Saturday, May 28


I'm terrible at blogging.  I know I could write more often, but the man-baby and the infinite challenges the cafe throw at us never allows for such luxuries.

Twitter affords a 5-second brain fart to guff onto the masses, spefically the food-obsessed yeggers I feel driven to feed once in a while, such is their influence and friendliness to us country folk out here in the tiny hamlet/ oil refinery world of S'park.

But I digress, and I almost feel compelled to punch myself in the mouth with my unnecessary two-paragraph introduction which precisely tells you nothing apart from my puffed-up opinion of online media....who cares?!

But here's the reason for this blahhhg post: 10 things about coffee that normal functioning people (i.e. not coffee geeks) have never known or considered about this prodcut:

1. It's not a bean.  It is the seed of a coffee cherry, whose fruit is delicious when ripe.
2. The most dedicated farmers will visit their coffee trees up to seven times to only pick the cherries when they are ripe.  This is rare in the coffee industry.
3. The average farm has 7,000 trees (1 hectare).
4. The average farm does not have running water.
5. The average farmer does not drink coffee.
6. One coffee tree makes 1lb of green coffee each year.
7. It is a food.  There are seasons to coffee and the green 'bean' will fade over time, often losing its acidity the longer it sits in burlap sacks.  Roasting fresh is great but doesn't mean much if the green is two years old.
8. Roast date of your coffee is important.  Ask or check the bag you are buying.  You wouldn't buy stale fruit.
9. Dark roasted coffee gives you a flavour from the actual roasting process, i.e. it cooks out all the unique characteristics of that coffee.  This is usually done to hide the inferior qualities of the product.
10. How you grind coffee is crucial.  Burr grinders used to be expensive but Hario hand grinders have changed all that (so long as you don't mind the effort it takes).

So there's ten things mildly interesting about coffee.

Sunday, December 5

Changing of opening hours at Cafe Haven

I feel rather sad about doing this....there's bad news and good news....

After three years of existence, we're cutting our opening hours back to 5pm.  There are a couple of good reasons:
- there just isn't enough business coming through the door after 5pm.  We get busy after 7pm but it's rarely enough warrant being open.  The cafe has experienced some fantastic growth this year, but the majority of it has been between 9am-4pm.
- a quality of life decision.  When the cafe is open, as an owner, your brain is switched on.  And guaranteed there will be some kind of crisis or issue to resolve.  That means, more often than not, we have to remain near the cafe in case something goes wrong.  Every single weekday.  Of course, if we were busier then we would make it work.  But after three years, well, we're just taking it as a sign that it is not meant to be!

It hurts to do this because we think we have a rather nice spot to hang out in the evening with a friend over a nice cup of coffee and dessert.  It is also sad because choices for places to go in the evening in Sherwood Park that are not bars or restaurants are limited.

Part of the challenge I think is that Sherwood Park has such a huge family-orientated population that so many of the residents' lives are filled up with their childrens' activities or their own past times.  And that's a good thing: after working so hard during the day, the hours are precious family or personal time.  It is an admirable trait of the people of Sherwood Park.

And of course, Julie & I will soon be fitting into this above role with little Matheo growing up ever so fast.  And that is why we are shaping our hours to suit the population and to suit our lives too.

The good news?
We're going to continue with the music night on Thursdays.  It has fluctuated in popularity but we are keen to continue offering Sherwood Park the chance to listen to some of the exceptional talent floating around Strathcona and Edmonton.  If you know of someone who would like to play, please contact


Michael, Julie & Matheo

Wednesday, October 27

Grandpa John. Passed away after 97 years young.

This blog is a bit of a mish mash of business and personal.  I'm actually rather critical of people that do this but I justify my approach by the fact that I don't really promote the blog via the I kind of feel it can have a place in the hearts and minds of those who've discovered it.

My grandfather passed away yesterday.

He is responsible for Cafe Haven being in existence.  Back in 2005, I was living a rather hectic life in London as a Marketing Director at a magazine company: I was certainly part of the rat race when I met my wife-to-be Julie. Inspired by Julie's worldly travels I wished to get a taste of what she had already experienced, but I was fearful to leave the career job, the great salary and the lifestyle it paid for.  I confided in my grandfather.  His advice to me was, "when you get to my age you do not have memories of the time you spent at work, but what you did outside of it."

It really hit me.  The classic 'work to live or live to work' decision.  I took hold of my life and asked Julie to travel the world with me.  We did and traveled to South America, Australia, Tasmania, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong and India.  Best year of my life.

Then we got married in Jasper and opened Cafe Haven in Sherwood Park.

My grandfather holds an enormous amount of influence over me because of the way he led his life.  On the precious few times we met, he told me about some of his adventures....Driving from London to Italy with his wife in a Jaguar.  Driving up to Scotland for one night's dancing at a swanky hotel.  It was his belief that you can do anything, you just have to put one foot forward.  He was a romantic and a gentleman.  A charmer and a funny man who always walked tall.

His real name was Cuthbert, which he hated and never used.  Ironic that I never use my real name either (Kim).  I think he came off worse!

In the last few years I headed up to the North to visit him.  By then he had a terrible short-term memory but could pluck childhood memories out like they had just happened an hour ago.  I loved listening to his musings and his constant positive spin on all matters.

I never had the luxury of constant contact with any of my grandparents.  But the rare times afforded were always quality and hugely important to me.  Grandpa John was truly inspirational and will be missed dearly by everyone who ever knew him.

