Coffee in Vancouver is part of the culture of the city. As well as the national and international chains, there are many local independents doing their own thing, often with more excitement and devotion than anything Starbucks or Tim Horton's would dare.
Around the south Main Street area of the city are a number of good coffee houses, beyond the usual. One that stands out is Gene, just off the corner of Broadway and Main in a uniquely shaped building. Gene is not fancy in any way. It consistently serves good espresso coffees, and always with a small spoon, exactly as a good espresso beverage should be served. They feature some rather nice baked items with the croissants being highly acceptable. The place itself is a bit battered and rustic but it feels right for the neighbourhood; the regulars are legion. Service is not particularly warm and fuzzy, and might, to some, feel slightly unfriendly. That too seems consistent, and shouldn't put a visitor off; the coffee is reason enough to come and linger.
A negative at Elysian: you have to ask for a spoon with your espresso drink. Good grief. An amazing positive at Elysian: they provide you the option of having sparkling or still water with your coffee, just like in Buenos Aires, and exactly as good coffee should be served. Elysian also has the best music mix of any coffee joint in the city and for some reason it always fits the mood of the moment. Or maybe it's all that coffee I'm drinking.
See some Buenos Aires coffee culture: Cafe y facturas and Esquina Sinclair .