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20 years in coffee - part 1 · 8.04.15 by colin newell

Chilling with cold brewed coffee

It is easy enough to get lost in the 140 character World of twitter where the quest is to be as funny or as informative as you can within some very strict guidelines. Problem is, one can spend way too much time just thinking about shrinking yourself down into this very small world.

Facebook is the same. One starts to think very small. It is like the social media universe is built to cater to the short attention span.

In the real world around us and above us there is no limit. There is no limit to what you can hear, see, small and taste. In the 20 years or so that I have been writing about coffee culture in Canada, I’ve seen it all, sipped it all and met every kind of coffee drinker. And yet I feel like I have just started to scratch the surface.

The exploration of the World around you (and in my case, the coffee World) is all about the people: Meeting them, talking to them, getting their unique perspective – taking it all in and taking away something new… adding to our own collective of knowledge.

In this my first chapter of a coffee journey lasting 20 years I start with today – about how random chance contacts with the people within and without the coffee world shape my perception of the world around me.

Today my coffee break routine was altered by the fact that I had forgotten to bring in a bag of coffee beans to prep in my lab for my fellow techs at 10 AM. I actually had to buy some brewed coffee. So I went to one of the most reliable joints on campus, the Finnerty Express. The Finnerty has been open for more than 20 years. It has been my go to place, either to hang out with friends and colleagues or to take a break from the fast paced World of IT. I celebrate that thing we call Coffee Break!

The Finnerty Express, over the years, has always featured the most passionate and cheerful of coffee people you could meet. After all these years, I think of the staff and crew at the Finnerty as my family.

Today we had a visit from the good people at Salt Spring Coffee – I chatted with one of the sales reps, Deb Franz, on the subject of coffee culture and their fresh new product: Cold Brew coffee.

I have always been a skeptic about changing the formula of a good thing – that is brewing coffee without hot water… I mean, how does that work. Anyway, SS Coffee has perfected the cold brew process by using quality coffee with the 15 hour steeping that cold brew requires and then bottling the “brew” when it is at its peak flavor. Now here is an additional kicker: Cold brew coffee has around 15% (or more) caffeine by volume and when you factor in the reality that the human body absorbs caffeine significantly faster when ingested from a cold beverage, you have the recipe for a stimulating and refreshing beverage.

Deb Franz brings to the coffee World an enthusiasm and passion for the bean and a desire to join the rest of us coffee lovers on this journey. A lifelong journey of exploration of the caffeinated beverage. Thank you for taking the time to chat Deb!

So: Cold brew coffee… a big thumbs up. Cold and refreshing right out of the bottle. And very peppy! I shared a bottle with 3 or 4 of my colleagues… even a non coffee drinker! Would I buy it again? Definitely.

In upcoming chapters I will reflect on two decades of discovery and adventure – and how the journey continues.


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and coffee expert who has traveled to many corners of coffee World looking for the ultimate cup of coffee… and finding it.

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Good Eats - Masala Lamb meatballs. · 17.02.15 by colin newell

Masala lamb HOT - from EAT Magazine

We shared a 1/2 lamb with my sister and brother-in-law – and with that package came from great ground lamb. This was the perfect recipe for lamb. This is a fascinating mixture of spice with an intriguing Mediterranean flavour and a nice bite. This recipe was inspired from the latest issue of EAT Magazine in Victoria B.C. Canada – but we mixed it up just a little bit. You can serve it with polenta, rice or pasta. We chose pasta. Overall, it takes about an hour to prepare so make sure you have a glass of red wine in your hand while you work!

SAUCE -
3 Garlic Cloves chopped
1 Onion chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon Cumin seeds
28 ounce canned plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt

MEATBALLS -

2 green onions shopped
2 eggs
1 slice brown bread
1/4 table cream
2 pounds ground lamb
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

TOPPING
Feta cheese.

PART ONE:

In a food processor, puree 3 garlic cloves with one chopped medium onion and
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in Dutch oven on medium heat.
Add 1 tablespoon cumin seeds and heat until they start to sizzle. Then add onion/garlic mixture.

Stir often until mixture softens and is translucent. Reduce heat to medium-low to prevent browning.
Cook 8 – 10 minutes.

