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Thanksgiving - Life in the coffee time-tunnel · 26 February 2018 by colin newell

Vancouver 1968

Way back in 2008, I popped into Cafe Roma on Commercial Drive in Vancouver – a cafe that has more than a little history for this old part of Vancouver and for me, a big piece of childhood memory too!

One sunny mid-week Spring day, Dave, a contributor to the CoffeeCrew.com website, and I sample the espressos and cappuccinos and taste some delightful locally baked treats.

It reminded me of a unseasonably hot June of 1968, some 40 years earlier, as I walked down East 6th Avenue, Vancouver, towards Commercial Drive.

This was the first trip off of Vancouver Island and the first trip on the fairly new B.C. Ferries and what started as a day trip turned into an overnight adventure as mom decided to hook up with some cousins in the big city.

Mom, who grew up in a multicultural enclave in Montreal, Quebec and spoke 3 languages, including conversational Italian, had brought me over to Vancouver for the weekend to visit the Pacific National Exhibition and to see a piece of the big city. And what a cultural shock it was for a 11 year old to see something so different than sleepy small town Victoria B.C.

Mom’s cousins lived on East 6th Avenue around 2 or 3 blocks from Commercial Drive – a big old character house the likes of which I had never seen before. The original block of houses remain in Vancouver to this day and walking the tree lined sidewalks in 2018 is like a trip through a time tunnel.

On a Saturday morning in June 1968 I started the day with my cousin Dennis by heading out for an exploration. Only in the late 60’s would it seem perfectly normal for a couple of 11 year olds to head out into the urban jungle for a look see.

Caffe Roma Then and Now

Turning onto Commercial Drive on this sunny Saturday late morning, Dennis and I walked down wide sidewalks past Italian delis, corner grocers and bustling cafes.

The street had a life of its own. From a child’s perspective, everything seemed brighter, louder, busier and decidedly more fragrant. For a naive kid from small town Victoria, I might as well have been on another planet.

The aroma of strong coffee, cured ham and fresh fruit drifted over the concrete beneath my feet. I stopped for a moment in front of a busy cafe. It seemed to be packed with men, young, old, mostly old men entangled in a circle of loud conversation and broad hand gestures. They spoke Italian, a language my Montreal raised mother used with me when she was displeased.

A young couple caught my eye. They seemed disconnected from this humming umbilical of community.

A girl, likely in her twenties, wore a canary yellow sun-dress and her male friend a wool suit. The suit seems softened by a few years worth of wear and somewhat sticky considering that it was a hotter than usual summer. Between his sips of strong looking coffee from an impossibly small cup and her demurely drawing from something that looked like a milkshake, they talked in a musical banter – words only they appeared to understand.

Dennis grabbed my shoulder and pulled me along. I looked back at the couple nodding and laughing. The girls hair moved up and down held in place by a daisy-yellow hair broach. Now walking again, Dennis steered me into a green grocers hardly a door away from the cafe. With 90 cents in my pocket, a lot of money for 1968, I bought a Butter-finger chocolate bar, some pixie-sticks (fizzy candy in a paper tube) and a cola.

We exited the store and turned left towards the cafe again.

Caffe Roma is now buzzing louder as we strode towards my cousin’s avenue. The table where the young couple sat was now empty save for a cup and a glass. I spot them exiting onto the boulevard, hand in hand, her dress burning a permanent image into my mind, the itchy smell of his suit offering contrast. They vanished into a pulsating hive of urban humanity – a Saturday morning blend of shoppers, smokers, the odd smattering of fashionably clad hipsters and one wide-eyed child – me.

I look in the cafe window again flashing forward to the present. I stand outside of Caffe Roma on Commercial Drive and time has stood still just for me. The reflection in the window looks alternately young and slightly older.

Clouds pass by offering a broad selection of flattering light. CoffeeCrew contributing member Dave watches me for a moment before holding the door.

“Colin, let’s get some coffee…” he says.

The smells and sounds of the the Cafe and the street envelope me like an old gloved hand. For a moment I hold in my palm the paper tubes of fizzy candy and a half-eaten chocolate bar. Dave asks again, “What are you going to have, Colin?”

I order my usual when I am in a cafe for the first time – double espresso and a snack. In this case, they have very tasty looking apple turnovers. I get one.

The intensity of the Italian coffee and the tangy sweetness of the pastry are the perfect match. As I sip the beverage and feel the caffeine perking within me, I can almost hear the whispered conversations of the young lovers from so long ago at a nearby table. Where are they now? Have the years been kind? Most likely, their grandchildren are half-grown up, much as I was in 1968. I think about my marriage, now almost 2 decades in length, and how in places like these, time just stands still.

In the final moments before we leave for our next stop on the drive, the owner pops by to gather up our spent cups. I tell him the coffee is fabulous. His expression is priceless and without words – a combination of ‘of course it is son…’ and ‘I have a cafe to run today…’

As we step onto the still vibrant sidewalk of Commercial Drive, two ten year old boys approach on skate boards. One sails past me like a low flying seagull.

