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A Look Inside Slo Coffee, ‘Officially’ Opening Doors on Fraser Street Next Week

Slo Coffee – a new Fraser Street café inspired by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi – will be providing a space for Vancouverites to slow down and simply enjoy a good cup of coffee, beginning next week. Having previously visited the space only once back in February, when it was still under construction and mostly raw concrete, last week I returned to take a look at the finished product…

The room looks even better than I had imagined. Owners Colin Lai and Paul Irwin, with the help of Calgary’s Little Giant Architecture & Interiors Studio and Loki Creative, have transformed a former tile shop into a sanctuary, replete with uncluttered surfaces, natural materials, and an open layout.

Entering the café via one of two doors off of Fraser Street, the 1400-square-foot space includes a retail section, cozy booths made from American cherrywood, and a tile-surrounded coffee bar under a floating light box – all centred in the room. The curve of the wall-to-ceiling transition vaguely reminds me of an inverted, gently sloping half pipe, lending a Zen-like ambience to the room. The millwork is also beautiful (hat tip to The Wood Shop). The seating arrangement includes small booths along the north wall opposite benches paired with round tables on the south wall, and two natural-light-filled window seats facing Fraser Street. Each one of the total 16 seats looks equally inviting. On the north wall, two floating shelves comprise a small but thoughtfully put-together retail area, consisting of tote bags, hats, coffee, and a round-up of reading materials supplied by Nooroongji Bookstore (Granville Island). Overall, it’s a super slick-looking space.

When I first met with the team earlier this year, Irwin explained the vision for Slo Coffee as such: “We want everyone who comes into Slo Coffee to feel at ease and welcomed, like they’re part of something special…it will be a concept and space based around time; a gentle reminder to embrace the unhurried ritual of sipping coffee, and to slow down and appreciate the present moment. In a world that often seems to whirl by in a blur, we believe in the life-affirming necessity of taking and making time.” Though that sentiment could be perceived as verging on ‘precious’, I believe it’s earnest, and one that I like and respect. Despite the polish and high-end products, nothing here feels ‘snobby’.

At the time of my second visit, Café Manager Adam Gold is behind the bar making coffee for staff, and asks if I’d like something too. Coffee is the obvious play here, but it’s already quite late in the day, so I apologetically opt for a low-caffeine Hojicha tea latte (more often than not the go-to menu item for humouring people who can’t handle caffeine.) Gold’s immediate response is to let me know that at Slo Coffee they are running a ‘low-key, no judgment’ bar where I should feel comfortable ordering whatever I want. As he prepares my drink, I move around the room, listening to him explain the tasting notes of their Hojicha to Lai, who is helping out. That’s when it becomes absolutely clear to me just how much Gold knows and appreciates tea, as well as coffee. Once the Hojicha is in my hand (in a soothing muted-green ceramic mug) I can finally taste the quality for myself. This is obviously not an afterthought drink – it’s really good.

In total, Slo Coffee’s menu offers a range of espresso-based drinks, pour-overs, batch brews, and seasonal specialties. For opening, the latter includes an Iced Pistachio Matcha Latte, plus a Hibiscus Espresso Tonic and Hibiscus and Mango Iced Tea. The café also serves green, black and herbal teas, alongside a selection of baked goods made for them by Beyond Bread – think sourdough toasts topped with hummus, Caprese, or blackberry; as well as breakfast sandwiches with either pesto or bacon, and a Ham & Cheese or Apple and Brie on baguette for lunch. They also have a nice-looking chocolate chip cookie.

Slo Coffee officially opens doors on Monday, June 24th, but if you’re really keen then you might be able to sneak in over the weekend during their neighbourhood-oriented ‘soft opening’. In the meantime, take a look around via the photo gallery below…

Slo Coffee
Neighbourhood: Fraserhood
4160 Fraser St.
(Opening soon)

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