CoffeeCrew Blog

Eat, Drink and Love
Like there's no tomorrow.
Because, hey, You never know!.

COVID 19 Chapter 1 A great business neighbour Root Cellar · 17.03.20 by colin newell

This letter was sent out by Root Cellar Market within the last few days – it’s brilliant – it deserves a full read.

So these are interesting times, and before I forget, we have adjusted our business hours and will be closing at 7pm effective immediately.

Also…your specials are at the end!

As I knelt on the floor of my store today, marking off the recommended ‘social distancing’ boundaries for our till line up, trying to infuse a bit of lightness into our customer’s day by writing friendly reminders on the floor… I had one of those ‘is this real?’ moments. Am I really kneeling on the cement floor as customers walk around me, asking people to respect personal space for the safety of others. I never thought I would write #personalspaceisthebestspace in relation to the running of my grocery store… but here we are, all of us, in this together.

Root Cellar - Stay Calm - Carry On

Before I lose you with my long winded message, I’d like to speak to ‘panic buying’. Please STOP. We aren’t seeing it here, and for that we are grateful. This causes unnecessary stress on the supply chain, on staff in stores, and renders others without. I want to assure you that we do not have supply chain concerns, we will be here for you, with food on our shelves. You will however, notice a few compromises being made in our store due to lightened staff levels, we ask for your understanding as we prioritize everyone’s health and safety by having fewer staff on shift at any given time, (for example, we will not have baggers on our tills, and you will see a few less options here and there in order to accommodate our increased sanitation procedures).

There’s no course for this in business school (I didn’t go). But should there be? Probably not… what there should be is a course on trusting your instincts, in engaging with your team & your customers to ensure that their needs are met and their fears are abated. This is what we are focused on right now. On ensuring that we are doing ALL that we can within our resources to represent our space as local entrepreneurs, as grocers, as friends, family and parents with the utmost integrity.

We assure you from the bottom of our hearts that your health & safety is of our utmost priority. We are grateful that as a small business we can respond with immediacy to our rapidly changing circumstances. Today for example, following the provincial news briefing, we immediately removed all customer seating from our store. Thanks for coming, but please move along, for the health and safety of all.

Our current circumstances and recent call for all to ‘social distance’, will deliver quite a blow to our island economy, first to the small businesses that define our culture here in Victoria. As a member of the small business community we feel that it’s our obligation to urge you to make mindful decisions when choosing where you spend your dollars.

We can only speak for our own store, where our customers thus far have impressed us beyond belief with their overwhelming support, and their rational shopping habits, allowing us to manage the slight increase in sales volume without making huge compromises.

Think also of your grocery list as you write it, we are a small business, so is Fatso Peanut Butter, so is Golda’s Pesto and Saltspring Jam, not to mention the farmers growing this season’s local produce, about to be abundant. These companies need sales, need healthy staff, and need our support to stay afloat. We cannot IMAGINE a world without these products (among so many others) in it but the fact of the matter is that when life resumes normalcy, many of our favourite places to shop & eat, and our favourite products to buy may not exist when that time comes.

We urge you as always to vote with your fork and with your dollars. Our community of small businesses, growers, makers, bakers and shakers needs us right now. Mindfulness is contagious.

We all need to eat, and though many of you have gone out of your way to stock your pantries, the need for food, particularly fresh food will be ongoing. Many cannot afford to stockpile, others prefer not to, a lot will just want a reason to leave the house.

Please be aware that our staff have been trained to be mindful of social distancing when going about their daily tasks. You are less likely to be approached while shopping; please know that we want to chat with you and lend a hand, but as a result of our efforts we may appear less friendly than usual, we assure we are not!

We are currently open 8am-7pm, 7 days a week. Our busiest hours of operation are from 11am-5pm, with our highest customer counts from 2-5pm. Avoid these shopping times if you can.

We are strongly suggesting that the first hour of the day 8-9am is the ideal time for the elderly or vulnerable to do their shopping (if they don’t have someone to do it for them). Our customer volume is low, our staff levels are high and our store will have been freshly sanitized. We will not turn you away but If you are a low risk individual we suggest that you honour this window of time if you are able, out of respect for those in our community that are comforted by this accommodation.

Shop alone, not as a couple or a family if you are able. The fewer bodies in our store at any given time, the lower everyone’s rate of exposure.

Doing it right - in the Blenkinsop Valley

Make your shops larger and less frequent. If you have always been a 3x/week shopper, consider becoming a once a week shopper. Just plan ahead.

Shop for your friends, family & neighbours, (particularly the vulnerable) take turns running errands for each other, again, the less bodies in circulation in the community the greater impact we are having on flattening the curve.

Use a shopping buggy instead of a basket, ‘social distancing’ isn’t human nature. The nature of a shopping cart’s size will ensure distance between you and other shoppers & staff.

Clean your hands before and after leaving the store, be mindful that coming in with clean hands reduces risk for all staff and customers sharing the space. We have a well equipped customer bathroom available, and a limited supply of sanitizing stations.