The other swishes to a stop and is immediately hypnotized by the activity in the cafe, the noise, the smells, the starling chatter of the old men.

The cycle continues season by season, year by year through the generations. We are thankful for our memories and the time we have ahead of us. Thanks for the memories Vancouver!

A few months later in 1968, Jimi Hendrix would play a stellar concert at the Pacific Coliseum and a couple of weeks before I arrived in Vancouver Robert Kennedy would be assassinated in Los Angeles during his presidential bid. Here in 2018, Caffe Roma is now part of the history books – but while in Vancouver, you can visit The Drive – Do so. You will be glad you did.

Vancouver - commercial drive - 1968

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Steeped coffee from Santa Cruz - what's new. · 13 November 2017 by colin newell

Podcast – Talking steeped coffee with Josh Wilbur of Steeped Coffee – Santa Cruz, California –

We spoke with Josh Wilbur, brainchild behind the “Steeped Coffee” concept just out of beautiful Santa Cruz California.

Hey. People love coffee. I love coffee and have been talking about it for over 20 years

Just when I think I have run out of things to talk about, something interesting comes down the pipe.

And that is Steeped Coffee.

Steeped Coffee has just launched, arguably, the easiest way to make a great cup of coffee with their fully compostable single-serve bags.

Steeped Bags replace the need for wasteful pods, expensive machines, and time-consuming homebrewing equipment. And for the first time, this new brewing method combines the quality and ethics of specialty coffee with the convenience of a single serving. Not only that but the packaging is Earth friendly too! Wait, what?

My lab mates and I tried some free samples of the Steeped coffee product recently – simply following the dead simple instructions – Hey, if you can make a cup of tea you can make a darn fine cup of coffee. As the press info goes: “Each portion is delivered in a fully compostable nitro sealed packet for freshness, essentially halting the coffee’s aging process so it’s like it was ground within moments.” And we found this to be true. Just ground freshness in an envelope.

As Josh pointed out in our audio interview: “Sometimes simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve. I came up with this idea 7 years ago—knowing that there should be an easier way to make great coffee. When I first started it was just coffee in a tea bag,” said Josh Wilbur, CEO and Founder. “There’s a reason this hasn’t been done before. We had to innovate to account for a number of factors such as sourcing ethical and quality beans, getting the right grind size and density, maintaining the freshness of ground coffee, controlling the water permeability of the filter, and making sure everything we do is environmentally sustainable. Turns out there were a lot of challenges to overcome to make something this simple work.”

Whoa. We love it when a plan comes together.

In our lab at the University of Victoria, we enjoy great coffee every day. We grind and brew for Hario V60 brews as well as Newco pro drip brewers. In a pinch it would be nice to have a slightly faster process that we can count on in a pinch – and have a clear conscience too! We have reviewed numerous “instant brew” type machines with PODS and such that are a blight on the environment. Steeped Coffee has thought it through and brought us something that we can live with. And a product that tastes good. Stay tuned!

For more information, visit Steeped Coffee online.

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

Steeped Coffee - yes, it's new

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Talking coffee health studies with Natasha Hall of NewsTalk 800 CJAD Montreal · 26 April 2017 by colin newell

Podcast – Talking coffee with Natasha Hall of CJAD 800 NewsTalk – Montreal –

CJAD 800 NewsTalk Montreal

We were talking coffee with Natasha Hall of NewsTak 800 – Montreal on the topic of those seemingly endless health studies on the dire (or wonderful) effects of caffeine and coffee (in general) on your body!

This podcast (interview) is around 14 minutes long – so strap yourself in.

I average around 20 radio, TV or newspaper interviews annually and this was one of the better ones – a lot of these radio hosts are affable, enthusiastic and well read before they undertake an interview – honored to chat on the subject of my passion. Coffee. Love it.

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

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Talking coffee on CKNW with Gord MacDonald · 21 December 2016 by colin newell

Podcast –

Talking coffee on 980 CKNW

We were talking coffee with Gord MacDonald from CKNW – 980 from Vancouver — with some really good questions.

This podcast (interview) is around 11 minutes long – so strap yourself in.

I average around 20 radio, TV or newspaper interviews annually and this was one of the better ones – a lot of these radio hosts are affable, enthusiastic and well read before they undertake an interview – honored to chat on the subject of my passion. Coffee. Love it.

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

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Fall colours Canadian Style Thai Turkey noodle Soup · 16 October 2016 by colin newell

Thai Turkey Soup

It is a cool October evening and what better way of heating it up a notch than with some Thai turkey soup.

Granted this is a variation on the old classic Chicken soup… but it prepares well and is mighty spicy.

What is special about this recipe is the addition of fresh uncooked Shanghai thick noodle which you can get at most Asian markets. It is an awesome addition to a very authentic recipe.

