Check out the @VanFoodster Barista Signature Beverage Challenge

vf_barista_web_1_aAlmost everyone in Vancouver has an opinion on coffee and cafes. However, the Baristas who craft each of the beverages for their customers are often forgotten.  Some places just press a button but for many creating the perfect coffee beverage is a craft.  For the next Vancouver Foodster challenge,  creator Richard Wolak puts the spotlight is on the Baristas to show off their creativity and personality. This challenge features 8 participating Baristas in Vancouver and Surrey and runs from August 28-September 25, 2013.

Participating cafes are featuring a new unique ‘must-try’ beverage created by their Baristas.  To qualify for the Barista Signature Beverage Challenge, this beverage cannot be on the cafes’s menu, it must be a newly created beverage. The Signature Beverage must be available throughout the promotion. The Baristas creation couild be simple to fancy, using unique and innovative ingredients, any type, as simple or indulgent as they wanted, perhaps with coffee, tea or without. Wolak told them to be imaginative and original.

Visit the Vancouver Foodster website to see some of the unique beverage creations in this challenge then get out and drink.

Once people have ordered and tried the Beverage Creations in this challenge, and think they’ve found their new favourite, they can vote on their mobile phones or ipads from their table in the cafes or later in the day. Coffee lovers can cast their vote once a day, and for multiple cafes throughout the promotion.

When voting the public should keep in mind the following criteria – originality, creativity, uniqueness, traditional, non-traditional, price, value and most importantly taste. VOTE for your favourite Beverage at

The winning cafes and Beverage Creations will be announced on September 26, 2013.

UPDATE: And the winners are:

1st Place: Louis Luzuka of Wired Monk Fleetwood in Surrey with his The Incredible Monk which is a matcha greentea kale smoothie with lots of fruits and veggies.
Wired Monk Fleetwood 15930 Fraser Highway, Surrey Tel: 778-565-7696 Twitter:  @WiredMonkIsCool

2nd Place: Blandin Luzuka of Wired Monk Fleetwood in Surrey with her Coffee Crisp take on, of the Chocolate Bar, Coffee Crisp.
Wired Monk Fleetwood, 15930 Fraser Highway, Surrey Tel: 778-565-7696 Twitter:  @WiredMonkIsCool

3rd Place: Nick Allan of Continental Coffee, Vancouver with his Dark Chocolate, Roasted Garlic, and Orange Essence Macchiato.
Continental Coffee, 4295 Main Street, Vancouver Tel: 604-559-7712 Twitter: @ContinentalCoff

The three winning drinks will be featured on their respective menues for at least the next two weeks so there’ still time to check them out.

Royal Baby Month at The Fairmont Empress

The Fairmont Empress Tea Lobby

In Britain, bookies are taking bets on whether it will be a prince or a princess for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as the Royal Baby’s mid-July due date grows ever nearer.  Here at home, with a century of royal connections, The Fairmont Empress is the perfect location to celebrate the arrival of the new Royal. The venerable hotel is partnering with Victoria’s C-FAX Santas Anonymous Society to collect donations of new toys, clothing and gift cards to help children in need in the community.

Starting tomorrow, July 5 until July 31, 2013,  a “Royal Crib” will be set up in the Tea Lobby of the hotel to collect donations from guests and locals paying tribute to the newest member of the monarchy. In exchange for a donation to the C-FAX Santas Anonymous Society, the hotel is offering a 10% discount for Afternoon Tea on the day of the donation.

“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have shown how strongly they believe in philanthropy, so I feel they would be pleased to know that we have chosen to do just that to celebrate the arrival of their first-born. We are also thrilled to partner with such a strong community leader as C-FAX Santas Anonymous Society to help us with collecting and distributing the donations,” said Fairmont Empress General Manager, Don Fennerty.

Any local residents and guests who wish to partake in this celebration and the grand tradition of Afternoon Tea while making a donation to C-Fax Santas Anonymous at The Fairmont Empress are advised to book in advance and ask for the “Royal Baby celebration”.   Reservations for Afternoon Tea may be made at or by calling 250 389 2727.

Follow the Royal Baby Celebrations on Twitter @FairmontEmpress or

CONTEST: WE Coffee Roasters

“Made by coffee lovers for coffee lovers” is the slogan at WE Coffee Roasters and upon meeting proprietor William Chu, you can certainly see that the slogan rings true. William is indeed passionate about coffee and making sure that every bean, every cup and every sip is perfect. Freshness in everything they do is paramount. Starting with selecting the best Grade 1 green Arabica coffee beans from around the world, roasting small batches of individual beans throughout the day to create their own blends and brewing each cup to perfection. William and his roaster, Michael, keep a watchful eye over each batch of freshly roasted coffee, testing them for flavour before mixing them to ‘make sure the beans sing together like an orchestra’. After the roasting it’s over to the team of baristas to brew the ideal cup. The perfect temperature steam, the patient pour-over Chemex system cup, just the right amount of crema are all parts of team’s training. The baristas compete in many coffee and barista competitions to keep up with current trends and expand their knowledge base.

