Victorians are spoiled with an abundance of fantastic cafes, but so far most of them reside in the downtown core. Enter Coffee Shack, the Westshore’s first specialty coffee shop, which opened in November 2021 to considerable excitement.
Communities like Langford and Colwood have seen tremendous growth in the last five years; they’re no longer just suburbs of Victoria. It’s gratifying for residents new and old to see businesses recognize this and cater to the local population. Coffee Shack is just one of a wave of exciting new ventures.
Recently, Tasting Victoria sat down with Coffee Shack co-owner Samantha White to learn about the impetus behind Coffee Shack Westshore, what it was like opening a new business in the midst of a pandemic, and where she and her co-owner husband, Joseph, hope to take the business in the future.
Putting down roots
Samantha was born and raised in Victoria, and though she spent years away, she always planned to return to this unique West Coast environment. Five years ago, she and her husband made that vision a reality, relocating from Toronto to the Island. She explains, “After years of travel, we decided to move back to Victoria to plant some roots. We both ended up managing cafes, and the dream grew stronger to create something of our own.” The result of that dream was the first Coffee Shack, opened in Cobble Hill in 2017, followed by a second at Saltair in 2019.
The early days were challenging but rewarding, as she and Joseph grew both their business and their family. “We worked 7 days a week – no staff, just the two of us. Joseph worked on the bar. I worked in the kitchen, pregnant with Naia and Finn strapped on my back.” Their two children grew up in the cafes and continue to be a delightful presence in the new Westshore location, giving it a friendly and familiar vibe.
Speaking with Samantha and Joseph, a common theme in their story is the importance of developing relationships. While they chalk it up to good fortune, it’s clear that persistence and enthusiasm have consistently landed them big opportunities. First, connections they built in the coffee industry landed them a coveted all-black Black Eagle espresso machine for the Saltair location, one of only two such machines in Canada. Then came the opportunity to lease the new space in Langford, thanks to a friendly relationship with the building’s owner stemming back years.
The impacts of Covid-19
These days, It’s impossible to talk to a small business owner without discussing the ramifications of Covid. For the Coffee Shack team, it has been both a blessing and a curse.
They were forced to close their original Cobble Hill location at Whippletree Junction in order to prioritize the Saltair shop. Says Samantha, “We focused all our effort on Saltair. Joseph and I worked 7 days a week with the two kids and zero staff throughout the pandemic.” Though exhausting, a silver lining emerged as the community rallied around the new business, she says. “We had the opportunity to truly connect with the community of Chemainus and Ladysmith. Without the support of the community and our hard work, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Two years later, when the opportunity to lease the Westshore location arose, Samantha and Joseph jumped on it. Despite the ongoing pandemic, the lessons they learned regarding hard work and community support made them confident the new location would thrive. So far that has proven true. Longtime Langford mayor Stewart Young made an appearance at the Grand Opening, emphasizing the city’s support, and residents have been visiting in droves to indulge in specialty coffee and Samantha’s house-made baked goods.
Why specialty coffee?
Specialty coffee is a poorly defined term in the coffee industry, but it typically refers only to the quality of coffee beans. Coffee Shack takes this a step further, says Samantha. “We define it by three things: the coffee beans used, the equipment, and the barista.” She continues, “We bring in the highest quality coffee beans we can find, from reputable coffee roasters. We have the highest-end espresso machine accompanied by the best grinders.”
Coffee Shack relies primarily on local roasters, which they feature in their drinks and sell by the bag. These include Fernwood and Fix Coffee from Victoria, Black and White Coffee Roasters from Duncan, and Detour and The Colombian from further afield. However, their selection is ever-changing to ensure only the freshest and best coffees are on offer.
Plan your visit
Coffee Shack is located in Goldstream Village in Langford, at 2778 Peatt Rd, and is open every day. If you’re not sure what to order, a safe bet is any of the espresso drinks. Their Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine is as high-performance as it is beautiful. Samantha calls it “the Ferrari of espresso machines.”
The signature drink is the Maple Africano, a milk and espresso drink with a sweet base of maple syrup, and it is well worth an order. According to Samantha, “Joseph created the Maple Africano at our first location. I call it his party trick. It truly is a crowd-pleaser; everyone gets hooked on it.”
But don’t stop at just a drink. The house-made treats, baked fresh daily, are clearly given the same love and care as the coffee, which is not always the case in specialty coffee shops. The Morning Glory muffin was a standout on a recent day, densely packed with coconut, carrots, raisins, and walnuts. Samantha recommends the scones. “Our scones are truly the best. Crispy outside with a flakey, buttery inside. The blueberry lemon is where it’s at.”
It’s impressive how quickly Coffee Shack Westshore has established itself as a fixture of the community, especially after November’s unprecedented rainstorms forced a cancellation of their original grand opening. But Samantha and Joseph have no plans to rest on their laurels, with big ideas already in the works for 2022.
Samantha tells me, “We are planning to get our liquor license in spring and build an outdoor patio, as well as add a tapas menu and more seating inside. We are launching brunch in January and planning some more exciting things with food.” This exciting new coffee shop seems poised to be much more in the coming years.
Coffee Shack West Shore
2778 Peatt Rd.