We booked overnight flights, so as to save money on accommodation. We had read about that "tip" on a travel blog, aimed at travellers like ourselves; young(ish), low on funds, high on travel aspirations. It seemed like a good idea at the time...yet we soon remembered, an hour or so into the flight, that our brains have a slight, no, moderate aversion to sleeping in a plane, car, train, basically anything other than a bed really.
But it was a means to an end, and it got us where we needed to go: Eastern Canada.
We were really excited to see the complete opposite side of Canada. And especially to explore the Coffee scene outside of B.C.
So, we managed to lightly doze our way through the 6+ hour flight from Vancouver to Halifax (with a brief stop in Montreal). Needless to say, we emerged into the chilly eastern air, tired, groggy and a little worse for wear.
After collecting our bags and picking up the rental car, we already knew what the next, and vital step was: Finding a good cup of coffee.
From the Airport, it was a short drive into the city, including a bit of scrambling to find a spare coin for the toll bridge (a "loonie"/$1 coin will do!). We parked, did some quick research on our phones, and decided which coffee destination we would start our Eastern explorations with.
1. The Old Apothecary
Bakery and Cafe
From the parking lot down by the waterfront, to The Old Apothecary, there was a KIND OF BIG hill. That, paired with the fresh and biting wind of the Atlantic Ocean, sure woke us, and our appetite, up. Once we found the cafe, we were immediately charmed by the exterior. It had a boutique style, elegant, yet simple.
We stepped inside and found colourful furniture, rustic brick walls, quirky decor and a nice looking selection of desserts and baked goods.
Lemon meringue tart seemed a good choice for breakfast at the time (blame the sleep deprivation), and we paired this with a Latte + Double Macchiato.
Food - the Lemon Meringue tart looked really good, and the taste was really nice. The meringue was well done, not over- or under-cooked.
Coffee - the Taste of the coffee was okay, but the milk texture wasn’t great. The Latte came out more like a Cappuccino. However, the milk wasn’t burnt and the overall flavour still held well. The Barista probably just needed to hone their milk texturing technique.
Would we visit again?
We would go back there to try more of their baked goods.
The next day, we had a busy day of driving planned to explore the East coast of Nova Scotia. We needed coffee and a snack to start the day before heading out, and were happy to find that one of our pre-researched coffee spots was right down the road from the Hotel we were staying.
2. Dilly Dally
A small, cozy place; light and bright and busy, but didn't feel cramped. They had lots of good cafe-style food to choose from, including cabinet and menu items.
We went for the Veggie Bagel + Coconut coffee Muffin + Latte + Flat white.
Everything came on mismatched, antique crockery, which looked cool. The staff were hipsters, but seemed friendly enough.
Food - Muffin had unique flavour and tasted pretty good, though it was a tad dry. The bagel was really good, and they cut it in half for us without us even asking, which was nice service.
Coffees - Very good taste and they had pretty good-looking latte art.
Would we go back? Yes, and we would be interested to try more of their food/menu too.
Our third, and last day in Halifax. We had read about our next spot and were keen to check it out before heading to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
3. Grafton Cafe
Scanway bakery’s specialty is their baked goods, and when you first walk into this cafe, that is apparent. They had a big selection of breads, baked goods, and a cabinet with some great looking doughnuts.
It was one of those moments when you just accept your fate and eat pastries, because, well, why the heck not...we got a pain au chocolate + white chocolate blueberry doughnut + Latte + Double Macchiato.
Food - the pastries, as expected, were really good. It was a little bit of a sweetness overload, but that was due to our choice of goods.
Coffees - Unfortunately, I would say their specialty lies in their baked goods, and baked goods alone. We may have just got an inexperienced barista that day, she did seem kind of young. The milk was piping hot (burnt) and the taste of the espresso was bitter and ashy.
Would we go again?
We would probably return for the food; it would be a good place to go grab some baked treats to share with friends, family or workmates.
Wandering around the Maritime Museum for a few hours, and our time in Halifax was drawing to a close.
We had a longish drive ahead of us to our next destination, and wanted a little fuel to keep the fire going, our next stop had been on our radar, so we mapped our route out of the city and made sure to pass it on our way out.
4. Two if by Sea
When we pulled up to park outside Two if by Sea, we were a little apprehensive upon seeing the brick facade and old fashioned awning. We wondered if it might be a little dated, with not-so-good coffee.
But, as they might just say, "Don't judge a cafe by it's facade". Once we stepped inside, the interior was much more new and modern. It was light, open and fairly busy.
We were looking for lunch, and at first were a little disappointed by the small selection of baked goods on offer. But then we noticed a winding staircase leading to a second level, and were happy to find some food options up there too (more on that here).
Once we had lunch, we headed back down the spiral staircase to grab some drinks to go. We also checked out the merchandise. There was a good selection of general merch and also coffee to purchase, and we bought a t-shirt.
Staff were a little spacey, or awkward, or shy? We couldn’t really tell which, but they were nice enough. We ordered coffees (Latte + Double Macchiato), and picked up a cookie for later, as they looked too good to miss.
Coffee - Great texture of milk and the overall flavour of the coffee was very good. My 12oz Latte tasted a little weak, so next time I would check the espresso to milk ratio when ordering, and possibly go down a size, or add another espresso shot to get more strength in flavour.
Food - the cookie we had later on, and it was really good! It was oatmeal chocolate chip, with a blend of spices, so it had a great flavour. Texture was good too; firm on the outside, soft on the inside.
Our time in Halifax was short, but sweet. It's a small city, a little bit quirky, and with lots of character.
We would definitely like to go back, should the chance arise, and could see it being a cool place to live.
In our adventure to find good coffee, we managed to go to 4 of the coffee places that we wanted to visit, and out of those we had some pretty good coffee.
We have no doubt there are a probably a few more good coffee spots hiding away though. Or if not yet, in the near future the city will see growth in the coffee and food scene.
Have you experienced good coffee in Halifax? Or in other parts of Nova Scotia?
Let us know! We're curious to hear more...