The basics

2 teaspoons canola oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 whole chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup minced peeled fresh ginger
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 (6-inch) stalk lemongrass, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
4 cups Turkey stock
1 standard tin coconut milk
4 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cups shredded cooked Turkey breast
1/2 cup green onion strips
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 package (250g) fresh Shanghai thick cut noodles
Preparation

1. Heat a stock pot over medium heat. Add oil to pan.
2. Add mushrooms, red bell pepper, peeled ginger, garlic and lemon grass – stir constantly for 3 minutes or so.
3. Add chile paste; stir for another minute.
4. Add Turkey Stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar;
5. Ease to a simmer.
6. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 10 minutes. Add turkey to pan
7.) Simmer for a few minutes. Discard lemongrass. Top with onions, cilantro, and lime juice.

8.) While soup is simmering, bring sauce pan of water to boil. Cook the fresh Shanghai thick noodle for 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water. Add to soup. Simmer for a few more minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and green onions.

Serve with bread.

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A life in Ice-Cream Chapter one - Bushmills Butterscotch Pecan · 10 August 2015 by colin newell

Bushmills Whiskey Butterscotch Ice Cream with Pecans

When I was around 17 or 18 (and living in a household of very competitive women all with their own culinary streak) I decided to get a French ice cream maker, A Donvier – which was a manual ice cream maker with a cold core very similar to the KitchenAid.
Because it was manual, I could look forward to 25 minutes of cranking the handle while day dreaming about living in the 1980’s… ah, yes… good times.

Anyway – I digress. The recipe.

If there is a top 3 ice cream flavour or style, it may just be butterscotch because it is a subtle variation on vanilla with a twist of something sweet but not as refined as chocolate. Butterscotch: No idea where the name came from, but since it mentions Scotch… I thought, what the heck. Away we go.

Ingredients
6 tablespoons (80g) butter soft / salted or not
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (I used unprocessed Demerera – comments on that later…)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups (500ml) 36% heavy cream
3/4 cup (180ml) Homo milk
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (exactly!) Bushmills Irish Whiskey
1 cup (give or take) Roast candied pecans

Step 1

Melt the butter in a 2 quart saucepan on a medium gas burner (electric is fine)
Add the salt and then add the brown sugar – stir until molten (and caution ahead! Molten
sugar is darn hot and can burn you in ways you cannot imagine — keep children and fingers clear of the sugar!)

Important put aside a few tablespoons of the butter/salt/brown sugar for the roasted pecans – more on that later.
Let the sugar/butter/salt cool a bit if you have over-heated it – check the temperature with an instant read thermometer and make sure the sugar mix is below 200 degrees (F)

Step 2
Add 1 cup of the cream and the milk to the sugar/butter/salt combo

Step 3
In a separate bowl whisk up the 6 egg yolks (egg whites can be saved for another day — like a healthy omelette!)

Step 4
Add the warm sugar/butter/salt/milk mixture to the eggs whisking constantly to avoid a scrambled egg mess in case the sugar/milk mix is too hot.

Step 5
Put this mixture back into the 2 quart saucepan, and keeping an instant read digital thermometer bring the “custard mix” up to a temperature of between 160 and 170 – but no higher!

Step 6
In yet another container (that will sit on an ice bath) put the remaining cream.
Place a fine strainer on top of this container and then pour the “custard mix” through the strainer into the bowl (being ice chilled) that holds the remaining cream. Add the vanilla and scotch and stir to mix.
This is your ice cream “pre-mix” – after it has cool and or stabilized, take it off of the ice bath and put it into the fridge for 2 hours to chill.

Step 7
Roast some nuts – While it is chilling, prepare your roast pecans. You can use almost any nut but preferably something with flavour and texture – walnuts are a good alternate choice – or pistachios.

2 tablespoons butter (around 35g)
1-2 cups of pecans or walnuts
Twist of kosher salt.

Melt the butter in a skillet or sauce pan on medium heat.
Toss in the halved pecans or walnuts.
Add a twist of kosher salt.

Stir to coat the nuts and then spread them across a cookie sheet on top of a layer of parchment.
The parchment paper protects the nuts from burning and sticking.
Put in a 350 degree oven for 9 minutes, turning once at around 5 minutes.
In your sauce pan that you used to coat the nuts: toss in the roasted nuts and the two tablespoons or
so of the sugar mixture you kept from earlier. You can even darken the sugar mixture by heating it in advance and reducing it a bit. Coat the nuts. Let cool. Chop the nuts into small pieces. Put aside.

Step 8
Add your ice cream pre mix to your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer instructions.

And when your churning cycle is around 1 minute remaining, add the chopped nuts.
Empty your ice cream into the storage container of your choice and freeze for 2 to 4 hours.
Note any ice cream that contains alcohol will not set as quickly or as firmly as ice creams without alcohol.
The more hard liquor you add, the more difficult your ice cream will be to set.

Notes I found with 1 tablespoon of Whiskey that it was hardly noticeable in terms of flavour – Rum would have been a better choice. It’s up to you.
I used a very dark raw brown sugar which created a pretty dark ice cream – a tad non traditional – that said, it has a deeper flavour. Personal taste. And up to you as well what you use.
Enjoy!

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