with technical coffee execution.
- Good selection of beverages available for non-coffee drinkers. Competitive pricing on some of their food.
- Surprised to find a modern and pleasant oasis – in of all places, a strip mall.
- Limited food options since they’re strictly a dessert destination.
Seating availability: 5/5
OVERALL RATING by VANCOUVER BARISTA: 4.75/5
Subscribe to Blog via Email
Want to visit?
101a, 4501 North Road, Burnaby
Tip: Find them in the farthest left corner when you turn into the shopping complex with Hannam Supermarket.
Operating hours here.