William’s passion for coffee took root in Taiwan where he studied the science and art of coffee, then upon returning to Vancouver he began WE Coffee Roasters in 2010. Vancouver is a haven for coffee drinkers with many firmly entrenched big name chains that have created a strong coffee culture amongst locals. The goal of WE Coffee is not to challenge the established big name chains for market share but to be an alternative for those looking for an artisanal cup and a neighbourhood location to call their own.

The cafe itself is a warm and inviting location to luxuriate over your cup of coffee, a freshly house baked morning pastry or lunchtime salad and panini. Perhaps the best bite of all is one of WE’s signature handmade waffles; crispy and soft, served with fresh fruit, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and ice cream, one of the best I’ve ever eaten. The attention to detail in everything at WE Coffee Roasters makes each visit special and whether you’re quickly passing on your way to work or catching up with friends over lunch you’ll find something to your liking.

CONTEST: WE Coffee has kindly provided two bags of freshly roasted beans for you to experience your own taste of WE at home. A bag of Supreme Espresso and a bag of West End Blend are up for grabs. Just leave a comment and tell us what is your favourite coffee drink or tweet “I want to win my morning #coffee from @jminter. Brew at home w/ freshly roasted beans from @WECoffeeInc #contest RT” On Friday April 19th we’ll randomly contact a winner to get their beans. (To ensure the freshness of the beans, the winner must be able to pick up the beans in person in Vancouver)

WE Coffee Roasters is located at 1696 Robson Street, in the West End of Vancouver BC
Phone: 604.566.9988 Email:
Hours: Monday – Friday 6:00am – 9:00pm Saturday/Sunday 7:00am – 9:00pm
Like them on Facebook and follow on Twitter @WECoffeeInc

Picks of the Week: April 10, 2013

The feeling of spring is in the air, even the rain has a different scent as it mixes with Cherry Blossoms and other blooms, spring is definitely the theme of the week.

West-Coast Sakura Tea Service
West-Coast Sakura Tea Service

Spring: Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival continues throughout the city all of April. Celebrate spring with the vibrant pinks and white of the city’s cherry trees.

Sip: Visit the Urban Tea Merchants for their spring West-Coast Sakura Tea service. Tea infused tastes of the West-Coast with Japanese influences are accompanied by their lastest Sakura! Sakura! Tea.

Sounds: Prince starts his unique West Coast tour of small venues with 4 shows (2 per night) at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre; April 15 – 16. Tickets available at

Support: Wiggle 19 is a wearable art show and benefit supporting A Loving Spoonful. Show your support on April 13th at Fortune Sound Club buy tickets in advance online or at Barbarella, Stratosphere, Chemically Addicted, Union Salons and Little Sisters

Sport: Whitecaps FC host Real Salt Lake as they return home to BC Place for an afternoon match at 1pm on Saturday April 13th.

Sweet: What better way to spend a Sunday than having dessert? Van Foodster’s Tasting Plates Vancouver ‘Ultimate Desserts’ invites foodies to taste their way around the city sampling sweet treats from the city’s restaurants. Tickets are available until April 11th for just $35 from EventBrite


Fairmont Hotels “Get Steeped” For November

For the second November in a row, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is celebrating the age old tradition of taking tea. The “Get Steeped with Fairmont” program runs in hotels and resorts around the world. With iconic properties like The Fairmont Empress in Victoria, London’s The Savoy, New York City’s The Plaza or the brand new Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai all brewing up special tea services. There is something for everyone, from tea-sommelier led tastings and unique tea infused cocktails each property across the chain is putting their own spin on tea.


In addition to the hotel tea services, guests can create their own tea tradition with Fairmont’s new limited-edition Eclipse blend, the first in a new series of select teas to be offered annually for “Get Steeped”.  The unique-to-Fairmont black tea blend, created in partnership with The Metropolitan Tea Company, is available at select properties and online at Fairmont shop alongside Fairmont’s wide selection of other signature tea blends.


With The Fairmont Empress, The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, The Fairmont Waterfront, The Fairmont Vancouver Airport, Fairmont Pacific Rim, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler and The Fairmont Olympic Hotel all nearby, we Vancouverites have plenty of opportunities to “Get Steeped”.

The Urban Tea Merchant

Tucked away in a sunny courtyard off of Alberni Street, The Urban Tea Merchant is a mecca for tea lovers, half retail tea boutique and half tea salon. As the exclusive North American partner with TWG Tea, shoppers can experience the aroma and sample taste 250 of TWG Tea’s finest luxury blends as well as browse some beautiful and unique accessories, tea-infused edibles, gifts and tea sets.  Like fine wine, TWG Tea is hand blended in Singapore to exacting standards making it a favourite brand of 5 diamond hotels, airlines and first class retailers across the globe. Whether it’s a familiar Earl Grey or herb tea or a top of the line blend which can cost up to $500/100g making the ‘right’ tea selection can easily overwhelm but The Urban Tea Merchant has a tea sommelier, M. Reza Nasooti, on hand to help pick the perfect blend to suit your taste or mood. His knowledge, experience and passion for tea was infectious as he guided me through an array of blends that stimulated all the senses while sitting at the tasting bar in the retail shop.

