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Let's talk about coffee chapter 1 · Wednesday October 6, 2021 by colin newell

Coffee cupping at 2% Jazz - October 2021

I spend a lot of time talking about coffee. A lot of time.

Over the years, I have done the yakity yak for every major radio network in Canada and the U.S. and some TV things. It never gets tired. You might say… it stays awake!

Yes, it is a pretty light duty subject – often a lot of fun… especially for the people that are drinking it. Like today. One. Too. Many. cups of coffee and shots of espresso. If I was any more jazzed on the bean today, I swear I could hear colours!

Photo above – doing a quick coffee cupping at 2-Percent Jazz coffee in Victoria – at the Hudson Market.

It has been (and continues to be…) a great run — and I am always willing to be a source of sonic amusement… on the subject that stimulates me the most. Coffee. However you brew it.

Want to talk? Just shoot me an E-Mail – replies are virtually instantaneous. Meantime, enjoy some of the chatter in the audio files below.

CFRB 1010 Toronto

CKNW 980 Vancouver

CJAD Montreal 800


National and International Coffee day · Friday October 1, 2021 by colin newell

We talked with CBC On The Island host Gregor Craigie, Sam Jones (2% Jazz) and Carsen Oglend of Drumroaster Coffee on the subject of National and International Coffee day. Click on the above link for the audio or download the file below.
International Coffee Day Interview

Cup of excellence

For most of us, coffee is a very personal experience, integral to the rhythm of our workday.

Caffeine, the active ingredient in every cup, awakens us to the possibilities of the day and the ritual of coffee preparation brings a sense of order to our often chaotic existence.

This is the essence of National Coffee Day – an almost hallmark celebration of our love affair with the steaming mug.

Whether taken black, with cream and sugar, a double-double or a single
ounce of espresso, coffee is our anchor.

I love my coffee. You love your coffee. Take it away and what’s left?

Thousands of miles away, coffee farmers tend the Earth and watch the sky for hints as to what the growing season might bring.

Second only to fossil fuels, the coffee bean is the most traded natural commodity on the Planet.

Millions of families, in over 50 countries, toil on plantations large and small, mindful of the seemingly endless vagaries that effect their well being and success.

At best, farmers and their families earn 5 to 7% of the retail value of coffee – often as little as 2% in countries like Brazil, hosts of the highest output of our beloved bean.

And while we enjoy our first cup as our children trundle off to school, life in developing nations dependent on this powerful export,
often means pulling children from school to assist in much of the demanding work of harvest.

This is my essence of “International Coffee Day…” It is the respectful and mindful exercise of being cognizant of the effort and sacrifice that families make to get us our beloved coffee – and what we, the consumers, can do to improve the quality of life of coffee growers and their families.

Whether you decide to support direct trade, FairTrade Canada , organic coffees or Cup of Excellence programs (where the farm, family and communities more directly benefit from the fruits of their labour…), there are many things that we the coffee drinkers can do to advance the quality of life in the coffee industry.

It is a common refrain in North America where many coffee drinkers insist, “How can I possibly make a difference to a family or community half a World away?”

Well you can. Cup of Excellence programs, for instance, support direct trade where farms and co-ops sell directly to cafes and roasters, bypassing the seemingly endless sequence of middle people that take their cut. The extra money that goes to co-ops such as these builds houses, schools and even community health centres. These luxuries that we take for granted in Canada, are the difference between happiness and misery in coffee growing nations and you can make a difference.

But How?

  • Buy sensibly – Do your homework
  • Prepare to pay a fair price for your cup
  • Support local – Canadian cities have lots of locally roasted coffees!
  • Avoid store bought Mega Brands – you know the ones – don’t make me spell it out!

    Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and coffee drinker, searching coast to coast to coast for that perfect cup of coffee – writing on the subject since 1995.


We interview Jed Grieve of Cook Culture · Saturday July 24, 2021 by colin newell

Talking food culture with Jed Grieve

or download the audio here – Jed-Grieve-Cook-Culture.mp3

Jed Grieve - Cook Culture

Owner and creator of Cook Culture, Jed Grieve talks and gestures as if powered by some underground green energy power-plant. Which is to say, he is tireless, passionate and largely unstoppable. A strong advocate for conscious and responsible living, Jed feels that we all need to think and act based on the needs of the greater good, the planet and its fragile eco-system and mindfully act as an advocate and ambassador for our Planet Earth.

It’s a fine line to walk as a successful food culture businessperson and educator. One could have any random set of priorities on the road to financial freedom. The desire for quick profit without a thought of truth or consequences might be one such random set. But for Jed, well, he is more thought and consequences first as a top priority. And this means: “I could sell finite life products indefinitely in an ever broadening circle and that would suit the average business person for a lifetime… But, I’d rather supply you with a product or knowledge that will serve you for a lifetime.”