PART TWO:

Puree canned plum tomatoes with 1 tablespoon garam masala and 1 teaspoon ea. Turmeric, Cayenne and Salt. Pour into pan with Onion and Garlic mixture. Stir in one cup water. Simmer 20 minutes to blend flavour.

PART THREE:

For the meatballs, in a food processor puree two chopped green onions with two eggs, one slice of brown bread torn into pieces and 1/4 cup table cream.
Turn this mix into a large bowl – add 2 pounds of ground lamb. 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground cumin and cinnamon. Add a pinch of salt. Gently mix until blended. Then shape into balls. Aim for a chubby golf ball size.

Makes about 20 meatballs.

PART FOUR:

Bake meatballs on baking (cookie sheet) brushed with oil. Broil until brown (6 – 8 minutes)
Then reduce heat to 375.

PART FIVE:

Add meatballs to sauce in Dutch oven. Cover and bake until sauce is bubbly and meat balls are cooked through. 10 – 15 minutes.

Finish with fresh mint and crumbled feta cheese.

We served over Penne pasta. Serves 4 – 6.

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BC Hydro where for art thou · 18.01.15 by colin newell

We had a power outage from 7AM until around 11:30AM today.

BC Hydro

And it was patently obvious that outages were widespread — but because of my naturally curious nature, I went over to the BC Hydro website to look at the outage map — and the site stated: If your neighborhood is NOT on the map, please contact us — which I attempted… via mobile phone…
and their system would not recognize my address or phone number… so I went to the website to report the outage online — which it would not let me do UNLESS I had a linked online account with BC Hydro — which I do.

So: In order to report an outage online I need to have a “linked” online account… which I do. But the website reported that I did not lave a linked account even though I was logged in and “linked”

Being an emergency coordinator with the CRD in Victoria, it is very important to me that people be able to report to the primary utilities that something is amiss – and the system needs to work. BC Hydro’s system, however, failed miserably.

For all I knew, there might have been a small handful of customers in my 1km circle out – in fact, there were hundreds of neighbors without power. I wonder how many of them, elderly and not-as-technicial, were fretting about when and if their power would come back on.

On the plus side, this was a good time to check my emergency radio equipment – and everything worked like a charm. I was able to reach out via our amateur (ham) radio community VHF/UHF repeater grid which allows me to talk to pretty much any corner of Vancouver Island with ease. As well, my HF (Shortwave) system allowed me to reach out as far South as California and out to Ohio in the East on very low power.

For those interested in emergency planning and ham radio: There are thousands of active (volunteer) radio operators in B.C. that engage in emergency radio networks on a daily basis, year around and even on Christmas day —
Ostensibly to help keep communities safe and connected.

Now if BC Hydro could figure out their system glitches that would be great – It kind of begs the question: With all these smart meters in place, why do I need to report anything online or via the phone?

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So you think you can write - with Don Genova · 13.01.15 by colin newell

Don Genova online writing course

In the year 2015, required participation in social media and online writing has become as commonplace as the plethora of personal communications devices that festoon our bodies.

But just because you can pick up an iPhone and tweet a few characters or blog every whim, that does not make you a creative writer. Writing is hard. I know. I am doing it right now. And I am making lots of mistakes. But you don’t have to.

So Step up. Consider self-improvement.

Want to get some words on the page and not be so off-putting that your reader changes channels or retires to the solace of a monastery?
Then consider Don Genova’s UBC Continuing Studies Courses. It’s aimed at helping you be a better blogger, or getting you into the exciting field of food and travel writing.

You have likely heard of Don Genova – he is the beloved host of Food Matters heard weekly on CBC Radio 1. He is a food journalist with a Masters degree in food history from Italy. He is also the author of a best selling book “Food Artisans of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands” available on Amazon.ca – so he knows his stuff.
If you have been lucky, as I have been, and hung out with him on occasion at a local coffee shop, I can assure you: You will come away with a lot more knowledge about the subject of food, food sustainability and the ability to accurately express yourself on the subject of food. So there is my recommendation.