After shopping or while contemplating your choices, head into The Urban Tea Merchant Tea Salon for a luxurious tea service. Whether for lunch, weekend brunch, afternoon tea or after-work light bites and cocktails the tea salon is a quiet, elegant oasis to savour a hot cup of TWG Tea whilst enjoying beautifully prepared, presented and served tea-infused savoury and sweet treats. Respecting the tea culture of Vancouverite’s diverse backgrounds, their chef puts his own spin on traditional Tea Service with treats that combine traditions from all the cultures and bounty of the West Coast alongside TWG Tea infused items.  The results are truly memorable taste sensations that I had the pleasure of experiencing first hand on a recent afternoon.  If Tea Service doesn’t fit the mood of your day, opt for a charcuterie plate and a tea-infused cocktail, perfect for a warm autumn afternoon. Created by Mixologist Ben Lambie alongside sommelier Nasooti the duo have brought their expertise together to develop a tasty selection of cocktails for Fall including Matcha Sour (bourbon, lime, Matcha), Lapsang Souchong Caesar (vodka, clamato juice, Lapsang Souchong Tea), 1837 Black Tea Mimosa (prosecco, orange juice, 1837 Black Tea) and my personal favourite, Chocolate Earl Grey Martini (gin, lemon, Chocolate Earl Grey Tea).

If you need an added excuse to stop in during the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month,  The Urban Tea Merchant is donating 10% of the proceeds of every Pink Flamingo Cosmopolitan (vodka, cranberry, lime, Pink Flamingo Tea) towards the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Being so centrally located The Urban Tea Merchant is near everything, making it a perfect spot to stop during an afternoon of shopping, after a busy day at work or weekend brunch. I look forward to stopping in again try more of their menu in the Tea Salon and the Retail Shop is definitely a going to be a Christmas/Birthday Shopping destination from now on.

The Urban Tea Merchant is located at 1070 West Georgia Street (accessible from both Georgia Street or Alberni Street) phone (604) 692-0071 or reserve and shop online

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Month at The Fairmont Empress

This weekend marks the central weekend celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of HRH Queen Elizabeth II with festivities happening all over Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Here at home, The Fairmont Empress in Victoria is celebrating their tie to the British Royal Family with a month full of Queen’s Jubilee events and specials, honouring her 60 years on the throne. The Queen has visited The Empress 5 times over the decades, now you can carry on the tradition and create your own Royal memories; sipping tea from regal Empress China, ordering the Queen’s favourite cocktail Bombay Dry Gin and Dubonnet red, served with lemon and ice in the Bengal Lounge or walking the same hallowed halls as the Royal Family.

The fun begins tomorrow!

Diamond Jubilee Gala
The Fairmont Empress’s newly renovated Ivy Ballroom will host the Diamond Jubilee Gala. Expect tasting stations, a welcome drink, and musical entertainment. Wear your finest threads for this Royal Bash! Saturday June 2, 2012, doors open at 7:30pm. CAD $90 per person/ticket, advance purchase required.

Tea At The Empress

Sparkling Brunch
Don’t miss our Sparkling Brunch in celebration of the HRH Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. Indulge in a glass of sparkling wine while you enjoy classic British fare as well as our Empress-ive brunch offerings like Eggs Benedict, a local seafood bar, a Prime Rib carving station, and a decadent dessert buffet from our Pastry Shop. Ivy Ballroom from June 3 10am-2pm. $60 per person.

The Royal-Tea Experience
The Fairmont Empress introduces a twist on our famous Afternoon Tea. Introducing The Royal-Tea Experience, a tea tier of three delectable cheeses from the famous cheese makers of Salt Spring Island served with a tawny port and a fresh serving honey out of the honeycombs of Chef’s honey garden served at your table side. 24 hour advance booking required. From June 2 until August 31 only. $89.95 per person.

Queen’s Dinner
Our Executive Chef will design a six course dinner with a course from each decade of HRH Queen Elizabeth’s reign. The first 40 guests who book will dine off the rarely used “Queen’s China”, reserved only for royal visits. June 5, 2012, from 6pm to 9pm in The Empress Room. $160 per person for a six course dinner including a glass of bubbly. Chef has royal culinary surprises in store for this memorable evening.

Bengal Lounge

Royal Dog Show and Tea Party
A royal celebration would not be complete without a dog show and tea party. In partnership with The Scruffy Dog Barkery, join us for a dog show full of prancing, parades and prizes. Afternoon Tea to go is $25 per person and available onsite. Bring a blanket, chair and your sense of fun for an afternoon of family fun! Sunday June 3, 2012

Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont Empress
Introduces “Fit for a Queen” Willow Stream Spa is fit for a queen no matter the occasion. Regarded on the Condé Nast list of best spas in Canada, Willow Stream is an urban oasis. Have your make-up done, your feet scrubbed, and nails painted by the best in Victoria.

For more information on any of the Diamond Jubilee events visit or call 1.250.3849.2727 for dining reservations
Visit The Fairmont Empress on Facebook  or on Twitter at @FairmontEmpress