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All you need is now - Living in Victoria - Beer Coffee Battle Royal · 11 April 2015 by colin newell

Andrea and I spoke with Veronica, creative and business partner at the new Second Crack Coffee on Bridge Street. Between sips of excellent single origin Ethiopian coffee freshly roasted on their Deidrich Roaster and nibbles on a delicious Empire Doughnut, we talked about how Veronica, Aaron and their young one made their way to Victoria. They came via Sweden and via Thailand.

Which begs the question. Why Victoria? Why here? Why now?

Well, guess what? Victoria B.C. Canada is currently ground zero for some of the best coffee in North America, a beer culture that is burning hotter than the engines on an Atlas rocket, a level of culinary competency never seen in our city before and an environment that is 2 and 1/2 seasons long: No snow. No ice. Continuous good times. It would be inaccurate to say that Victoria never sleeps and that the fun runs 24 hours a day… because it doesn’t. It sleeps alright. Upwards of 8 – 10 hours every day… So it can give you another 14 hours of awesome.

Coffee: If you have ever read my reasonably comprehensive list on what the city has to offer in the coffee department, you will know this: We cater to all tastes. We have an inexhaustible supply of freshly roasted single origin coffees and enough espresso coffee to keep and entire city on edge. We’ve got World class baristas on top of their game. We have more cafes per capita than most North American city – slightly behind (but not far) Portland and Seattle Washington. If there is a hip method of brewing coffee in Victoria, it’s here and it’s done really, really well.

Beer: In Victoria’s burgeoning community of brew lovers, our bearded and plaid clad dudes and stylish hipster damsels are a fashion show all to themselves. And the beer itself, well it flows into this city like an effervescent torrent that quenches an ever increasing thirst for unique and classic flavours. And we love it. I have been drinking beer since 1980 and I have never seen anything like this before. It’s amazing.

Food: There is nothing you can tune in on the Food Channel or experience in any four star restaurant in New York or Paris that you cannot get on some level here. Sure, Victoria food culture is something of an amalgam of styles – and there is nothing that is definitively “here” – But… we do a lot of styles really well. With the rise of awareness of sustainability and the 100 mile menu, we are seeing more fresh food, more authentic slow food being done really, really, really well. It’s exciting. It’s engaging and there is enough World quality food to keep you busy for months on end.

So. If you ever wonder why anyone would make their way from the four corners of the globe to come here, it is because it is great. So, if you live here, take a look around in the here and the now. Find your moment. This place is glorious and is totally “now”. Get into it. Check it out. It’s red hot and getting hotter.

All you need is now.


Colin is a Victoria resident and coffee culture writer. Always looking for the best cups and the best plates, Colin checks out them all – so you won’t be disappointed.

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20 years in coffee - part 1 · 8 April 2015 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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So you think you can write - with Don Genova · 13 January 2015 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 December 2014 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 December 2014 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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Kick starting a new cup of coffee - on the net · 24 October 2014 by colin newell

Bruvelo Kickstarter Project

Have you ever noticed the dramatic difference between the delicious coffee you get at a fine coffeehouse and the mediocre coffee you often drink at home when you don’t pay attention to all the critical details?

Click on the photo for the big view!

Amazing coffee is the result when fresh roasted beans are brewed to perfection, with keen attention paid to every step – water quality, grinding, measuring, blooming, heating and steeping… and if you have any energy left over, you get to enjoy the fruits of your effort.

Me, I do it all by hand. I measure the water and the beans and I grind the coffee precisely to fit the method that I am using. But what if there was a coffee machine that would force me to think less about the details and let me concentrate on the great taste of my java jolt?

Inspired by the timeless tradition of handcrafted coffee and modeled after the skills of a well-trained barista, Bruvelo was built to be simple, smart, and to do one thing – extremely well.

Whether you want to easily brew an amazing cup of coffee with a push of a button or want complete control over every detail, Bruvelo will allow you to enjoy fine, handcrafted, pour-over coffee in the comfort of your own home.

But wait! There is more! The Bruvelo is WiFi enabled and you can access it from your smart phone – saving and setting all your favorite preferences – so that great cup of mud is ready to greet you at your door.

So says this exciting new kickstarter project that you can check out over here.


Colin Newell is a long time Victoria resident and coffee expert – when he is not out looking for a better coffee experience, he is looking for better coffee for you!

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