Rest In Peace grandpa.

Thursday, July 15

chocolate tasting

Over the last couple of months we've been working with Sherwood Park's very own coconista (a chocolatier is a more famililar name to us), of JACEK chocolate, to develop the very best chocolate-based drinks.  We have two types:
1. Moccaccino
2. Hot chocolate

Owner of JACEK, Jacqui, has spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get the right balance of dark/ milk chocolate; the right balance of sweetness and; cocoa percentage.  The other challenge is having to produce something that is unique, practical and an amazing drinking experience without pricing itself out of the market.

And it is almost there.

Jacqui has devised a base chocolate that is grated ahead of time and stirred into drinks during the preparation stage.  But the best part is left to the customer to enjoy:  Jacqui has created chocolate spoons that are served with the drink.  The spoon along with the base chocolate creates a perfect balanced chocolate flavour.  In the hot chocolate it's smooth and creamy without being sickly sweet.  In the moccaccino, the chocolate is a secondary flavour (allowing our high-end Transcend Coffee to shine) but still has enough presence to make it a chocolately experience.

To make it even more interesting, there are 3 flavoured spoons to choose from:
1. Brownie (basically a simple dark and milk chocolate)
2. Mayan (some spice)
3. Cardamom (an element of orange citrus notes and probably my favourite)

There will be a test stage during August/September where will seek to get feedback from customers on the drink profiles  - this will help JACEK tweak the recipe.  Soon after the product will be launched.  You'll hear a lot more about it in August- so watch this space!

Sunday, June 20

Working outside makes it better inside

The other day, I was preparing lunch for Matheo.  This involves unearthing a ziplock from the freezer, retrieving a few cubes of various foods his mother has prepped, cooked and frozen using an ice cube tray.  There's tuna which are brown cubes, green pea cubes and then two very similar purple/blue cubes: beets and the other blueberries & yogurt.

You can probably guess where this story is going.

Yep, my failure to check the label meant my boy happily gulped down a wonderful mixture of tuna, pea & blueberry yogurt.  His twisting lips and confused frown should have told me of the sharp & sweet flavours of the blueberry yogurt fighting with the meaty flavour of the tuna.

But I just keep doing aeroplanes and choo-choo trains with spoonfuls of this bizarre mixture.  Poor boy.

I honestly never saw myself being a stay-at-home dad.  Having lunch with Matheo is now a regular event for the two of us and my son probably now assumes it is quite normal to see more of his father than his mother.  

It's obviously not a clear-cut situation: Julie will often come back from a long shift and then have to play mum while I rush around trying to catch up on bookkeeping/ admin/ catch up on emails or repair something at the cafe.

It's why I am writing this at 2:15am.

But it works.  My work is not time-sensitive, nor does it directly affect customers.  If Julie isn't at the cafe to ensure quality control, fire fight staff situations or manage wastage issues, then we're in trouble.  It's almost like Julie has to manage the short-term while I manage the long-term.

In the future, however, I would like to employ someone who can run the day-to-day tasks at the cafe and have Julie help me develop the business (and not manage it).  Simply because the more policies and procedures we can instill in the cafe, the less money is wasted: the business becomes better maintained and better maanged and more efficient.  The more we can fine-tune how to make the cafe be profitable or understanding the most profitable elements of the menu, the better business owners we will become.

Only when you stand back from your business can you truly be effective.  Elbow-deep in dishes is  not an effective place to be.  BUT, you need to have washed every dish at least once so you know how to write the policies.  If you don't know your own business then you will fail.

And, with two and a half exhausting years under our belts, we know every element of Cafe Haven.

I hope!

Friday, May 28

The summer slump

3 days till June. And while there is still talk of snow storms, we have to believe that the summer is pretty much here.

for establishments that serve coffee it sets a new challenge. Cafe owners and baristas alike, push their heads against the glass wondering what the warm weather feels like. The oncoming balmy days drive a significant amount of business away from The Park and into the mountains or onto far flung beaches. Everyone runs off on their holidays and turns Sherwood Park into a bit of an empty dustbowl.

It's one of the reasons we had Julie's dad build the patio last summer. It took a fair amount of planning to decide on style and colour but I think the end result is impressive. Someone told me, "That's better than spending money on advertising".

It's probably true. The patio is a symbol of summer. I think everyone desires to be outside basking in the warm sun, especially sipping a glass of vino or supping on a cold beer. It's been that way for centuries.

Country Road Greenhouse is helping us making it look pretty - Carol is re-planting the planters and is going to help us start growing ivy up the back fencing. That will really add character and colour.

So, I hope we can encourage the few who do hang around Sherwood Park this summer to come and visit us!

Wednesday, May 19


independent cafes, like any small local business, has its challenges. one of the biggest is trying to generate enough volume so that suppliers take you seriously and offer reasonable pricing or shipping.

Lately, I've been creating supply partnerships with the likes of Transcend Coffee, Credo and the soon-to-be-open Elm Cafe. Such collaborations allow us to achieve attractive pricing on basic but essential items. For example, Transcend 1&2, myself and Elm all use the same paper cup supplier (with Credo soon to join), so that there's enough volume to demand a fair price.

Then with things like equipment parts and cafe supplies, Nate Box (Elm Cafe), Geoff Linden (Credo Coffee) and myself co-ordinate needs so that we can reduce shipping costs and increase bargaining power.

Of course, you can't do this with everything. But every little bit helps.