Category Archives: Coffee & Theorems

“A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.”
– a folklore saying in the math community, often attributed to either Alfréd Rényi or Paul Erdős.

Doing maths in coffee shops

There’s an activity referred to by young graduate students and eager post-docs as “mathing it up”, which usually takes place in coffee shops. I like coffee.
Good coffee of the espresso persuasion. Flat whites, lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos … sigh.  I also want to explore Vancouver and, of course, the world of mathematics. It occurs to me that this can all be achieved simultaneously.

So, I’ve gathered a list, guided by the wisdom of the internet, of the best coffee shops in Vancouver. At each place, I will order a latte, or whatever most resembles a latte (some places have a cafe au lait or a flat white instead) and do some maths, while soaking in the coffee shop atmosphere. Is there good lighting? Is there free water? Is there free wifi? Is that a strange concrete catwalk leading to the bathroom (yes, Milano in Gastown … I’m talking about you)?

Without further ado, here is the list:

1. Bel Cafe
2. Musette Caffe (Downtown)
3. Caffe Artigiano (Hornby St)
4. Finches
5. Thierry
6. JJ Bean (Alberni St)
7. Coffeebar (Gastown)
8. Milano (Gastown)
9. East Van Roasters
10. Nelson the Seagull
11. Musette Caffe (Chinatown)
12. Revolver Coffee
13. Caffe Brixton
14. Timbertrain Coffee Roasters
15. Matchstick (Chinatown)
16. 49th Parallel Roasters Cafe (Main St)
17. Kafka’s
18. JJ Bean (Main St)
19. Coco et Olive
20. Caffe Cittadella
21. East Cafe
22. Ethical Bean (1315 Kootenay St)
23. Matchstick (Mount Pleasant)
24. Satori Factory (closed M,T)
25. 49th Parallel Roasters Cafe (Kitsilano, almond milk)
26. Momento (2766 W 4th Ave)
27. Elysian (West 5th)
28. Wicked (1299 W 7th Ave)
29. Prado
30. Bump N Grind
31. Turks
32. Milano (West End)
33. Greenhorn Espresso Bar
34. Cafe for Contemporary Art
35. Crema
36. Caffe Artigiano (Burnaby)
37. Caffe Divano
38. Elysian Coffee (Broadway location)
39. Continental Coffee
40. Arbutus Coffee (2200 Arbutus St)

I’ve included different locations of the same shop (like Matchstick and Elysian), since I’m looking for a coffee experience, and not just the coffee itself. The original Hornby location of Caffee Artigiano is on the list and so is the location on Hastings in Burnaby, since Burnaby was so under-represented on the list. I’ve mostly chosen places which are coffee shops, where people order a latte and lounge around, soaking up the coffee shop feel for a hour (which is what I’ll be doing). Not on the list are bakeries, breakfast places, Belgian breakfast shops – they might serve great coffee, but do not meet the criterion of being a place to think and study, that is not my office or my home.

Things I used to compile my list: