Contributor Shaleeta Harper reviews local cafe, Blenz.
Students are pretty well known drug addicts. Many of us can’t get through those 8 am classes without clutching a cup of caffeine. My addiction is minor compared to some of my peers, but it’s still typical to find me doing my homework in a coffee shop, the goods a few steps away at most. In a city with a university, we have quite a few local haunts, all with their own highlights, and it can be hard to know which one to visit. This year I’m dedicated to trying all of them—new ones and old favourites—and giving you the skinny on where you should hunker down during midterms and finals, or just sit and people watch.
Students are pretty well known drug addicts
First up: Blenz. It’s pretty far from campus but I, like many young people in Nanaimo, work at Woodgrove Centre. They offer good discounts for mall staff, bonus number one in my books. At my work, we are constantly taking turns doing coffee shop runs. My co-worker Jayson Wall, who can be found with a Blenz Americano in hand most days, says, “The espresso brownie is a beanhead’s wet dream.” Obviously, he’s a fan.
My drink of choice is the mocha, or a matcha. Blenz makes an incredible mocha, with real Belgian chocolate, and give you a choice of dark, milk, or white.
One day I picked up a large, dark chocolate mocha (with whip), and an espresso brownie. The mocha was perfectly bitter, and not too sweet. Anyone who loves dark chocolate should know what I mean. It’s quite a dense drink, so I’ll be ordering it with a cup of water in the future, but it’s like it should be: practically a dessert. It’s not very strong, so if you like your drinks dancing, you may want to order an extra shot of espresso.
The brownie was, as another co-worker mentioned, like a ganache. It wasn’t dense like a traditional brownie, but thick soft chocolate with a mild kick of espresso. Definitely a once-in-a-while treat.
I went back later for a vegetable samosa and real coffee at lunch. The samosa was an interesting twist on traditional coffee shop fare— excellent for a savoury snack, with a kick of spice—and sizeable enough to work as a small lunch. The coffee tasted pure and clean. I’m not usually a straight coffee drinker but I’m glad I gave it a shot. I enjoyed it black at first, then added a bucket of cream and sugar.
The prices were moderately high—a large coffee and a muffin are about $4.50—but being in a large shopping centre, that isn’t surprising. They also bake all the goods in-shop, so they are very fresh.
The coffee shop is a bit cramped, but the seats spill out into a large section in the mall. The décor is modern, with local metalwork art gracing the walls. They offer customers free Wi-Fi and comfortable seating, but the machines are quite loud in the small shop itself, which can make it hard to focus. They stay open later than most cafés in Nanaimo—matching the mall hours—but they also open later in the morning.
My thoughts? This is a great coffee shop to go to for a weekend off, or a relaxing people watching adventure with friends. It could even be a place to write if you enjoy background bustle, but it’s not perfect for a long study session when you need quiet.