The Tofino Blog - #1

If you caught the recent episode of Boston Legal, starring Canadian William Shatner, you might conclude that the primary export of coastal British Columbia and Vancouver Island is farmed salmon and sea lice. Okay, so we dump a lot of heavily subsidized raw logs onto the already overloaded American marketplace. That is another story. Truth is, Vancouver Island is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and I would be remiss if I did not, at least partially, reveal some of the delights that this region offers. Yes, coffee will be one of them!

I have lived on Vancouver Island all of my life with brief departures, in the eighties, for advanced education. The coffee website was started as something of a whim or ruse on the suggestion of an old friend, Bill. Bill suggested exploring the urban landscape for the better coffee. Bill suggested going out of your way for the better bean. On one occasion, we once drove practically to the top of Vancouver Island, ostensibly to find some beer, a meal and a cup of coffee. Fact is, great coffee is everywhere you look. Granted you have to look and look hard sometimes.

Vancouver Island and coastal British Columbia might very well have some special something that contributes to the perfect coffee environment. What is that special something? To start with, we have natural beauty, open spaces (lots of it actually), grey skies many months of the year (and of course torrential rain) which equates to the perfect "Gimme a cup of hot black joe and help me wake up for goodness sakes!" From years of casual observation (and much experimentation), I have determined that the West coast rain forest is the perfect breeding ground (or brewing ground) for the caffeine mind-set.

Picture this: I am sitting in my workplace cafe, The Finnerty Express, and I have a mug of piping hot Ethiopian Yirgecheffe (from EveryDay Coffee Roasters, Toronto). I know, I know, you have one obvious question. Two, I have a muffin that I am slowly munching down that is one from the secret, not-yet-released, coffeecrew cookbook. Ok, you have two urgent questions. It is grey outside. The wind is howling at a bracing 70 km/hr and the rain is more horizontal than vertical (which is good, because an umbrella would be useless). The coffee is fabulous. This is the perfect day for it. It was prepared fresh in a NewCo OCS-8 thermal carafe brewer (one of two machines made that really brew coffee right). The coffee tastes so good (as does the muffin) because it is so nasty outside. Sorry folks, but if this was Phoenix, Arizona and it was 40 degrees C. outside, you would NOT be drinking a mug of gourmet single origin arabica. You would have an ice-pack on your head begging for a freak blizzard.

Residents of Seattle, Washington know exactly what I am talking about here. Love of coffee is directly proportional to rainfall. Victoria gets 26 inches a year. We like our coffee and espresso. Tofino gets 127 inches of rain a year. Their passion for the brewed bean verges on a fever pitch. Needless to say, my wife and I get to Tofino at least twice a year.

So, as I sit in my coffee shop with my coffee and my muffin looking out at the rain, I say to myself: "This isn't rain... this is drizzle!"

Rain in Tofino is generally semi-frozen pellets of pea-sized water droplets propelled by typhoon winds. Coastal trees are bizarrely reshaped into a defensive stance by the unrelenting blow. If your idea of fun is walking headlong into BB-gun precipitation accelerated by a Pratt & Whitney version of mother nature then the West coast is for you. How do we do it, you ask? Well, a full body armor of yellow wet weather gear might come in handy. And before you consider doing an 8 kilometer walk along the Pacific coastline in the National Park, you might want to fortify with a hearty breakfast of granola, brown toast, yoghurt (and lots of it) and a boiled egg or two. Oh yea, and by the way: Pack some to go!

I am sorry. Did I not mention the coffee? Best served black (is there any other way?). Coffee should he used to wash down every breakfast item and adding dairy to black coffee just ruins it. Listen up. Milk is for babies. Baby cows that is. Sidebar: Milk and sugar were originally added to coffee to improve an inferior taste or bad brewing practices. I digress. Drink all the coffee you want when you have breakfast (at your lodge, cabin, trailer, mobile-home, tent or whatever). Just don't pack it along with you. No. Don't do it. Thermos coffee is old coffee and this golden rule applies, like the periodic table, anywhere in the civilized universe. Besides, if you are holding onto a thermos of coffee, you cannot:
a-) Hold your partners hand and
b-) Hold an umbrella or your South Wester (rain hat) in place.


In the next installment of the Tofino Blog, I will describe the brewed, baked and broiled offerings of this West coast paradise.

Colin Newell lives on Vancover Island and works at the University of Victoria. In the high stress world of advanced education, one needs to get away. When I get away, I go west - to the Pacific!