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Yayu, a New Plant-Based Cafe Now Open in Ucluelet

Yayu, a New Plant-Based Cafe Now Open in Ucluelet

From the moment you walk into Ukee’s Yayu Cafe you feel it—a lot of love went into this place.

It’s evident in the live edge slab tables and seating on the patio—both handmade by friends with locally milled wood—to the thoughtfully created plant-based menu. Inside the cafe, a communal harvest table provides ample seating and opportunity for conversation with friends and strangers. The bright, casual decor is simple yet eclectic; a mix of refinished vintage furniture, retro flatware and cutlery, and handmade goods by local artists like Diane Rudge.

Yayu Cafe opened its doors in early July and has already become a hub for friends and locals to gather and enjoy plant-based goodies. For founder Sharon Wu, the love of wholesome and sustainable food shines through. Her philosophy is all about awareness and conscious eating. She says, “Even if you’re not on a plant-based diet, everyone should be mindful of what they eat. Where did you get it, how did you get it, why are you eating it? Is it enriching your life? Is it nourishing for you?” 

Yayu has been open less than a month, but the regulars are already establishing themselves. As a Tofino resident, I’ve made more than one commute “south of the wall” to indulge in wholesome, healthy fare. The strong community in Ucluelet and Tofino is part of the reason Sharon chose to open here. 

As with any good spot, atmosphere is key and Yayu has that in spades. But what really shines is the menu. There’s been plenty of (well deserved) hype about the Rose Quartz Latte—a warm concoction of beetroot, hibiscus, rosehip, and steamed plant-based milk of your choice—as well as the Chocolate Mushroom elixir, a blend using medicinal Chaga mushrooms (which support the immune system); the Matcha Mind Latte with green tea, lion’s mane and moringa; and the classic chilled horchata. (Tip for the caffeine lovers: add a shot of espresso to the Chocolate Mushroom, it’s something else.)

For food, standouts include the Kofta Curry (Sharon’s favourite), the Falafel Bowl and the Community Abundance bowl, a dish that is offered on a sliding scale (starting at $8 CAD), and which comes with a note that reads, “We believe that organic and healthy foods should be made available to everyone. If you’ve had a hard week…We are here for you!”.

Let’s not forget about the decadent baked goods and raw dessert bars, something Sharon is particularly passionate about. Top of my list: The Snickerdoodle, (gluten-free and no refined sugar) made with a walnut and coconut crust, cashew filling, topped with FATSO salted caramel peanut butter and drizzled with dark chocolate. If you’re just discovering Fatso, you should stop reading immediately and go get some.

“Even if you’re not on a plant-based diet, everyone should be mindful of what they eat. Where did you get it, how did you get it, why are you eating it? Is it enriching your life? Is it nourishing you?” 

Yayu is the fruit of many years of labour and planning. Her plant-based journey began after her mother passed from colon cancer. Then while living abroad in California, Indonesia and Australia, her eyes were opened to the abundance of fresh local produce available year round, and a different way of eating took hold. With the seed planted, she ended up studying raw foods and nutrition while in Bali. Upon returning home [to the Sea to Sky Corridor] she worked as a chef for Kristi Richards—two-time Olympian, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and founder of Solfeggio in Pemberton—and was deeply inspired by the process of a farm to table experience. 

But Sharon had always been drawn to the Island. In her early twenties, she spent the better part of a decade living between Tofino and Whistler. She decided to make the full-time move to Ucluelet, figuring it would be a good place to settle down and open up a cafe. Over the past few years, she’s been looking for the right space, and in anticipation of opening Yayu has also been slowly collecting vintage cutlery and dishes (much to her partner Dylan’s chagrin) in part for their quality and cost-efficiency.

Sharon’s not here to preach that vegan is the only way to be though. “Just because we’re a plant-based establishment doesn’t mean you have to eat this way [all the time] to enjoy the food. My vision was to just be here and be an option for people because if there’s no option, people won’t eat this way.” The food speaks for itself—every dish is nourishing and made with love.

Currently, all of Yayu’s food waste is being processed by a friend who is experimenting with a new methane biodigester system, which will hopefully produce usable cooking fuel while also using a portion to feed her chickens. Sharon would like Yayu to be zero-waste one day, although there are plenty of hurdles to get there—from the food packaging of sourcing products locally from the limited food suppliers that deliver to the peninsula. And after that? Sharon dreams of running a permaculture farm and living close to the land. When the time comes, I bet a lot of love will go into that too. 

Take a peek at Yayu’s menu and follow along with them on Instagram

Yayu Cafe
250 Main St, Ucluelet

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