As you wander the Cook Culture stores in Victoria and Vancouver, you are immediately impressed with the longevity-forward approach, embracing the culture and passion of the West Coast multi-cultural food scene, and the education potential of their in store kitchens.

The knife selection, as one example, establishes clearly, that you are not buying a product until the next better product comes along… or until this product wears out. No. You are beginning a relationship with a kitchen utensil that may be with you for life. And this philosophy does fly in the face of the “endless growth – endless consumption” model of buy for a year and toss into the landfill!

Jed talks buoyantly about the joys of cooking pans. Hey, let’s face it. We all use pans in our kitchens. In the 20th and 21st Century, non-stick pans have been miracle kitchen conveniences – but not without a huge environmental and health consequence. In short, and in Jed’s words, “Cooking pans for life!…” Ok, that is more a celebratory phrase, but you get the point.

Need to know more? Jed’s YouTube channel is a testament to the sustainable approaches and choices that you are free to make – in your life and the life of your family.
His short videos are fun, informative and at times sobering.


Sourdough Focaccia bread - anytime is a good time · Saturday February 29, 2020 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 occasionally would dabble in sourdough.

In this recipe, I extol the virtues and joy of making focaccia because it’s easy, it’s a great utility bread for a lot of meals and it’s virtually impossible to screw up.

Required Babish viewing tutorial below!

I like introducing people to bread making for a variety of reasons. One of which, it’s not rocket science. With a natural yeast starter, bread is no more than flour, water and salt. That’s it. It has been done this way for thousands of years.

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.

I have completed this recipe around 20 times now so I can attest to the fact that it could be a reliable launch point for your sourdough experience. Or in other words, a way to accumulate bread skills!

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 when baking-prepping more complicated breads.

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

Let’s go! I assume that you have an activated, fed and feisty sourdough starter.

Disclaimer The creation and care of the sourdough starter is beyond the scope of this recipe.

Not sure about your starter? Off to the internets you go!

Sourdough tip – Your sourdough starter is good to go/ready to use if you take a tablespoon of it and drop it in a few inches of water and it floats!


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

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

3.) Add 8-10g of kosher salt – great salt can effect the flavour so don’t cheap out on this critical ingredient.

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

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

6.) Gradually add 512g of bread flour. You can use a mixer. I do this by hand or with a bread mixing hook.
Work/knead the dough to form a sticky ball.

Stretch and fold – To develop the gluten in the dough, it is important to stretch and fold the dough twice an hour for the first 2 hours and then once more before putting in the fridge to develop/ferment overnight. There are many awesome YouTube tutorials on the “Stretch and Fold” so find one you like and develop your technique.

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. For keeping the focaccia dough “feisty” I tend to keep it out in the kitchen and work around its schedule.

Rule: Higher room temperature, faster “development” and fermentation of the dough.

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.) Olive 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 BelowWhat your 2nd-Raised dough should look like before tossing into the oven. There is some “technique” here but basically, you want to use your fingertip to “Pilsbury Doughboy” (poke) the proofed dough in 12 to 16 spots (the divets) that end up as a place for olive oil drizzle to settle – as well as giving it that signature Italian bread look.

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 do it!


- This bread is perfect with any meal – it does not need butter as it is infused with olive oil. It reheats well in the microwave prior to serving. It can also be served with a balsamic vinegar dip or any imaginable spread you can concoct.

Remember: It is perfect all by itself.

It is crunchy, chewy, nutritious and tasty… and guess what, it’s going to get eaten fast.

One thing to remember

All breads need time to cool – I cannot repeat this enough! So…

Let it cool before cutting!

Listen to me talk about this subject for 4 minutes if that helps!

Talking Sourdough


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 – Have any questions on bread-making, coffee, life, the Universe, and everything? Send me an e-mail for goodness sakes!

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Commercial Drive Vancouver - Life in the coffee time-tunnel · Saturday February 1, 2020 by colin newell

Vancouver 1968

Way back in 2008, I popped into Cafe Roma on Commercial Drive in Vancouver – a cafe that has a lot of history for this part of Vancouver and for me, some fond childhood memories!

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

It reminded me of a unusually 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 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, had brought me over to Vancouver for the weekend to visit the Pacific National Exhibition and to see a big city for the first time. And what a cultural shock it was for a 11 year old to see something so different than sleepy small town Victoria.

Mom’s cousins lived on East 6th Avenue around 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 memory drenched trip through a time tunnel.

On a Saturday morning in June 1968 I started the day with my young 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 was full of life. 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 and old, 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, donned 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. 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 in 1968, I bought a 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

Musical tribute…

My take on Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now…” Colin on Guitar and Vocals

Both sides now – File download