Rocanini: a ‘cool space in Steveston’

Coffee at Rocanini is served from a siphon. - Carol Weng photo
Coffee at Rocanini is served from a siphon.
— image credit: Carol Weng photo

Danielle sits at a table for two with her laptop and cell phone at Rocanini, Steveston’s newest coffee house.

“I thought you were a Starbucks gal,” I say.

“When I go to Starbucks, I feel like the mom, even if Charlie isn’t with me,” she says. “Here, I feel like the old me. This place reminds me of being in New York. Or San Francisco. Or London. I love Steveston, but sometimes miss the urban life of Toronto. Here I feel like the old me. This is my little urban refuge.”

She comes to Rocanini, which opened in November at the corner of No. 1 Road and Moncton, three times a week to have her coffee and use wifi to work on her website –

“What I like is that anyone who checks my site doesn’t know where I am. I could be in downtown Vancouver or downtown Toronto. I’m not. I’m in a cool space in Steveston.”

The space is “cool”. Light and bright, with architecturally-interesting light fixtures, and a harvest table made of recycled wood from a castle in Leon, France, the café is meant to be Italian simplicity and modernism.

With years of experience as a retailer and roaster of coffee, owner Dawn Peng opened the café so she could supply and sell the coffee she roasts. The name, Rocanini, is a play on English, Chinese, and Italian language. “Rock” in English makes one think of a solid foundation. In Chinese, “rock” sounds like “in” as in trendy, fashionable, luxurious. And the “anini” part of the name sounds Italian.

Urban and fusion however, are not the only draws. Coffee is too (yes, I know, you are thinking, hey, there couldn’t be more cafes in one neighbourhood and how different can coffee be). Dawn, a Steveston resident and mother of one, with another due in April, proudly offers Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica – the most exciting, exhilarating, exotic, and aromatic coffee in the world. Grown at an elevation of more than 7,000 feet above sea level, Blue Mountain (named for the region in Jamaica) coffee is the world’s finest quality coffee.

Rocanini offers a less expensive Ethiopian coffee, but most people (thanks to the West Coast coffee culture) ask for Blue Mountain. Then they watch the barista brew the Blue Mountain in a siphon machine, rubbing the bottom of the glass orb with a towel and producing a rich, dark brew. It is a performance.

Siphons originated in Germany, but Japan added the technology to gauge precise temperatures. The machines are most popular in Japan, but it was in San Francisco where Dawn experienced siphoned coffee and decided to bring it to Canada.

The siphon requires the best quality beans. Choose Blue Mountain for $18 and enjoy three cups of coffee (great to share). Choose less than the best and pay $8 for three cups. “It’s reasonably priced for what you are getting,” says Dawn.

Dawn knows her coffee. She’s aware of terroir, regions, layers, and how to brew the best cup of coffee. “You can feel the layers, like wine,” she says of Blue Mountain. “Chocolate, nuts, fruit, flower. It stands on its own. You don’t need to add sugar or milk.

She explains that Rocanini uses single origin coffee beans for the drips; blends for lattes and espressos. Plenty of staff man the drips, siphons, and espresso machines. All are well-trained and regularly tested on brewing and product knowledge.

Paired with high-end coffee are the finest French pastries, made at a local bakery (customers figure out where the almond and chocolate croissants and other delicacies are from – as there’s only one French bakery in Steveston).

As I sip my Blue Mountain coffee and Dawn sips rooibos tea, I see so many friends drop in for a coffee. Dawn does too.

•Rocanini: #115-3900 Moncton Street, Steveston; Whole beans available. Open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (later hours as summer arrives).

* * *

Food Notes: RASSleDAZZle 2011 is part of the City of Richmond’s Winter Festival of the Arts, recognizing Luis Lopa’s art, character and life. Luis’s interest in the relationship between mood-altering substances, activities, and well-being culminated in an art exhibit that asks the question, “What do drugs, alcohol, and chocolate have to do with art?” Luis has teamed up with Richmond Addiction Services to host an Art Show Fundraiser on Thursday, March 10th from 5:30-8:30pm at Richmond Addiction Services - #200-7900 Alderbridge Way.  For more info, call 604-270-9220.

Arlene Kroeker writes about food every Thursday in The Richmond Review. She may be reached at 

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