I still remember when Krispy Kreme opened in Delta. It was the first one on the west coast of Canada, and my brothers and I were bursting with excitement to visit it. The location wasn’t too far from where one of my aunt’s lived, so we would stop off for a box of donuts anytime we visited. And as anyone who has visited a Krispy Kreme knows, you end up walking out of the store not only with the donuts that you purchase, but also a free, still warm, glazed donut that you get just for entering the store. You can imagine the level of excitement this created in us kids.
Since then, the donut scene in Vancouver has changed substantially. Not only do we have the chain shops like Krispy Kreme and Tim Horton’s, but a number of gourmet donut shops have popped up as well. One of the first was Cartems, with their original location in Gastown. Since then they’ve opened a second shop on Main Street, and recently a third in Kitsilano. Since the new location was so close to my home, I decided to head over one morning with Aunt Seuss for a donut and tea.
Before getting to my donut, I ordered myself a London Fog. Did anyone else realize that London Fogs are thought to have originated in Vancouver? Although no one knows for sure who first came up with the drink, many people credit the now closed Buckwheat Cafe that used to reside on 4th avenue. So you can add them to the list of Canadian foods, along with maple syrup, poutine, and Nanaimo bars.
The London Fog at Cartems was well made. It was milky with a nice foam, and had strong notes of bergamot and a smooth finish (all their tea comes from a company called The Tea Guy). The tea latte came sweetened, although only lightly, but enough that I didn’t feel the need to add any additional sweeteners. It was a pleasant drink to sip while snacking on a donut.
Smoked Maple Walnut – $3.25
I’ve tried the majority of the different donuts at Cartems on previous visits, and generally find them to be too sweet for my liking. As such, I figured I might prefer a donut that had some savoury elements to help balance the sweetness. The Smoked Maple Walnut fit the bill, as it was covered in salty smoked walnuts and was one that I’dn never before had the opportunity to try. Sure enough, the plethora of nuts were lightly salted which helped balance the sweetness of the yeast donut and its maple glaze. The smokiness of the nuts was also apparent, and paired particularly well with the maple. Because the entire donut was covered in nuts, this was definitely one of their heavier donuts. I ate this at around 10 am, and I wasn’t hungry again until about 8 pm that evening. It’s one of the few donuts at Cartems that I would order again.
But would I return for the donut alone? Not on my own. I just don’t have enough of a sweet tooth to lure me. But if I were looking for a place to buy a bunch of donuts to bring to a gathering, I would definitely go to Cartems. The quality of the donuts is much higher than at local chains, and the flavours are far more interesting. Plus they’re clearly doing something right if they managed to open up three locations in just a few years. Check them out, and let me know what you think!