Books and coffee shops.  Coffee shops and books.  They’re a chance to be comfortable and still, clutch warm mugs, and enjoy the world beyond.

I like a coffee shop that’s big enough I don’t have to worry about finding a seat, but not so large that I’ll forever remain a stranger.  I like savouries on offer but sweets even more, which I can dip into London fogs or spicy chai teas.  I like when their music makes me sway, but doesn’t distracting me from my friends, writing, or book.  And I love, love, LOVE when a coffee shop has local art on its walls.

I like my bookshops to be second-hand, chaotic, and small.  I don’t enter with specific titles in mind, preferring instead to sift through piles of novels until I find something interesting.  I love it when the owners say “oooh! “ and “yes!” as I present my chosen titles at the counter, showing that their genuine love for books is what inspires them to keep up their business, as it will never be the money.

Cafes and bookshops are two of my great loves, and I’ve found them both in Steveston, just a block from each other in the heart of town.

Rocanini Coffee sits on a corner, with natural light pouring in through tall glass windows.  There’s plenty of seating in the L-shaped space, including a long communal table for friends or meetings.

You can tell the folks at Rocanini like talking about coffee, and they also walk the walk; all of their single-origin beans are roasted in their Vancouver roastery, which they also sell by the pound.  Like grapes or cacao, coffee beans that are skillfully roasted according to region and individual characteristics produce superior cups of coffee.  This is clearly what Rocanini strives as demonstrated in the coffee they produce, the products they use, and the detailed information they provide on their website.  They use a syphon for their coffee, which is an old technique but new to me.  Read about it’s growing popularity here.

Sadly, coffee doesn’t agree with me, nor has it ever.  For the most part I’ve accepted this, though there are definitely days when I put my nose into a bag of coffee beans and inhale, slowly and strongly.  I LOVE the smell of coffee, and wish I could drink it.  But c’est la vie!  What’s a girl to do when reviewing a coffee shop and she can’t drink coffee?  She brings along two of her beautiful, blonde, coffee-drinking friends.  Meet Marnie and Kaity, my java guinea pigs.

We ordered cappuccinos, an unsweetened London Fog, a roast chicken panini, apple tart, and chocolate mousse.  Their desserts are made by the Sweet Spot, and our bill came to $20.50.

The verdict on the cappuccinos?  Smooth, with coffee that could easily stand alone, no milk or sugar required.  For Marnie, not adding a grain of sugar says everything about a cup of coffee, and she and Kaity would both gladly have another.  My half-sweet London Fog was actually the best I’ve had; I could tell they use exceptionally good tea, which was brewed slowly for my cup.  There are many, many more of these in my future.

Our panini had roast chicken, cheddar, tomato, cucumber, endive, and mayo, and while filling, it was not terribly remarkable.  We all found it a little odd to have cucumber in a grilled sandwich, and there was a bit too much mayo.

The apple tart was not too sweet, though I have this sinking feeling it was made with canned apples.  But the chocolate mousse, ooooh the chocolate mousse!  This is the kind of dessert to which, if I was more poetic, I’d write an ode.  Thou hast a splendiferous veneer of glossy ganache coating a rich, smooth, superior interior resting upon a bold foundation of other-worldly cake and brave, hazelnut praline.

Like so many other shops that take their coffee seriously, the savoury foods at Rocanini are less of a priority.  Though I didn’t love the apple tart, I’m pretty sure most of the other desserts would be a hit, as the pastries looked golden and buttery, and the slices of cake tall and lush.  I’d suggest getting a cup of coffee or tea with a sweet on the side, and you’ll be set.

We lingered over our drinks, because it’s a place that allows for that.  There’s even a public bookshelf, so when you’ve finished one book you can swap it for another.  If there’s nothing of literary interest to you there, you can wander down the street and explore Steveston Books.

Owned by the same couple for 22 years, this crowded shop smells of old paper and adventure.  I bought Shanghai Girls and Plainsong, and as soon as I’m finished will be back to get others.  I’m looking forward to spending more story and friend-filled afternoons in this part of town.

And now, to you.  Where are your favourite places to curl up with a cuppa and read?  And pray tell, what are you reading?