Anyway, You have three options:

Food and Travel Writing In-Person. Eight Monday nights starting January 26th.
Or you can take this course online over the same time period.
Each week you open up a module of new readings and assignments, with much personal interaction with Don Genova and your classmates through online forums.
The third course is Creating and Sustaining Your Blog, also offered 100% online beginning the end of January.

The advantage of the online courses is that you don’t have to be in the same place at the same time for eight weeks in a row, which works better for some students.
Others prefer the ‘face to face’ aspect of the in-person class.
Either way, you can own Don Genova for two months and you can use his knowledge in these fields to get you going or improve what you’re already doing. Sounds like something I need.

For more information or to register, you can find all the courses on Don Genova’s UBC page at the Continuing Studies website. And you can always contact Don Genova at don at don genova dot com.

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Second Crack Coffee Lab on Bridge Street in Victoria · 22.12.14 by colin newell

Aaron Tann of Second Crack Coffee Lab Victoria

Aaron Tann focuses intently on his pour over brew bar. He is in the middle of preparing a very tasty Ethiopian coffee with the Hario brew system. He slides it across the bar towards me, warning me to give it a couple of minutes to cool.

Aaron is a recent transplant to the city of Victoria. Born in Windsor, Ontario and a former mechanical engineer in Detroit with the Magna corporation, Aaron is pretty new to the coffee business. At the tender age of 37, he has lived in Sweden where he learned a lot about coffee culture. He also lived in Thailand where he met his wife Veronica.

Second Crack Coffee Lab is in one of Victoria’s vibrant industrial neighbourhoods. Aaron is very much into the airy, open and bright look that is available in his 100 year old warehouse space. Andrea and I compared it to some of the bigger cafe roaster facilities that we encountered on our last trip to San Francisco. Additionally, Aaron is making a lot of the necessary changes to the space to give it the required physical integrity appropriate for a seismically active location while at the same time maintaining a cool and hip vibe.

Brewing Hario pours at Second Crack Coffee on Bridge Street.

I asked Aaron about the name and its connection to his preferences on roast profiles. He pushes all of his coffees long and slow except for the delicate Panama Geisha beans. This philosophy sets Aaron somewhat apart from the rest of the pack in Victoria. The local coffee market, in fact, leans heavily towards first crack or medium roasts to maximize flavour impact.

Andrea and I finish up a shared mug of Ethiopian coffee that is impeccably balanced and yet roasted a tad darker than what is normal in the industry. The fruit flavours, however muted at the beginning, start to bloom as the coffee cools. Much to our delight, the coffee’s true complexity continues to develop and surprise our taste buds in the fifteen minutes we were sipping it.

Second Crack Coffee Lab is now open at 2612 Bridge Street. The cafe is across the Bay Street bridge. Travel one km west on Bay Street and turn right on Bridge Street. It is two city blocks down Bridge Street on the left.

Second Crack Coffee is an awesome and welcome addition to the Victoria coffee scene. Welcome Aaron, Veronica and family!

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We interview Joey Kramer of Rockin Roasting Coffee · 16.12.14 by colin newell

Bonus audio interview |


Joey Kramer and his new cafe!

We spoke with Joey Kramer of Rockin Roasting Coffee from Austin, Texas. This is our second conversation with the man who has taken his steady rhythm with the band Aerosmith to the world of specialty coffee. You can read that interview over here

A man of virtually limitless energy, Joey has been tackling the challenges of building a successful coffee business from the ground up. And as Joey makes it abundantly clear, there are no short cuts to success. It is all about putting in the work. Celebrity or no, Joey and his equally energetic partners, Ron Mann and Frank Cimler have discovered that the road to the top is paved with every imaginable challenge.

I think that Mister Kramer was more astounded than I with the achievements over the space of one year; placement in thousands of grocery stores, a partnership with the trusted food company SYSCO and now a bricks and mortar coffee shop in the works.

A coffee shop alone, as any cafe owner will tell you, is a lot of work in terms of development, placement, branding and just getting great coffee into an appreciative audience.

But for Mister Kramer and his tireless dedication to the cause, an actual cafe is a natural extension of his brand of organic coffee beans. Hard work or not, it is just another milestone in what will obviously be a long career in caffeinating the nation.

Hats off to Joey Kramer, and his line of coffee and his dedicated team of professionals.


Listen to the interview |

Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3 download.


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