Alook at The Parsonage Café’s website address clearly indicates its relationship with Fernwood Coffee: the two are one. Located on the corner of Cook Street and Caledonia Avenue, kitty-corner to Royal Athletic Park, this little coffee stop is an important anchor for the North Park district, and an integral part of the fabric of that community.
Community is obvious inside the pine-panelled Fernwood, where house-roasted coffee is served in a bright and spacious atmosphere that’s far too busy to be quiet. During my visit, the lineup never ends, a teacher unexpectedly meets and greets a student’s father, and no seat is ever long empty. Folks even sit at small tables outside, although the day is certainly not warm.
But community means much more to the Fernwood/Parsonage team than simply the local neighbourhood. Fernwood’s website proudly boasts of training the next generation of “world-class baristas,” sending them out into the coffee world, perhaps to compete, but that’s fine, for it seems that competition within Victoria’s coffee scene remains friendly.
And their dedication to the coffee community extends throughout the Pacific region, as their website boasts of awards received—and given: the owners having served as judges at various international barista competitions.
They certainly know how to make a latte. Coffee art is, of course, hardly unusual these days, but a good latte can be difficult to find. Properly made, it is as much about the mouth-feel as the flavour. Milk froth textures the espresso from first sip to last. This consistent sensation eludes shops that merely layer milk foam atop milk-infused espresso: that is not a proper latte, and you won’t find such here. Of course, Fernwood roasts their own beans, which are available for sale, and they even produce their own brand of instant coffee, made from freeze-dried Fernwood beans, of course.
The Parsonage is the food component to Fernwood Coffee. Its menu is dominated by sandwiches. I attend with my aunt, who, true to form, orders the BLT. I opt, no less predictably, for the Reuben. Both are served, by default, on whole wheat multigrain bread. My Aunt’s sandwich is piled high with tomatoes and a good portion of bacon from Oak Bay’s Slater’s Meats. My Reuben features a thick stack of rice-paper-thin shavings of smoked beef from Sidney’s Four Quarters Meats.
Sourcing local is just another way to support yet another community. It’s just the way things are done, and the result is a sandwich several steps above ordinary. My Aunt and I were both particularly pleased that our sandwiches’ fillings were filled from crust to crust. Too often I have found Reubens with all the meat mounded at the centre, and little around the edges.
“I get everything in every bite,” my Aunt concurred with delight.
The one downside is parking. There is no lot, no parking along Cook Street, and resident-only parking along Caledonia. I was lucky to find a two-hour spot on North Park Street, a half block west of Cook. Community to the end, the best way to get here, may be to walk.