Amongst the constantly changing social climate, we want to take a moment to remind you that we are still running our Island Food Caring Campaign. While this may feel like a nuisance, we urge you to consider the vulnerable, the hidden hungry in our community during this unsettling time. Imagine, if on top of the instability we are all experiencing, you also didn’t know where your next meal was coming from. Everyone’s food sustainability commitments are being tested right now, we stand firmly planted behind ours, and pledge to DOUBLE ALL CUSTOMER DONATIONS to Island Food Caring made between now and March 22nd at our tills. Those in need, need us more than ever. I am a huge fan of the beautiful words below … we need to BE THE HELPERS right now.

Comment [1]

Sourdough Focaccia bread - anytime is a good time · 29.02.20 by colin newell

Bread making – I grew up with it and it is an activity that has been in my DNA forever. Not only that, bread was something that sustained me through some lean times. My mom made 4 to 6 loaves a week of yeast based breads — and very little natural yeast (sourdough) to the best of my knowledge.

I like introducing people to bread making for a variety of reasons. One of which, it is not rocket science. With a natural yeast starter, bread is little to no more than flour, water and salt. That’s it. It has been done this way for thousands of years. Beer, in fact, is an off shoot of bread making. But let’s keep it simple for a bit.

As noted above, I think focaccia is a perfect sourdough-bread-baking starting point. It will teach you the fundamentals of working with sourdough without the potentially troublesome steps of shaping, scoring, and baking with Dutch ovens, bread pans and other vessels. The recipe below also can be baked in a loaf pan or a cookie sheet, another great option if you do not want to deal with the skillset and artistry that you will, no doubt, acquire over time.

Picture below – what your dough looks like after proofing overnight!

Let’s go! We assume from this point that you have an activated, fed and feisty sourdough starter. I know I should cover off this, most important, factor — but for now, let’s just go with the theory that you have a starter – and we are good to go.

Here is a tip – Your sourdough starter is good to go if you take a tablespoon of it and drop it in water and it floats!

1.) Grab a bowl that will holder at least 1/2 kg of dough – that is 500G – so something medium sized.

2.) Add 100g of your starter to the bowl.

3.) Add 10g of kosher salt – great salt can effect the flavour so don’t cheap out on this critical ingredient.
  • tech note * – Salt is a fermentation inhibitor – it slows the process down — and that is a good thing.

4.) Add 360g of warm water (not hot water!) 35 to 45 degrees © or 110 degrees (F) is probably OK but not more than that.

5.) Mix the water, salt and starter well.

6.) Add 512g of bread flour. Mix to form a sticky ball.

7.) You can let this all rise overnight (6 to 12 hours) or slow it down by putting it in the fridge. Fermentation keeps moving along even when your dough is tucked away in a cool area – it changes the flavour some but does not harm. For keeping the focaccia “feisty” I tend to keep it out in the kitchen and work around its schedule.

8.) Assuming you are doing this overnight, in the morning pull out the dough and give it a few pulls and folds – consult the YouTube video below for some technique-tips (way easier than me trying to explain it!)

Picture above After raising overnight – should look like the above picture.

9.) Get the slightly deflated dough into a bowl with some olive oil (on top and on the bottom…) – it inhibits sticking.

10.) Let rise for 4 – 6 hours. Get out a cookie sheet or deep dish pizza pan (the square of rectangular type…)
11.) Oil the pan “generously” – you need a good continuous coating on the bottom of the pan.
12. ) Transfer the dough into the pan. Cover and “2nd rise” for 4 to 6 hours.

Picture Below – What your 2nd-Raised dough should like before tossing into the oven.

Tip You know the dough has been proofed enough when you press it with your finger and it kind of bounces back by about 75%.

13.) Prior to putting the proofed bread into the oven, garnish with fresh rosemary and a good drizzle of olive oil and artisanal salt – even coarse kosher salt is fine.

14.) Bake for 24 minutes at 450 degrees (F) or until delightfully brown on top. Turn onto drying rack for, at least, 30 minutes or more before cutting — I know, it is tempting to try cutting it when it is right out of the oven. Don’t!

*Reveal! – This bread is perfect with any meal – it does not need butter as it is infused with olive oil.

It is crunchy, chewy, nutritious and tasty.

Let it cool before cutting!*


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and long time coffee expert – writing on the subject of coffee for over 20 years! His dissertation on this subject can be found over on

Comment [1]

Sourdough Bread 101 - Chapter 1 - Cheese Bread · 25.01.20 by colin newell

Cheeky Cheesy Savoury Bread 2020

Welcome to 2020 – a New Year and hopefully lots of adventures on the blog – by the time you read this, you may have heard some of my fellow bread makers on the CBC talking about the resurgence of bread making at home. If you are just checking in now – as in today – well, that feature is still in development.

Sourdough – My starter goes back to around 2008 – as handed to me in a ziploc bag by friend and colleague “Corey” – despite my best attempts and neglect, I have yet to kill my sourdough starter.

