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Tips for brewing the perfect cup from a Starbucks coffee master

- December 10th, 2014

Get ready for holiday entertaining with these tips for brewing the perfect cup of coffee from a Starbucks coffee master. (Fotolia Photo)

The holidays are almost upon us, and with them come entertaining family and friends.

While many hosts and hostesses often spend a lot of time thinking about the dinner and what kind of wine they will serve, they typically don’t put the same kind of thought into what type of coffee they will serve, says Starbucks coffee master Kathleen Cook.

So how does one create the perfect cup of coffee to satisfy their festive guests?

During a coffee tasting in downtown Toronto recently, Cook offered these tips for brewing the perfect cup.

  • To start, use two level tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water.
  • Use filtered water if possible. If not, use nice, fresh, cold running water.
  • For the freshest coffee, keep it whole bean and grind it just before you brew it. The brewing method you choose determines what kind of grind the coffee should be – coarse, fine or somewhere in between. If you are unsure, Cook suggests asking a barista.
  • If you do choose to grind it in advance, store the grinds in an air-tight, opaque container at room temperature. (Storing it in the fridge or freezer causes the coffee to pick up the smell of other things, which will affect the taste.)
  • If after brewing your coffee to the specified amount, you find it too weak, Cook suggests not adding more coffee, but instead changing the way you brew. For instance, if you are using a standard coffee machine, perhaps try a French press.
  • Similarly, if you find the coffee too strong, try a milder coffee.

So what kind of coffee might a Starbucks coffee master suggest serving during the holidays?

“I’d probably still go with the Christmas Blend,” she says. “There’s a nice, bright, clean flavour to the coffee.”

Starbucks Christmas Blend is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary and is now available in blonde, espresso and decaffeinated varieties as well.

“Christmas Blend is just one of those iconic blends of coffee,” says Cook. “I think it just brings back that holiday feeling for customers.

“It goes so well with what people are typically eating at the holiday season, whether that’s savoury items or sweet items, whatever they might be enjoying – it’s just that perfect pairing.”

Second Cup unveils new logo and menu

- December 4th, 2014

(Second Cup photo)

Second Cup is stepping up its game by taking coffee brewing to the next level in its latest marketing move.

The Canadian coffee giant unveiled an overhaul of its menu and logo at its redesigned “Café of the Future”  in downtown Toronto (King Street West and John Street location) on Thursday.

The pièce de résistance in the rebranding? A “slow bar” featuring a $15,000 Alpha Dominche Steampunk machine that brews individual cups of coffee that are richer and more robust than your regular cup of joe, and a pour over brewing method that any quality-minded minimalist would love.  Read more…

Starbucks gives Canadians the chance to win a personalized golden ticket

- December 3rd, 2014

Starbucks in offering customers a chance to win Starbucks for Life, and those lucky enough to win will receive an uber exclusive Ultimate Starbucks Card that is actually made of 10K hammered gold. (Photo courtesy of Starbucks)

Remember the golden tickets in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?

Now, imagine winning your very own golden ticket, but instead of chocolate, you get coffee.

Starbucks in offering customers a chance to win Starbucks for Life, and those lucky enough to win will receive an uber exclusive Ultimate Starbucks Card that is actually made of 10K hammered gold.

Seriously, the card is made of gold. And it will also be engraved with the winner’s name.

According to a press release, there are only 14 of these cards in the world and the estimated value of the card is US$5,000.

From now until Jan. 5, 2015, customers who pay using their mobile device or Starbucks card will have a chance to enter the It’s a Wonderful Card Ultimate Giveaway for a chance to win prizes. Three grand prizes of Starbucks for Life will be awarded in Canada.

The estimated value of the grand prize is $51,811.

For more information, please visit

Krups ‘Barista’ features 17 drinks at the touch of a button

- December 1st, 2014

Krups Barista EA9010 prepares a flat white during an event in Toronto. (Meghan Mitchell/QMI Agency)

Have you ever wished you could get barista-quality coffee in the comfort of your own home?

Well, Krups Barista EA9010 features 17 pre-programmed beverage options from an Americano to a flat white, which can be prepared at the touch of a button.

“Of the machine in general, my favourite feature is that it cleans itself,” said Tabatha McIntyre, product manager for Krups Canada, during an event in downtown Toronto.

The machine uses coffee beans instead of pods, grinding the beans based on the drink you choose. It also steams fresh milk for its milk-based beverages and the steamer wand cleans itself when it is done.

“My favourite thing about the barista is that it is eco-friendly compared to other machines that use pods,” said Erin Thibodeau, Krups barista ambassador.

“I like to try different roasters throughout the city,” she said. “You have such a selection of beans – you can put in anything you want.”

But are the drinks comparable to those made by baristas?

“Absolutely,” said Thibodeau. “You know, that’s why it’s called the barista. I think that it is really true to the name. It can make you essentially any beverage you would like in the morning and to really high standards.”

During the event, I had the opportunity to try a flat white, which is steamed milk and two shots of espresso. It tasted like a latte and I found the quality to be similar to what you might expect to get at your local cafe.

The suggested retail price of the Barista EA9010 is $2999.99 and it is available at select retailers. For more information, please visit

Holiday tips from a Top Chef

- December 1st, 2014

Chef Rene Rodriguez with McKenna Quenneville and Daemen Wanless at the Boys & Girls Club in Cornwall, Ont., in November. (Photo: Lois Ann Baker/QMI Agency)

It is likely no surprise that Top Chef Canada season four winner Rene Rodriguez’s fond holiday memories centre around food – watching his mother and grandmother in the kitchen and eventually joining them himself.

“It’s always a good memory,” he says reflecting back on holiday meals in Mexico.

But not everyone can cook like a Top Chef, and Christmas dinner may seem a tad intimidating for some of us. Christmas dinner is a daunting meal that takes days of prep work – or so many are led to believe.

Rodriguez took some time out recently to discuss some accessible recipes anyone can do at home themselves – and still have time to spend with family. Read more…