Artistry encompassed in a cup

At Compass Coffee, attention is lavished on ingredients as well as presentation



Why: Owners Bryan Wray and Mike McGinness are redefining their downtown coffeehouse, Compass Coffee, formerly known as Paradise Cafe, in order to shine the spotlight on their locally roasted beans.

The beans are hand-crafted at their combined roaster, tasting lab and education center on St Johns Road in Vancouver.

Besides fresh paint and a new menu board, the changes bring pre-made sandwiches and wraps in place of made-to-order sandwiches. Cheesecake, bagels, and homemade scones, cookies and muffins are available as well.

Atmosphere: For coffee lovers who desire a less trend-focused coffeehouse, Compass Coffee may be perfectly suited — and it also offers free WiFi.

Plants, a table-top fountain and help-yourself water service define the small space, which has seating enough for twenty at various tables and chairs. A leather sofa and two club chairs provide some lounging room. Other than one brick wall, the walls are painted wood and dressed up with some attractive photos.

What I tried: I tried an African Muscovado latte — a Compass Coffee exclusive. I paired my latte with a Cranberry Orange Chocolate Chip Scone.

Manager Ben Lindsey explained to me that the syrup used to sweeten the African Muscovado latte is what sets it apart. The syrup is made from raw sugar bricks from Africa. The molasses has not been extracted from this sugar.

This syrup imparts a high-octane sweetness to the latte, which is sure to please those with a sweet tooth or a fondness for a memorable rich molasses flavor. The latte was expertly topped with a design in the froth that lasted a little more than halfway through my 12-ounce portion.

The scone was large and chock-full of cranberries and chocolate chips, surrounded by orange zest that had been mixed into its batter. It was moist, dense, tart and sweet, with a buttery quality. I believe the scone is best eaten warm.

Other menu highlights beyond what I tried: Coffee is brewed to order and there are several flavors to choose from. Compass Coffee’s chai tea is custom-made from a secret recipe. Authentic chai spices are only slightly sweetened in order to allow the traditional spice flavors to come through.

Likewise, mochas are made with a custom-made chocolate syrup. Blended drinks, loose leaf teas, hot chocolate and fruit smoothies are also on the menu.

Other observations: The latte didn’t let me down and I’m looking forward to trying a simple coffee on my next visit, or perhaps the chai tea. Whole coffee beans are available to purchase in no-frills brown bags.

Beginning in January, Compass Coffee will be hosting weekly Latte Art Throw Downs — offering a place for local baristas to come display their latte art talent and compete in the spirit of camaraderie.

Wray and McGinness also own Java Nation Coffeehouse in Beaverton, Ore.

Cost: Drinks cost between $2 and $5.50. Sandwiches and wraps are $5 to $7. Pastries and cookies are $1 to $3.

Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Telephone: 360-696-1612.

Where: 1304 Main St., Vancouver,

Health score: Compass Coffee received a score of 12 on Nov. 5. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.