We’ll call this chapter 1 on the subject despite the fact that I need to offer a complete tutorial on sourdough breads and starters — that is, if you are not inclined on looking up a myriad of resources about the subject online and on But, for my own edification, I should really write it all down in my own words if only to get a better understanding of the subject. It’s not rocket science but things can go awry if you don’t observe a few cautions about the subject. Anyway – let’s get to it with this little recipe.

50 g OR ¼ cup Sourdough starter
365 g OR 1 ½ cup + 1 tsp warm water
280 g OR 2⅓ cups bread flour
200 g OR 1¾ cups all purpose flour
20 g whole wheat flour
Option: Use 500g bread flour and skip the variety of flour types.
9 g OR 1 ½ tsp fine sea salt
Optional – 50 g OR ⅓ cup sliced pickled Jalapenos
135 g OR 1 heaped cup Sharp cheddar cheese cubed into ¼ inch
Optional – 12 g OR ¼ cup minced chives


In a large bowl add starter and water and mix well.

Saturday evening – Add all purpose, whole wheat flour and bread flour combine everything and set aside for 30 minutes -

Me – I actually just used all bread flour – but mixing up the different grain types is ok.

Add salt and mix again and set aside for another 8-12 hours in a room with an air temperature of 17-23 Degrees ©

Sunday morning – mix in cheese, jalapenos and chives then shape and transfer to banneton or steel bowl.

Proof at room temperature or in fridge for 4 – 8 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 450F. Transfer the dough to a suitable oiled steel or glass (pyrex) bread pan.

Bake for 10 minutes at 450F and then reduce the temperature to 425 F and bake 25 minutes.

Bake until loaf develops a golden colour + when you tap the loaf it makes a hollow sound or registers 95C-210 F internal temperature.

Cool the loaf for 10-15 minutes – cut it into slices and enjoy.

Colin Newell has been a Victoria resident and coffee expert for 25+ years and dabbles in food and cocktail culture.


Garden end-of-summer Pasta with fresh basil and cherry tomatoes · 19.10.19 by colin newell

Summer's End Pasta

This time of the year, as Summer fades to Fall and Fall to Winter, a whole window of seasonal cuisine opens up – It’s time to get out to the garden and see what is fresh. And what’s fresh in our garden in October are the last of the tomatoes and lots of basil!

Grab some fresh pasta, broth, white wine, mushrooms and some amazing Parmagiano Reggiano cheese and get ready for great tastes!


12 medium sized cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup fresh Basil chopped
6 large mushrooms sliced thinly
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup of white wine
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 servings Penne pasta
1/2 cup Parmagiano reggiano cheese
Salt, Pepper and Italian seasoning to taste

Directions -

Put pasta on to boil

Saute pan on to heat with a splash of olive oil and butter.
Saute mushrooms – season with salt and pepper
5 minutes before pasta is finished cooking, pop the halved tomatoes into the pan.
Add Italian seasoning – and extra pepper if necessary
Added 1/4 cup of white wine to steam tomatoes – add 3/4 of the Basil
Let cook down for 1 – 2 minutes and add the chicken broth.

When the pasta in finished, drain and place immediately into saute pan.
Add 3/4 of the P.R. cheese and stirred to combine over low heat.
Add rest of basil to garnish.
Plate and sprinkle larger slices of P.R. cheese on top.



It's National Coffee Day (almost) and what's up with that? · 26.09.19 by colin newell

The rich stats on coffee through the year

I was talking with Brad Plothow, VP of communications at in Lehi, Utah this morning.

Womply, in its simplest terms, is a company that analyses market trends based on transactional commerce data – you know, credit card and debit transactions – who’s making them and what they are buying or selling.

And do they know coffee! At least who drinking what, when and how much.
And some of that information surprised even me! As a coffee drinker who sips the same amount of coffee, year around, it was interesting to look into the lens for more granular data on consumption trends.

  • Which are the busiest days of the week at your average cafe.
  • What is the busiest time of the year for cafes.
  • What is the average amount of sales for the average cafe in North America

Not surprising, coffee house consumption tends to swing upwards later on in the week – and you guessed it, Friday is the busiest day at the campus, urban or office cafe when folks are rewarding themselves for a week well done!

Ironically, while Christmas shopping season in North America may be the busiest of any season year around, coffee drinking drops significantly in January (as resolutions kick in…) and then consumption slowly returns to “normal” in February!

You can read the entire article over here

My take-away: is a creator of small business software that provide valuable market data and trends on consumption based on meta data from credit card transactions – very fascinating stuff.

National Coffee Day – without too much of a dig-down, I am assuming that the industry has created this date to “pay back” their valued clients with a free cuppa Joe. Me, I like to pay for my fancy coffees and I think in a city like Victoria, Vancouver, Portland or Seattle, you might be hard pressed to get a free serving of the good stuff. Dunno. Results may vary.
Meantime, enjoy a great cup of coffee every day of the year!

Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and coffee expert who has been writing about cafe culture for 25+ years – now that’s a lot of coffee!

Comment [1]

Previous Next